More Views on Appropriate Behaviour at Funerals


You may recall that a fortnight back I wondered aloud what the appropriate behaviour was relating to funeral vigils and funerals.  Several readers responded by adding their views on the subject.  I believe three of the responders are representative of the views expressed.  I therefore requested the three to summarize their views.  Here we go: 

Bakhaliphile Sibanda, Glasgow, UK

I have always had an issue with singing and dancing at funerals.  These are times when ALL ought to be sombre. Each time, for politeness I’ve kept my mouth shut. Seethed inside of course! Silliness or shenanigans don’t do it for me.

My first proper job was Junior Doctor at Bulawayo Central Hospitals (Zimbabwe) in the adult male ward. Being at the bottom of the medical food chain meant that after bosses went home for a glass of wine or Ingwebu (traditional brew) I was left to ensure drips were running, no one was in pain and definitely none had a cardiac arrest. The latter caused me so much anxiety I could have arrested myself. Let’s leave that one for now. I survived, and so did my patients.

 So there I would be meticulously clearing a blocked drip or wondering what dose of pain killer not to give (lest that alone killed the patient). Which lecture was it on painkillers, 4th or 5th year; Mmnn? Where is that note book again? Think, think, think. Now the last thing I needed to hear was a bunch of … (don’t say it) gathered at bed number 6 singing and preaching. Yes, preaching and casting out imaginary demons when I’m trying to concentrate.  Arghhhhhhh!

And what did they preach?  That if the patient survived, all credit was due to them.  It was proof that they had the anointing to heal.  ‘If you don’t believe us,’ they would forever say to their patients after that, ‘look at one of the many miracles we performed.  We cured a patient after all those pretenders with impressive medical degrees had failed.’

On the other hand if the patient died, ‘well it was because the patient’s relatives did not have enough faith in our healing powers.  It could also be because the hospital staff had been negligent.’  These holy men!  They had a bag of possible explanations, none of which put blame on them.

Maybe I’m being harsh and un-understanding.  A few letters after my name don’t entitle me to disparage people who, at the end of the day mean well. That brings me to filming at funerals.

As a Diaspora I missed my grandma’s funeral and was quite upset about it. Ugogo just came short of a century and I wasn’t there to see her off. This was the lady who gave me the name Bakhaliphile (They have expertise).

My mother had a difficult pregnancy when carrying me.  Several self-appointed experts told her that her baby would not make it to birth.  But I did.  Grandma said it was all thanks to the hospital staff that had monitored mother during her pregnancy and had ensured a safe delivery. 

‘The hospital staff has expertise,’ grandma noted.  ‘In their honour, my grandson’s name will be Bakhaliphile’.

A school teacher and lay preacher, grandma was a respected figure in the community.  As a child I saw her as some kind of rock star and my parents her backing singers.

Anyway, a relative filmed her funeral and sent me a copy of the video. At first I thought how morbid and wasn’t sure about watching it. Against my better judgement, I finally did. Next to being at the great service myself it was the best thing. And I replayed it over and over. Highly recommended!

So we’ve come full circle. The singers at Bulawayo Central Hospitals drove me nuts but witnessing a funeral I was sad to have missed and seeing who was there, what they were wearing blab bla bla was 100% worth it.

Isn’t it funny that the things in my country that I used to disparage are some of those that I miss? I keep my country in my heart.

Cathy Adams, a retired NGO worker in Nottingham, UK

Having lived and worked in three different continents, I enjoyed the blog on different views on how to behave at funerals.  Recently I helped organise the funeral of an old widowed friend.  My friend and I worked for an NGO in the 1970s and 80’s in Central Africa.  We both now lived in Nottingham.

My main task was to organise the church service.  Most congregants at our church are understandably English and could be described as musically challenged.  We are far too scared of our musical voices to stand up and sing spontaneously.  Welsh people are naturally very musical and have been known to amaze the English by singing spontaneously.

On my last visit to my friend she was bedridden.  She was singing Ishe Komborera Afrika with her Zimbabwean born carer.  It was fantastic that in spite of her damaged memory she still had the hymn word perfect. 

About eight friends of the carer accompanied her to my friend’s funeral service.  I had warned congregants that the black mourners may include dancing.  There was no dancing but they rendered moving hymnal singing.  I loved it and knew that my friend would have enjoyed every second of it.

No video was taken.  I wish we did.  I would be reliving my friend’s lively send off.

Gerald Moyo, Johannesburg, South Africa  

Nice piece brother but I disagree with you.  I personally don’t like videos and pictures being taken at a funeral.  I’m ok with memories and don’t want to view and relive the pain and misery of a funeral.  I however think there are Millennials with different views and will continue with videos.  We just cannot stop them.  I’ve never watched any one of the funeral videos posted on my family chat group.  Just does not sit well with me. 

Well dear reader, I suppose a variety of views on how to conduct funerals is one of the spices of life.

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