Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Posted by Chuck Gates
The funeral that we went to was very interesting. The man who died was in his 30s, and he was one of the handicapped people who can’t walk, because one of his shots as a baby went bad. He crawled through life using thongs on his hands and dragged his legs behind him. He joined the church in March, and the Branch President said they had petitioned to get him a wheelchair through the church, but it hadn’t yet arrived. They think he died of a ruptured hernia.
The service (in his yard) was supposed to start at 1:00 p.m. The first part started at 1:30 and it was the spiritual message on the Plan of Salvation given by 2 church members. Then at 2:00 the African drums started. I shut my eyes and realized what a rare opportunity we were having, and realized we could have been on National Geographic. However, when I opened my eyes, the drummers weren’t in grass skirts, but denim pants and t-shirts.
A group of about 10 neighborhood boys about 16 - 25 years old came in and picked up the coffin and carried it outside of the yard and down the street. They were shaking the coffin up and down.
They marched all around the neighborhood with it for about an hour. Then the women started dancing. It was such a mixture of old tradition and the new church. Then we went to the cemetery.
They drive in a cavalcade like we do, but it is like a big party with people hanging out the windows and shouting. When we got to the cemetery we saw rows and rows of grave mounds with metal crosses on them. Each cross had a name and a birth and death date. They were buried in straight rows, depending upon when they were buried. There were thousands buried in 2010. When we got to his hole, it was the next open grave. There was a full row of open graves, about one foot apart… I mean like 40-50 open graves. It was creepy the way that death is such a part of life for them, that they had pre-dug all those holes.
When they lowered the body in, a girl who was weeping hard, threw herself into the hole, sobbing hard. Then a member of the branch presidency stepped up and gave the prayer dedicating the grave. It got fairly quiet for a couple of minutes and then when the prayer was over, the hoopla began again. I am sure this is a day I will always remember.
Labels: Life in the Congo