Lessons for the future as new normal strikes funerals

10 May 2020

There were no seven colours or rice swimming in bleeding beetroot on our plates after the burial. There were no plates, period!

Once we returned from Doornkop Cemetery without a cop in sight to
ensure we didn’t exceed the Covid-19 limit of 50 people after burying my cousin, aus Phonki, from Phiri in Soweto, all we got were two scones in a plastic bag. There was a Magalies juice to chase down dipotchefstroom scones.

No after-tears orgies. The weather gods rained on any one who tried to turn the funeral into a fashion parade by ensuring a steady drizzle from the heavens. No prolonged gatherings that end up in tears once the tongues have been greased by booze as memories of past hurts return like a flooding Jukskei River. Those who still have jobs rushed back to their daily grind. The rest of the mourners went to their
respective abodes.

Feeling a little let down that he was robbed of a chance to give his mother, who single-handedly raised him and his big brother, a big send-off and “host” us properly, aus Phonki’s son Collen reassured us that he would go all out when he unveiled the tombstone.

But he should not have bothered. I was proud of the man Collen had become and wished to give him a high five, but the new Covid-19 blocked me. No caterer with chafing dishes was needed. Neither was the large gathering of mothers from the neighbourhood hunched over long steel tables peeling veggies and catching up on the latest goings-on.

Because of strictly restricted movement, there were thankfully no relatives with educated palettes demanding bacon and free-range eggs for breakfasts, steak and rice for lunch and dumpling and mutton stew for supper.

Instead of reluctantly handing over truckloads of cash to the undertaker, the Putco bus company, food and meat retailers, and the local tavern owner whose supplies quenches the parched throats of most of the male comforters, Covid-19 saved Collen a lot of his hard-earned dosh.

This got me thinking, something the CEO of our household claims I seldom do. How about we serve sandwiches at funerals and save the little money that is left for the living? How about we insist that burial insurance cover includes an education policy for
under-aged survivors?

How about we demand that the number of mourners who accompany our dearly departed to the graveyard stays at 50? How about we standardise the tombstone and unveil it on the same day of the funeral? How about we lose the frills and not care what people might say? How about we simply lavish the living with love, ensuring that most of their needs are met, and bury our loved ones with understated dignity?

It was drizzling when we laid aus Phonki to rest last month.

I think it was her tears of joy. She might have been thankful we didn’t have to splash out to bid her farewell. She knew that her grandchildren would need a good education, which does not come cheap.



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