Friday, November 02, 2007

Kenyan Funeral (Feast of All Souls')

Burial at the homestead

If there is one thing that I have learned this year in Kenya, it’s that life is fragile. The combined deaths of the children at the St. Julie Centre along with those of the families of the staff members this year are more than I have experienced over my entire lifetime back home in the States. To die may be more a part of life, here in Africa, than any other place on earth. And so it was on the Feast of All Souls that we remembered those that have died this year in our prayers that God may raise their souls with Him to Heaven.

Prayers at David's home

Last month, Rose, the wife of David, the head occupational therapist, passed away leaving behind her husband and their three-year-old daughter. Her death came as a shock to all as she was only thirty-two years old and it was not known that she was seriously ill at the time. She died at a nearby hospital due to a reaction to intense anti-malaria treatment. The funeral was held at David’s home in Malava and the burial at his parent’s home on Saturday, October 27th. Rose was a nurse by profession and so along with her family and many friends, many of her fellow nurses were in attendance. The St. Julie Centre staff members also came to offer their condolences.

Many attend the funeral at David's parent's home

While it is only proper to provide for the visitors to one’s home, a funeral can be a very busy time for a Kenyan family. Something to eat must be offered to each of the many guests and so it is normal to slaughter many animals on the day of a funeral. While, in the States, a funeral can be a small private affair with only the closest of friends and family, in Kenya, hundreds can be in attendance. Sometimes it can take an entire village to bury somebody.

The burial procession

At the funeral and burial services, some people, especially women, can be very emotional and can throw themselves upon the casket wailing loudly and crying out. A funeral can last several hours as traditional religious songs are sung and many friends and family, one by one, tell the story of how they came to hear of the death. Some may also tell stories of spiritual signs they have seen and experienced regarding the person who has died. Lastly, a history is told aloud and all rise and begin the burial procession.

A Kenyan funeral is a beautiful service of song and prayer in celebration of a person's life such that if they were able to look down upon it from above there would be no doubt indeed, they were loved and will be greatly missed.

After the casket is buried at the family homestead all prepare for their long journey home.
And life goes on…

For Rose, the children at the St. Julie Centre, and all those who have died this year...

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.


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