BEFITTING BURIAL: Mere Extravagance Or Last Respect?

Opinion

We were still basking in the glee of the past weekend. Everyone couldn’t stop talking about the burial. It left the high and low stunned. If grandeur was measured in traffic, the burial would be Lagos. That is the type of event that if you missed, you would struggle to forgive yourself. The business men…

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We were still basking in the glee of the past weekend. Everyone couldn’t stop talking about the burial. It left the high and low stunned. If grandeur was measured in traffic, the burial would be Lagos.

That is the type of event that if you missed, you would struggle to forgive yourself. The business men made contacts, the poor ate what they didn’t know existed previously. The family house was renovated. The road to the house was tarred and power supply was steady in the neighbourhood while it lasted.  Talk about PHCN catching the fever.

Someone asked who is this person being buried? I said she was a poor widow who lived in penury till she died. Two of her kids lived abroad while the other two worked in Oil servicing firms. They forgot her and made her mates laugh at her at the Nmu Ada meetings. She was always late in paying her monthly dues and she regularly collected loans which she had difficulty repaying. |The meeting members forgave her. They understood her plight.

You would think it was a royal occasion when you see the delegates who arrived at the local airport. Her sons, daughter-in-laws, grand kids and long forgotten relatives had made the trans-atlantic trip. They landed in Lagos few hours before noon and quickly boarded the only daily flight to the state.

Caterers and vendors tried to outdo themselves with familiar and foreign cuisines. Expensive wines were available on end. The rave of the moment artistes counted it a privilege to be invited to perform. For them, it wasn’t about the remuneration, it was a validation of your art.

I was still reminiscing about the event when someone brought my attention to the fact that top media firms were represented at the burial. Fingers crossed, in a few weeks, she would grace the cover of a magazine that was the exclusive read of the upper class in society.

The luxury she was denied on earth, she got at death. Truly, like they say, it is better late than never…

Don’t you think?

Responses

  1. Twisted
    This scenario is something that will continue to play out whether we like it or not. I remember the Nigerian film starring Tony umez which brought this issue to light over 20+ years ago.
    There are hypocrites everywhere. To them, Mama’s burial was a celebration of the lives of her kids and family.
    The stupid I-have-arrived-mentality😠
  2. Osasu Elaiho
    It’s funny but PERSONALLY I’ve always seen the last rites and extravagances of funerals an overkill and unnecessary. I want a simple gathering between friends after I have been cremated. No fanfare, no uproar, just a simple passing on to the great beyond. I don’t want a dime more than is necessary spent on me.

    I’m dead and gone, what you do for me after the fact doesn’t matter. Just burn my body and be done with it.

    Personal opinion of course.

  3. Ashabi
    My grand-mother died May and was buried June 6.. I can really relate with this story.
    Not that mama lived in penury or any of that.. What I did hate during the burial procession was the hypocrisy amongst people!! Most of the grand-kids and even her children never really cared during her last days!! When she was dealing with dementia and stuffs like that.
    Its really pretentious though but then again, its a cultural thing.. To be able to do these things is regarded as a sort of blessing… More often than not these ceremonies are carried out to show that dead had “seeds” and its mostly considered as a stamp of just how influential these seeds are… Africa sha
  4. Joko
    I just lost my grandpa and the burial is coming up next month. While his kids are planning the burial, I came across the estimated cost – N5m. Not like he lived a life of penury. He was well taken of…and couldn’t stop blessing his kids at those final days (he was 95); however, that figure still rings in my head.
    Even if you take care of them while they’re alive (without the knowledge of the whole village), impressions/conclusions will be drawn based on how grand the burial was.
    I guess our cultural plays a great deal in this.
  5. Ego
    This is a good piece- i have been meaning to write about this and more for a while now.
    I wont say the poster has said my mind, because frankly i expected more after seeing the topic. I wish this piece was further developed.

    In anycase, quite a sizeable number of funerals in Nigeria end up being about extravegance or about pleasing people as opposed to really playing last respects.

    And really, what do we intend to achieve by paying last respects?

    I just lost and buried a parent in the last month. No one asked what i wanted. No one asked what my siblings really needed.
    The ‘befitting burial’ pretty much translated to feeding and entertaining thousands of people who may or may not have cared about my late dad. People who probably didnt even know him. It also meant spending over 10 million naira inorder to meet peoples expectations of you.
    People forget that- Just because someone seemed wealthy when they were alive, doesnt mean that everything remains the same for the family he left.

    A Nigerian burial means thinking about vendors for food, tents, cocktails and everything else instead of spending that time pondering on the obvious loss you are going through.

    It is just not that necessary.

    Personally, i would have wanted an intimate ceremony of close friends and family who actually matter.

    But then again… Is this about me? Or about the person who is dead?

    Some People have clear instructions on how they wish to be buried- which is fine.
    In cases where they dont (which is usually the case in Nigeria), we are left with the dilenma of ‘would dad really want this’?

    And i would take it a step further- does the dead really ‘appreciate’ a befitting burial?

    1. Dickson
      Thanks for reading. I wanted to write a much longer piece but just like a burial; I feel less is more…
      Pls do develop it if you want to, I would be glad to read.
  6. Deiveed
    It all starts from the name itself….”burial ceremony”. A burial is supposed to be an act of mourning. So how we celebrate when we should mourn still baffles me.

    The dead fellow that we kill cows and waste monies for is probably somewhere burning in eternal fire or enjoying eternal bliss (that is if you believe in the concept of heaven and hell).

    I made a personal resolve when I was very little to never attend a burial that is a ceremony…..and till today, I’m yet to attend a single burial (including that of all 4 of my grandparents).

    I think it’s an accursed mentality. I won’t ever have a feast at a burial that I organise (and both my parents have been made aware of this) ; likewise, I won’t attend yours once I know you are planning a feast. My concept of a burial is simple and straightforward; just place the body in a coffin, put it 6 feet deep, cover it up, pay your last respects, mourn and return to your lives.

    Call me an extremist if you like. I am sure the dead doesn’t care

  7. Tumi
    Thought-provoking.

    Nobody wants to die, nobody prays to die, and we all assume everybody would die before we do. Death is the ultimate dread (a dread, not a fear, because we know it is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. You only fear what you don’t know what the outcome will be).

    But we all die, and like the way we humans give too much meaning to things like childbirths, naming ceremonies, birthdays and weddings, we have decided to make the final rites special. But special for whom? It’s hard to say: for the dead, because as a matter of fact, the dead don’t know they’re dead (Nollywood don’t count). And subsequently they would never be hungry or thirsty or angry or happy or lustful or have any desire to struggle for anything again in this life – which is supposed to be a good thing. They are ‘at rest’ or ‘at peace’ from the reality of hustling or the unfairness of life. It’s also hard to say: the dead’s closest family and friends, because a personal loss hits us on a deep profound level, no matter how old or young the dead is. The acceptance of never seeing, saying or doing anything with that person again. Also the regret we feel – so emotionally scathing. All these leave a particular group of people: the people coming to eat Jollof rice and chicken.

    But let’s not be too hasty in our rebuke. Some of these people actually come to celebrate the dead person. If a recognized and accomplished individual dies, it might seem imperative. The very definition of recognized accomplishment means you have done something for the society. And in lieu of that, your family don’t own or owe you, the society does. That’s why we have state burials and the likes – to ‘celebrate’ the lives and times of someone who did something for the society. It’s also where peer pressure comes in, because if I don’t shout about my great grandfather’s burial, people might think he was useless to the society. I must do it as a means of protecting his legacy even if he really doesn’t have one. (What I’m saying is that, me not taking care of him while he was alive is besides the point)

    The story given in the post is neither a rule or an exception, I think it’s just an example. But it still shows we really have a long way to go as Africans and humans.

    Dickson, thank you for the illumination.

    #DeepThings.

  8. Collins
    Death is a Journey,its passing a process…It is Ancient symbolism that death be greeted with funfare and in Africa or Igboland,its no different.. Have anyone ever wondered why people that are being buried,are bathed and dressed in fine clothing?..We may be angry based on moral sentiment or our perception of right and wrong,but the case remains that the woman was given a befitting burial so that she won’t disturb the living…has no one heard of people that died disturbing the living because they were not properly buried, that is,at least a cow wasn’t killed during their burial?..or the dead in morgues disturbing their living relatives to bury them…so were her kids wrong in not remembering mama,hell yes that’s wickedness.. Where they wrong in burying her “extravagantly”,, No….No matter what religion is,,there are things that still link us with our past heritage,,has any one ever wondered why Yorubas celebrate childbirth and naming but Igbos don’t,, or why no matter what Igbos celebrate death and burial….its all part of our Historical cultural knowledge that is being lost to the new Furors of Religion..in ancient Egypt,,people where buried with gold,so as to pay their way to the afterlife.. Laugh if you like or call superstitions,the ancients knew better…
  9. Tess
    I remember during my service year in Ondo.

    My landlady lost her dad and they had a meeting in which the bill for the burial was divided amongst the kids (my landlady and co.) Her share was 200k or thereabout.

    This woman in question was a retired primary school teacher. She was always coming to me to lend her petty petty money. I guess she ended up taking a loan to pay up.

    Fast forward to the burial. O boy 5 solid cow was killed. Different asoebi everywhere, dishes nko…I kent shout.

    The part I didn’t understand was when they arrived from the church to the compound to lower his body, I only saw my landlady, her siblings and the compound people. I was stunned and when I enquired about other people, I learnt they are already seated at the reception venue.

    I still have not understood that part. Any clarity on that from anyone?

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