Practical perspectives for funeral services

Through studying the literature of the past and personal experience showed the following:

Our own concept of death will most of the time determine how we react when there is a death. It will also determine the process of the funeral. In different families and clans, the funeral of a member will be different, according to their customs and beliefs. These customs and beliefs are based on the families’ faith and the people’s particular culture. The rules that they lay down for themselves, about the acceptance of death and working honestly through the whole process of mourning, provide them with the courage to accept the death of a beloved.

There are a number of rituals that we would expect should have been cut out of the normal funeral process, but they are still practised today. 

Even non-biblical examples are found among church members:

  • When the body is moved from the house to the funeral parlour, it is still taken out feet first to prevent the body from finding its way back to the house.
  • When someone dies the members of his family might shave off their hair as well as other rituals. There is also evidence of belongings of the deceased that are buried with him for the use in the future of the deceased.
  • When a child that is sick, dies, the parents will put the medicine bottles above the grave.

Studies show that some African people still do not accept death as a parting to the better world at the New Jerusalem. They fear it as an enemy, because it separates them from their loved ones. This is visible in the thoughts found in the different poems of the African-Christians about how they understand death. 

In their poems we will find words like the following:

“Death, you merciless one, you separate us from the ones we love. Oh, who would be there for me, the breadwinner is gone. If it were possible, I would have destroyed you death. I hate you...”

When we look at funerals today we see many different patterns that are never mentioned anywhere, but it happens all the time:

  • Funerals are often attended to show the new clothes that the attendees have bought.
  • The coffin is chosen to look like it is very expensive one to impress the other people attending to the funeral.
  • A very costly tombstone is erected to impress the family later.
  • The food presented at the funeral must just be better than the food at the previous funeral they attended.
  • Some people attend the funeral because they know there will be excellent food afterwards.
  • They hire busses to transport the people to the funeral and the grave to impress people.
  • After the funeral they might not even have food to eat, but at the funeral they were putting forth just the best.
  • They also end up with huge debts that they have to pay off in the years to follow, leaving the surviving children in lots of debt.
  • To accommodate the family who are staying far away, the body is often kept in the mortuary for up to two weeks before the funeral takes place. The longer it stays there the higher the account will be for the family.
  • These family members have spent all their money on travelling to the funeral and they arrive without any money to give financial support the family of the deceased, who was responsible for all the arrangements and at the end the accounts that must be paid.
  • Often the far away family expect the loved ones who stayed behind to wait for them until they make the final arrangements for the funeral. It drives the accounts sky high.