Our Lorna Has Become Too Tired to Stay Here
Normally people here in the village are not embalmed. It isn’t traditional, it’s too expensive (they are desperately poor) and burial must be done quickly because the body decomposes rapidly in the tropics. But to honour her wishes and accommodate my coming the family agreed to have her embalmed. We gladly paid for it since it was done to accommodate me.
The funeral was held this past Friday. Funerals are held outdoors at the home of the deceased - who was laid out under a small canopy in from of her house. The hole is dug near the coffin and she is buried next to her house. A woman is dressed in a white wedding gown made especially for the occasion, complete with veil. Lorna never had a wedding dress in her lifetime. It was an amazing fair - absolutely spectacular. Much dancing - native style - and singing and many testimonies. (The MC admonishes the testifiers before hand to keep the remarks short, but he is mostly ignored - even when he politely interrupts.) Folks from her family, from the community and from the church take the microphone and talk. They are not microphone shy at all. Many, many folks paid tribute to Lorna. She was well known for her generosity. A poor destitute woman, but always giving something to people. Consistently and joyfully. In church, during offering - which is done to music and the people come down front to give it - she would dance down the aisle with her few coins. When it was time for a special offering or fundraising, there she would be - dancing ever so slowly, but surely, down the aisle to give her coins. You may remember that she gave us a chicken once (we named it Lorna) and it produced many peeps. (We just couldn't eat it - which is what was really expected.)
After the tributes the worship team came up to lead more singing and a group of ladies in white dresses and black satin sashes - (they are official mourners) went into the canopy and picked up the coffin (made of wood) and danced it out of there, across the yard and partially out the gate; then turned it around and danced it back. All the while they are rocking the casket, lifting it high over there heads, then up and down, back and forth and everyone is following them and gathered around singing and dancing and praising God. It is traditional that an 8X10 photo of the deceased be placed on the coffin. There were 5 different ones and 5 ladies carried them up high on display as the coffin was danced along. It was wonderful! Such joy and celebration!!!
Then the casket is taken to the graveside and two men get down in the hole and others, standing at each end of the coffin, gingerly hand it down to them. Words are spoken, more songs, and the first shovelful is scattered bit-by-bit. Then several young men take turns shoveling the dirt into the grave - done with remarkable speed and agility.
I am so glad I came and John and I could keep our word, and honour Our Lorna.
On Sunday I told the church that I want a funeral like that. I told them that my children would never agree to such a thing (figuring that John would be gone before me, so he wouldn't object; I didn't say that). But, I said, if my children are gone before me I will have my body flown here and they can bury me down on the Widows' Farm. Everyone thought that was a great idea!!
Look for more about what I've been doing here for these two weeks! I'll update the blog shortly!
Marty & John