The Soloist, Contributor
I have grown so accustomed to the uncivilised behaviour exhibited by Jamaicans when death visits a family that I forgot what it means in other parts of the world. I have attended three funerals of close relatives in Canada and Nassau, and, each time, I'm more impressed by the civilised practices of the foreigners compared to the boorish behaviour of my fellow Jamaicans under similar circumstances.
You see, theirs is not a nightly parking of rear ends all over the deceased's house by so-called sympathisers with a hungry belly. Nor is it a time for all and sundry to gather in the home waiting for a chance to hide away food, scrape up household items or steal the family jewels when no one is looking.
What my relatives told me when I visited Nassau for my cousin's funeral recently, is that Bahamians regard a death in the family as a time when the bereaved are burdened by funeral expenses, so everyone - family, friends, church brothers/sisters - contributes all ... and I mean all the food and drink (hard and soft), and even cash where appropriate.
Between Thursday, September 19 when I arrived and Sunday, the 22nd when I left, the only reason we turned on the stove was to boil water and warm up the dishes we received. Everyone who came to offer condolences or spend time with the family, brought everything, from large containers of potato salad, pots of chicken/turkey souse, loaves of bread and rolls, macaroni and cheese, johnny cakes, cornbread, ham, turkey, baked chicken, to crates of beer, canned juice, bottled water assorted liquor, vegetable salads and baskets of fruit, and even snack items.
Relatives quickly volunteered to take home the uncooked food items and prepare them. And for the repast, friends and football/bowling teammates of the deceased brought all the items to grill and serve several pounds of pork chops. Family members simply had to wash the dishes as everyone helped to clean up the yard and bag the trash that had accumulated.
Another custom that I found pleasing was the way the funeral directors maintained order at the service. So, for starters, family members were instructed to proceed into the church in groups of two starting with parents, followed by children, aunts, uncles and cousins. About three steps from the casket, we paused for photographs, then proceeded to view the body before being seated. The funeral-home staff provided tissues for tears and water to quench our thirst.
At the graveside, we were each handed a long-stem red rose to lay on the casket before it was lowered into the grave. The area in front of the grave was covered, a green carpet laid over the headstones and chairs laid out for family members' comfort. Incidentally, the members of the family sat throughout the entire service and no offering was taken.
Best of all, not one single woman was dressed for dancehall night, the outfits were sober, and befitting what old-time Jamaicans knew as 'church clothes'. Dare I hope for this in my country, or will the bhutto behaviour continue?
Send feedback/comments to: email@example.com