Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Comic moments from my Uganda Funeral experiences

Everyone who lives in Uganda, knows that there are two times when you get to see long lost relatives you never visit or interact with on a daily basis except for the odd wedding and funeral. In my case, I have been unfortunate to attend between 6 - 8 funerals upcountry and I am only shy of 30. That aside it only occurred to me that not once have I given an account of the humorous side to this very somber and wretched time in everyone’s life.

In my youth, I paid little attention to these brief sparks of comic relief provided; because I was often overwhelmed with grief or too emotionally immature to comprehend the paradox in understanding that you can afford to smile during a comical outburst and still be sad during this grieving process. I was recently part of a committee that assisted to organize for the funeral of a friend and never did I expect that during this stressful and often depressing process, would it be punctuated with such comic relief from the church clergy of all people.

The funeral sermon was on the passage ‘there is a time for everything,’ which the clergy woman focused on intently but it got quite intriguing towards the end. I listened to it nonchalantly until I heard this statement from her.

Clergy woman: ‘There is a time for everything, to the widow this is the time to grieve. Please family members when you see her crying during this process let her grieve, do not tell her to guma (absorb/ harden).’  ‘Yes, it is like the men who are 40 years old and do not have children or are not yet married…’

Audience: ‘Hhmm,’ as grumbling ensued.
I quickly noticed the unwed men in the audience who were about that age, grumble and snicker with each other as the clergy woman continued to intensify on her message.

Clergy woman: ‘Do you plan on raising your children when you are 60 years old, or starting to build your family house at that time when you are old and toothless, when you do not even have energy to run around?’

If you thought that was intriguing, then nothing could beat the priest we found when we travelled upcountry to Butaleja to lay our dear friend to rest at his ancestral home. We never expected to listen to such a radical and candid clergy man. In an unusual scenario of events, the same priest was in charge of running the day’s program which I did not expect to be anything to write home about until we got to the middle of the program just before the service.

Priest: ‘You people, especially the politicians who I gave the opportunity to speak early on at the beginning of the program and refused or arrived late… I will not give you an opportunity to speak at all.’

Audience:  ‘Bagambe!’ (Tell them!) Someone in the audience yelled as the rest of us burst into laughter thinking this was the end of it but the man of God soldiered on.

Priest: ‘Why do you come to us only when it is election time? After elections you do not do anything during your term and then come back to us again. You waited until there were many people gathered and then you requested to speak? I do not care who you are but if you wanted to speak, you will have to pay 10,000 Ugx.’

‘Yes you will have to buy time!’ he yelled.

He continued with the program, only for 20 to 30 minutes later for a representative for the woman area Member of Parliament to approach the clergy man with the 10,000 Ugx shilling to buy time.

The actions of this representative angered the clergy man even more than before as he was not interested in the money being paid for the politician to speak, but rather the principle. Given the fact that they were not quick to pick up on this, they had sealed their fate and had made a wasted trip to the funeral for were not given a chance to speak to the audience. I was so impressed by this Anglican clergy man that when it came time for the sermon, I was all ears and he did not disappoint.

His sermon was on self-control and responsible living which I feel suited the tone of this funeral, however midway through his sermon; he pushed the envelope even further when he made these remarks to the audience.

Priest: ‘Why do you only call us when your people are dead? Why don’t you also call us when they are alive to celebrate good times?

To say this gentlemen was the highlight of my trip, aside from the road that crossed the bridge in Butaleja is an understatement.

(Photos courtesy of  Paul Mwirigi and myself)
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