As a community, Luos love funerals. Words can hardly do justice to how much they pompously indulge in send offs; it is such a bona fide spectacle better experienced than described.
One would be excused for concluding that a dead Luo is worth far more than a living one given the attitude towards the dead and funerals though this is not peculiar to the community.
Funeral arrangements are more elaborate than weddings or a school fund-raiser. It involves radio announcements and if the demised family member is not broad-casted on Radio Ramogi, Victoria, Lolwe or better yet read on ‘gazet’ then the deceased was a nonentity and their family are paupers.
A man would be abandoned at the hospital to die and when he breathes his last, a group of mourners will arrive at the hospital, suitably clad in melancholic expressions, wailing and asking the deceased obnoxious questions.
“Kare itho adier, iweyowa gi ng’a, kare kane irita igona oriti!”
A widow may live in a dilapidated and filthy shanty, but her dead body can only be laid out in a freshly built house by her clan’s men to hide wichkuot from guests expected at her funeral.
A body is kept in the morgue for over a month to enable intricate negotiations by the clan and enable close, distant relatives, friends and curious souls from around the country to arrange their travel. A video record of the proceedings is a prerequisite. The deceased might have worn tatters, but when they die, relatives jostle over who will cater for an exquisite lace for their shroud.
Then come the funeral day, you find a crowd of mourners tucked somewhere under an isolated African Green-heart tree not pondering what will become of the deceased young children but scrutinizing the deceased’s casket while pointing at passers-by with their lips. They will be at the front of the queue for food.
Still, to every community its own ways. Speaking of funerals, On Friday- 2nd February- James Eric Oduor Cobra was laid to rest at Ukwala in Ugenya, Siaya County.
The sports enthusiast was felled by terrorists in Nairobi during the Dusit D2 attack. He left behind a young wife- Diana Rose and a daughter. His burial was attended by friends, most who took advantage of Governor Sonko’s free transport while donning T-shirts with his cheerful, handsome face printed on them.
Also in attendance were Siaya Senator James Orengo, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, ODM SG Edwin Sifuna amongst others. Days before his burial, his family had made an appeal through the media asking for help to fund his funeral.
In Nairobi, same day Odu was being laid to rest in Ukwala, Muslims organized a fund-raising for the families of two best friends Abdalla and Feisal who had also died in the same Dusit attack. The duo were the breadwinners in their families.
A total of Kshs 21M was raised for the families of Abdalla & Feisal who died in a terrorist attack at the Dusit. Kamukunji @MPyusufhassan was the chief guest assisted by Wajir County Rep @Hon_FatumaGedi. Several Senators, MPs, MCAs, Business & religious leaders graced the event. pic.twitter.com/Xt0cgn5vWn
— Ahmed Mohamed ((ASMALi)) (@Asmali77) February 3, 2019
The ceremony was led by Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan, Wajir Women Rep Fatuma Ghedi, DPP Noordin Haji attended and other several Senators, MPs, MCAs as well as business and religious leaders. In a few hours, they had raised a whopping 21 MILLION for the families left behind to find a bearing and move on.
A big thank you to all the people who attended and made the fundraiser a successful event. https://t.co/yCknj8xJ8W
— Hon. Fatuma Gedi (@Hon_FatumaGedi) February 3, 2019
When Odu died, he was hailed like the hero he was on mainstream and social media. Personalities in the media and sports arena sang songs of praises. Clearly he was a man loved as he was known. Leaders like MP Otiende Amollo had him as their profile pictures for a few weeks.
What if everyone who knew him came together and did something for his young widow and daughter? Raised something that can be put as a trust fund towards the little girl’s education?
Is it time we discuss this culture of honoring death at the expense of the living? While it is true the tentacles of our people reach out further when someone is gone, it is often on the ‘trivialities’ like emphasis being laid on the price of the coffin and the model of the hearse. For the coffin, anything that falls below a casket is the equivalent of a pauper’s burial. To go with the casket, a Mercedes for a hearse suits just fine.
Funerals amongst our people are a platform where one can showcase their wealth, fashion and all sorts of things. The number of live cows slaughtered in the funeral determines how powerful and popular the family is. It is also an impeccable platform for politicians to hurl expletives at each other and either subtly or shamelessly campaign.
But once the pomp of the day is gone, the family left behind is often abandoned to scrounge for survival. Can’t we as a community learn from these noble acts from Muslims and the Kikuyus about taking care of the family a deceased has left behind by helping them get back on their feet?
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