So today I attended a funeral. And what a funeral it was. It wasn’t any funeral. My nanny, since birth, was laid to rest. So it was a special type of funeral, for me at least. She was a wonderful woman who I will always remember. RIP Nana, anyways…back to the funeral.
So for one, the funeral was in a community centre in the ghetto. A ghetto that looks like it was uprooted from a city in Africa that was plagued by Ebola. You get the picture right? There are no churches in this area, hence the funeral was at the community centre. Hard to imagine given the fact that we live in a country with the most number of bars and churches per square mile.
The pastor reminded us of the need to give generously for the church building fund, at this time my mom went back into her handbag and re-examined her offering.
Having lived in Jamaica all my life I don’t use the word ghetto lightly. But with no uncertain terms this is or was ghetto in all aspects of the word. The community is very close to another community that I volunteer in, only a few metres up the road, so imagine my shock when I saw children bathing on the roadside in a bucket as I was walking into the funeral. No, we have not had a recent hurricane and no, we are not suffering from a drought presently. This is the norm as the funeral attendees were talking with the lady bathing the little boys. Just after that, I saw people bathing in the public bath stalls across the road. Yes you read correctly. Public bath stalls! With just about all body parts available for viewing. At this time ladies dressed in white were walking off, up the road to a church in a neighboring community cussing about “di likkle dutty bwoy.”
At this time I’d like to insert the phrase my helper would say, “Lord have his mercy.” My sentiments exactly Kamala.
In this community there is no grass and no plants. There are trees but they have taken on the same dusty colour of the ground which is filled with stones, rubble and debris. Lord knows how people walk bare feet on such surfaces much less play football, cricket and run up and down. Hard is the way of life for sure: as is the surfaces, the hearts and the backs of the people.
Anyway after that initial shock of that type of “hard” life, seeing people still living like that in 2015, I was dumbfounded at how much money is spent in these so called ghettos. And especially when someone dies.
Let’s talk about how expensive it is to pay for a funeral: ie casket, programmes, church, plot in cemetery, etc. I haven’t even begun to mention the nine night festivities and the “set up.” Fyi nine night celebrations take place on the ninth night after the death with mannish water, fried fish and bread, curried goat and plenty rum. The same follows for the night before the actual funeral called the “set up.” Food and alcohol are not cheap. Neither is the band to play music and the mourners who come from near and far to sing a sankey and to grieve. Cha Ching Ching $.
My mother was in shock, and honestly speaking, so was I, when we saw the many bleached out faces filled with acne and bright coloured make up, wigs and variations of human and horse hair weave, false eyelashes, tattooed bodies with all manner of piercings embroidering them.
These were clad in some fashionable clothes of all styles, shapes and sizes (oh and designer writings too). Not to mention fancy shoes and handbags. And whilst I was clad in my usual modest black funeral attire, ladies were ‘bushed’ in long tights, body suits and even the infamous batty riders. Oh, and all bras were shown and had to be the same color as the outfits.
No one batted an eyelid at the third world conditions surrounding them, not even when the JDF jeep drove by with 15 soldiers and high powered weapons pointing in all directions. The singing didn’t even stop.
Nevertheless despite it all, every person attending the funeral could identify me by name and asked for my sister and father. They knew my entire life history. Typical Jamaican style, everybody knows you even if you don’t know them. But interestingly enough each person was so grateful for us to be there, and for us to be involved in the funeral. They stayed attentive during my remembrance, they laughed and smiled, and greeted me at the end with handshakes and hugs.
After that, they all went in the buses and cars outside and proceeded to the May Pen Cemetery. But before that, each posed for pictures and did selfies with their latest Samsung tablets and iPhone 6s completely oblivious to and unphased by their desolate surroundings off to bury the dead and continue their lives of so called normalcy.