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Covid 19 Impact on Funerals

The coronavirus pandemic has not only created fear and dread worldwide but it has changed some deeply ingrained traditions such as the way funerals are conducted in the rural parts of Kenya, a scenario which would have taken many generations to change.
A funeral which this reporter attended at Gakero Village in Kisii County confirmed that funerals are very different from how they used to be.
In the past, bodies were picked from the mortuaries a day before burial to give the ‘dead person a chance to sleep in their houses’ before interment, as a sign of respect.
However, those who had never constructed a house were never granted the ‘honour’ and it was the ultimate disgrace and humiliation to be interred directly from the mortuary, which was considered a disgrace for the clan.
Area chief Evans Ondabu reminded the bereaved family that they had just 40 minutes to complete the ceremony and inter the body. A distance away from the mourners, two police officers kept watch to ensure that the directive was followed to the letter.
The mourners talked in low tones unlike in the past when they would be wailing and screaming and not even the children of the deceased elderly woman dared to contravene the law.
The chief ensured that the sky-blue plastic chairs were arranged according to the Ministry of health directive on social distance, of one and a half meter apart and masks were worn.
Pastor James Omwenga who officiated the ceremony reminded the mourners that coronavirus has changed lives forever.
Unlike in the past when urban residents were mobbed and hugged, the mourners appeared to avoid them like a plague. However, some people kept on questioning the reality of the disease albeit in low tones. So far only two positive cases have been confirmed in the county.
Contrasting the past when politicians, relatives, neighbours and church members would struggle for a chance to address the mourners, the chief’s words and orders were obeyed without any difficulty.
A counselling therapist in Nakuru town, Joseph Thuku said one of the best outcomes of the pandemic was the sanity and good sense that the pandemic has brought in the management of funerals which had been turned into an industry at the expense of poor families.
He said mourning is a private affair and all those crowds and dramas that had become popular at funerals were denying the family a chance to freely express their loss and get over it faster. He prayed that the new normal should maintain the privacy of funerals and give the immediate family members a chance to heal faster.
By Veronica Bosibori

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