My great-grandmother was laid to rest this past Saturday, in what might have seemed more like a play or let’s say many acts in one scene. We left the house at eight with my sister and nephew and headed for the bus stop where we boarded “Nyangoye Senior.” It’s this big blue forty eight seater bus that plies that route. There was a big placard on the dashboard that read “Kisumu- Uyoma-Luanda/Ferry.”
Our destination was Uyoma, and “Kilo/Chianda,” to be precise.
We let my nephew pick the seats and just like the five year old adventurer in him, he chose the seats next to the driver. The bus took ten minutes at the stage then took off for the petrol station. A woman seated right behind me got into an argument with the driver and tout because the vehicle was taking too long to leave the stage. She kept telling them that she had a funeral to attend, and did not want to be late. The tout shouted back at her, “Was I the one who killed the one you are going to bury? If you wanted to arrive there early you should have traveled yesterday! You can get off and board another vehicle if you are in such a hurry.” It took another ten minutes as the attendants filled the tank and we moved to the next station because they needed some air for the wheels. I have never operated those, but if they work like bicycle pumps, then ours took forever to get done! I kept my eye on the pressure indicated in the machine but all I could see were numbers that did not resonate with me.
We took off and I leaned in my seat glad because the road was smooth. I even had this feeling that we’d be home by noon. But, I had gotten ahead of myself like I always do and forgotten that this was public transportation. They stopped wherever they could and passengers only alighted at the bus stop. It took us a while but we got home safe.
But, it was finally stepping on the ground and watching the bus drive away that I was reminded of where I was. I was home. I was finally at my Father’s home. I rarely visit home, but I knew every turn and how to get to my ancestral home and my feet led the way.
When we got home, we looked for our mom for we had bought some supplies for her: Juice and Ice Cold water mostly, yeah and a tab of yoghurt.
But as we made our way around the tents I could not help but wonder how much of a festivity funerals had become. I have only attended one funeral that sucked the life out of me and that was eighteen years ago when we laid our dad to rest. I remember choking on my grief and the worst part was looking at the homestead after he’d been buried. What was left standing were the chairs and tents, and it’s been just me, my mom and sister since then.
My great-grandmother was famous for one thing, she loved cigarettes. She would scold us for buying her sugar and forgetting to buy at least a cigarette for her. She’d lived long enough to see 86 grandchildren, 200 great grandchildren and 100 great great grandchildren. I remember her crying out to God to take her life the last time I saw her because her peers and siblings had died and left her.
But the highlight of the funeral to me was the people. You see all kinds of people at the funeral, it’s more like a market but strictly like a classroom. There are the people who sit quietly and follow the programme. They listen to the sermon, eulogies, testimonies and sing along to the hymns. They stand when they are told and sit when they should.
There are also the watchers. Yes, these are the people who come from nearby places and they just come to watch how many cars and people showed up for the funeral. In most cases, these include children who collect the water bottles in between seats and who chase the dogs away while they nibble on pieces of meat. They always have so much stories to tell of the family and the people who are bereaved, if only you’d listen to them.
There are the people from diaspora. I’ll split this category into two; the family and the entourage.
The family from diaspora are those who live in the cities and who make rare appearances. In other words they only come home when they have to, and you’ll walk around wondering where your cousin Henry went to- thinking you’ll see the skinny boy who could climb mango trees or outrun the neighbors whenever he stole mandazis from their tables or guavas from their farms. Instead you will see a tall, dark and well built man with a light skinned woman by his side and a kid hugging his right leg. He’ll tell you she’s his girlfriend and the kid is his son who has turned four. You’ll step back and shift your weight from one leg to the other and only manage to say, “long time! How’ve you been, lakini?”
Then there’s the entourage from diaspora, these are the friends of some of the family members who come home in cars. They are self sufficient holding their own Keringet Water bottles and wearing the best sunglasses that mask either their hangovers or their fabulosity! Pick one. They are the life of the party, and the villagers would look at them wondering, “magi to oya kanye?” (Where are these clowns from?) But, they don’t care, they take wonderful selfies with their Samsung Tablets and fill Instagram with #funeralthings #life #ochamanenos #friendsforlife. But, before you dismiss them, know that they drove for twelve hours and they kept sharing jokes and drinks and doing their best to cheer up their friend.
Then, my favorite are the women and the shoes. I am more of a tee-shirt and jeans kinda girl when it comes to a funeral, but most people now wear black.
I love my black and wear it to work or when I’m doing my favorite things: buying stationery, buying novels and hanging out at Java. Most people seem to wear it to funerals, but for me I do not like to mix my grief with discomfort especially given the crazy heat that’s experienced this side of the world.
Going back to what I was saying, you realize that people wear shoes and the old women are taking to doll shoes and leaving the Ngoma’s to the young and restless youth who flaunt their pouts for selfies. But as you notice these things, you cannot help but be reminded of how fickle life is, for what is there will be taken and you cannot help but wonder why your mind is making you feel such deep stuff and you suddenly say to yourself, “Where’s the food? I’m hungry.”
And…the story continues tomorrow