Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mary's Funeral

On the morning of Mary's burial we travelled to Mary's family home in order to assist with providing transport to the church. Several dozen people clung to my bakkie as we made our way through the pothole filled roads of the locations. The funeral party wound its way through the streets until finally we arrived at a modern church a few kilometres away. The church was newly built and was clearly thriving. Mary had been a Pastor at the Church and thus the building was full to beyond a comfortable capacity.

Mary's body lay at the front of the church in front of the altar. Behind the coffin stood an array of Pastors - each of whom would play a part in the service. The most moving part of the service for me was its climax when the congregation filed passed Mary's open casket. Watching her mother and father and especially her son saying goodbye to their daughter/mother has heartwrenching.

After the service we returned to the bakkie and again filled up with people. We then followed the hearse and funeral cars to the cemetry.

The cemetry in Lusaka is the size of a small town. It is vast. The mounds of earth that mark each grave are stretch far beyond the horizon in every direction. In order to accomodate the dead the authorities have had to dig graves in between existing plots and thus the graves are incredibly close together. In fact it is difficult to walk through the graveyard without stepping on the side of some of the mounds.

The driver of the hearse struggled to find the plot where Mary was to be buried. We drove in a snake-like convoy through the cemetry for a worryingly long period of time before the plot was found. In other circumstances the scene might have been almost comical. It goes to illustrate just how vast the cemetries are in Southern Africa.

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