In the past four months, I’ve attended three burials. One was a relative’s, the other was the send-off for a friend’s mother, and the last the funeral of a colleague’s father.
In all burials I’ve attended, those left behind always have something to say about the departed one, and this something is always positive — tributes extolling the values of the person lying in the coffin.
It goes against social norms to talk ill of the dead, at least in public, therefore, you will rarely hear anyone besmirch a dead person’s character during a burial.
But you can tell how much that person was valued by family and society from how lavish or meagre the tributes are.
Some burials are even devoid of any accolades, only just giving a brief, detached, obligatory and clinical history of the person — year of birth, year of baptism, school(s) attended, how the person earned a living, year of marriage, number of children and year and date of death.
A factor that is telling. I recall a burial that was in the news sometime back; that of a middle-aged man who had been a well-known criminal where he lived. If there was ever a funeral that was hurried, it was that one.
There was no ceremony whatsoever. No funeral programme, no speeches, no weeping. Not even from the man’s weary-looking elderly parents. As for the neighbours, they had attended to confirm with their own eyes that the person who had terrorised them for years was actually gone for good.
Those three burials have motivated me to do some introspection. If I were to die today, what would those left behind say about me? Forget my children and my other immediate family who might be obligated to write a paragraph where they will call me a “good” mother. Most parents are “good” parents, I mean, parents have no option but to take care of their children.
After all, they brought them into this world. And so they feed and dress them, educate them, provide a roof over their heads, protect them from the big, bad world outside their door and for those who go the extra mile, inspire them to be responsible, outstanding and successful members of society.
In theory, apart from our offspring, we really have no obligation towards any other person, which makes what these other “inconsequential” people in our lives think of us a telling case study of the kind of people we are. Apart from feeding your children for instance, have you ever fed a needy child? Have you educated an orphan or a child whose parents are unable to take him to school?
What about the community you live in? Have your actions positively impacted your neighbourhood? Do you give of your time and money to support charity? Or use your talents and gifts to mentor young people who may be interested in pursuing the career you are in?
When you die, will people, who are not your children, have something good to say about you? Will you have left a mark in this world through your good and selfless deeds or will you be forgotten as soon as the last shovelful of soil is tossed on your grave?
Will those you leave behind sigh in relief when you are gone or will they mourn you and speak of your goodness in years to come? Just what is our purpose in this life? Isn’t it more than fulfilling our God-given responsibilities? Have an introspective Sunday.