Weddings and Burials
Two occasions I have eagerly been looking forward to in Norway is a wedding and a funeral. Yes, I have been very patient waiting for a chance to see how the Norwegians conduct their weddings and burials, just to feed my curiosity.
For the past six months, I have missed 8 weddings in Kenya, at least those that I had an official invitation. They could be many more that I would have probably attended courtesy of third-party invitation, which is very normal in Kenya. However, in Norway I still do not have any wedding invitation this far and the earliest one I might attend will be in June, so I will be patient!
One week back, I finally got a chance to attend a burial. I heard about the burial announcement in church, Misjonhuset. So I ask if I could attend the burial and a friend tells me, “Sure, why not, as a member of this church you are invited by all means, we can meet on Friday at the cemetery by 9.45am because the service starts at 10am at one of the halls.”
All in Black
Of course it is saddening but I feel excited because I now have an opportunity to see for myself a Norwegian burial. I am also reminded not to put on bright colours, instead all black will do. Point taken and during the whole week I look forward to that. On Friday, I miss my bus so I wait for the next bus, 20 minutes later. I get to the venue and there is pin drop silence as the preaching is ongoing. I sit at the back and immediately notice the somber mood with most Norwegians dressed in black. About 100 people attending, I am later informed that these are family members and a number of people from the church.
I am the only black and I feel really out-of-place but I am curious so I decide to remain calm and watch. I notice the white casket at the very front decorated with colorful floral bouquets. On my way in, I saw a box with a note, which I was later informed that the departed Bjarne Lund played a very key role in the missionary work therefore instead of people buying more flowers; they would contribute towards the missionary work. “This could be a family wish or as the deceased wished, but it happens for most people in missionary work,” confirmed a friend. That was new to me.
The whole service which included short speech from the family took exactly one hour, from 10am to 11am. Then in a procession we all headed to the cemetery as the casket was driven through a trolley. At the grave side, I notice that this is just a simply dug grave, no comparison to the cemented and flashy graves they build in Kenya especially if the diseased was a prominent figure in the society. The program print outs too were very simple. In Kenya, more and more people are now spending a lot of money to make burial program print outs and at times you cannot really tell the difference between a wedding and a burial. With family members and friends around the grave, it was a very brief send-off.
To dust shall you return.
The priest then cast earth on the casket three times, saying “From dust have you come. To dust shall you return. From dust shall you be resurrected”. In Kenya, close family members will also pick a handful of the soil and throw it into the grave. This was done only by the priest before the body was lowered and final prayers done. From here, the people were headed to the church for the after burial service. I am told the morning service is the most important, and in most cases done early enough so that for those who are working, then they can be free to go back to work.
“Those who can make it, then join family and friends for the church service. Here we will have speeches from anyone who has something to say about the departed or even a word of encouragement to the family. Then we will have lunch together and we call it a day,” said another friend.
I am impressed as to how everyone looked very strong, the black dressing notwithstanding. It was very peaceful, no wailing or yelling and even the immediate family members looked very composed. It was simple and very organized, few people, well-timed and everything went as planned.
“That was a huge crowd, in many times we have few people attending to burials and one key factor is the person’s age. If it is a young person, probably there will be more people attending but for the old, very few people because most of their friends are dead too. But we also have cases where no one shows up for the burial at all. Some people die at the hospitals or even at the old peoples’ homes and none of the family members can be traced. It happens,” said my friend Rolf.
It is sad, but I am happy I did attend and saw for myself a sample case of the Norwegian burial. Knowing that the better part of the function was over, I then headed back to work. Of course my condolences are in order to the family of the late Bjarne Lund!
Have a great week ahead, won’t you!