The moment humans appeared on this earth, the fear of mortality took on a new form. Unlike the unthinking and instinctive fear animals have, we humans all constantly and actively look out for danger and take to flight whenever our lives are under threat. The fear of death is probably the greatest and that we cannot even dare contemplate. The process of dying paints nightmares in our minds perhaps because of the pain involved or the realization that once we are gone we will be unable to do or to have the things we have aspired to during our lifetime. Someone aptly pointed out, “We all want to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.”
One of my close girlfriends, Marie Ruto lost her dad last week. As she is a close friend to most of us, we tried our best to be there for her during this difficult moment and even accompanied her to her rural home in Nakuru for the burial. Losing a loved one can be challenging and therefore the company of close friends and relatives is heaven-sent at such a time. It is especially crucial to have people around you for planning and contribution towards the costs incurred in the final rites. Let’s face it, not many of us have had the insight to invest towards the costs of these final rites, most leaving that to be taken care of by those left behind.
In one of my blog posts, not so long ago, I wrote about Martin Shikuku who challenged me with his bravery in defying what many African communities term as taboo when he actively prepared for his death and funeral.
I strongly believe that planning for our last day here on earth is crucial, keeping in mind the hassle that comes with this day. When I accompanied my girlfriend Mary as they cleared their debt at Umash Funeral home, I saw them pay an amount close to Kshs. 100,000 and I was left speechless. From the hospital where he passed on, her dad’s body was taken to the Umash morgue on a Monday morning and was removed the following Saturday morning. That was only 5 days and the family spent close to Ksh. 100,000.
From there I was convinced to start thinking of my need for an insurance plan to cater for such an eventuality. At the mortuary, I talked to this lady who told me of the various plans available and actually realized that there is one with installments as little as Kshs 1,200 a year. This simply means I will be spending Kshs 100 a month which will eventually save my family and friends from meetings and more meetings and heartache and stress as they try to fundraise for my burial, as it is ordinarily done in Kenya when one passes on.
I choose LIFE
Having thought about it critically and rationally, I floated this idea to some of my friends while at the burial in Nakuru. The truth is, no one was willing to buy my idea. Everyone thought I was quite pessimistic about life, maybe, even, I was ready to leave. “I am an optimist. I choose LIFE. And LIFE insurance is what I’ll take no matter what you say Patience,” said Raymond with conviction.
Just so that you are sure that my intentions of planning to get death insurance were made with an extremely sober mind, I keep telling my friends and I’ll say it again; I still need many more days. I want to see my beautiful children and grandchildren. I would like to live a little longer.
I tried my best to convince them but failed. “Patience, do not be worried about your send-off, and there is no need for you to start planning for it, when you go before us, be assured we will mobilize ourselves and will be there to send you off,” assured my friend Alex.
Only a few people such as Mchiki Msangi agreed with me. “I would take a death insurance Patience, it saves my family a lot of pain and expenses, I did check with Umash sometime back and the most expensive is only at Kshs 2,400 a year. Not a bad idea at all,” she commented.
My thinking is, let’s be honest. As long as we are alive, death will strike one day, we are sure about this. It is rather definite. Kenyans have had a problem with insurance policies and many people do not have a medical, life, education or even death insurance. Just a few people have these and the majority have such policies courtesy of their employers. I stand to be corrected, but I still think I am very right.
“It is against African culture to speculate about your death. This is God’s plan and no matter how broke you are, you will still be buried, six feet under. This insurance thing is just a way of few clever individuals who want to siphon money from willing people like you. Even after harvesting interests from premiums contributed, they can’t return or share the returns,” remarked Renxie Partricks.
The trend in Kenya and maybe in other African cultures is that, when one passes on, we mobilize ourselves and make plans for funeral arrangements. Those from the Christian background take longer before they bury the deceased, of course with reasons. Many will bury on weekends, for convenience reasons as many people will be off duty so they are able to attend the burial. It can even take longer, when one has relatives abroad who have to be awaited before the burial takes place.
I do not even understand this. Last year while I was in Norway and my dear friend Sarah Wambui passed on, all I wanted to do was to come back home and attend her burial, then my mother asked me, “Patience, even if you came all the way, what will you change about it, I know you are hurting, but you really do not need to come back home,”. Thinking about it, it made a lot of sense to me, I was not going to change a thing, but I really wanted to see her just to believe that she was no longer there. I am yet to find out if Muslims too incur these expenses now that many of them bury their deceased the very day they pass on.
“No need to waste money in taking this death insurance. When you are gone, your relatives and family will lay you to rest according to the small way or big way you lived your life. The important thing to do is when you are alive, make good relationship with everyone. I have seen poor people, when they die, many people contribute and hence they are buried like kings. Insurance is just a business and I won’t and I can’t advise anyone to waste his or her money on it, unless someone has money to waste. If one has this kind of money, there are a lot of children’s homes and poor families they can donate to that need it and by doing this Our Father in heaven will bless us,” said Johane Mbogo.
Umash Funeral Home has a partnership with Pan Africa Life Insurance, if I took the smallest package with the least instalments of Ksh. 1,200 per year and lived for the next 50 years, then, I would have spent around Kshs 60,000 which is less than what my friend Marie Limo’s family paid for less than a week.
Do you now get it? Some plans are necessary, it is called taking charge of my life. I think failing to plan for such is being ignorant of life’s realities.
Others like Goodman Kenstar do not even care about this story at all. “And why should I insure death? Once I am dead, I am gone. I do not care where and how I am buried. Kindly give the death collections to my children,” he commented.
I however, think otherwise. By taking funeral insurance, I am assured of saving my family and friends the financial burden, especially that they have to deal with the pain of losing me.
“I don’t subscribe to capitalist doctrine. I know death is the end of life and insurance means replacing something. In a civilized world we choose how we should run something. I am a firm believer of faith and tradition and none calls for planning of death but rather plan for our future off springs. Just because I disagree does not make me ignorant. I love and value life not death.
Why should I insure death? I don’t know the figures of those who insure their death but I bet not many have done that. No one knows when we will die and how we will die what if one is burnt beyond recognition? What if we are all wiped out by a nuclear bomb? What if we get kidnapped and killed by thugs and dumped where our families can never find us? What if we crash in a plane and our bodies are never recovered who claims the insurance? I think I am more insured than those who think I am ignorant but one thing I won’t do is insure death because I don’t know how my death will occur,” added Goodman Kenstar, a Ugandan friend residing in Norway.
My Kenyan friend Ndiema adds, “ What if Umash collapses before you are dead, how will you recover your premiums, Patience, it is more than meets the eye.”
At this point, I rest my case!