Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The funeral of Michael Jackson!

I arrived in America last week. It was my first visit to this great and wonderful nation.

America is a huge place. Everything about America is huge. The cars are long. The buildings are tall. The people are big and fat. They talk loudly. The meal portions are gigantic.

Everything about America is big.
Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to take in all the sights and sounds of America.

To enjoy the whole American experience, one needs a lot of time to explore the place. I could not find time to do that because I was attending a funeral.

Locally, when there is a funeral, we put up at the home of the deceased. Obviously, there can never be enough room for all the mourners. Most people simply sleep by the fireside or in the open.

In America, they did not allow me to even go to the home of the deceased. Given that the deceased was loved by many people, I was surprised not to be allowed to visit his home.

Locally, when a person dies, relatives and friends come from afar, and busy themselves with household chores. For the entire week before the burial, they would be gorging themselves on a non-stop feast, only taking time out to perform a few chores before commencing the eating.
Some tend the fire. Able bodied men go out and collect firewood. The women bake fat cakes, prepare endless kettles of tea and wash the clothes of the deceased.

In the first few hours after the death is announced, a goat or two are felled.
On the second day a cow is felled. The old men who sit by the fire all day long, dressed in heavy overcoats preside over the huge cooking pots, instructing the young men who to dish for and who to starve.

Mind you this is long before the day of the funeral.

In America, there is nothing like that. I asked some people what was happening at the home of the man I had come to bury. I wanted to know who was tending the fire. I was particularly curious to know if a goat or two had been felled to prepare some hot stew for mourners.

They told me that, in America, things worked differently.

The family wanted to be given privacy to grieve for their son.
I could not believe it. How does a family want to be left alone when bereavement has befallen them? I enquired if I could pass by and at least greet the parents.

The American I spoke to looked at me in a strange way. Realizing I did not understand the ways of America, he warned me the home of the deceased was out of bounds, and under heavy guard. If I as much as attempted to approach the compound, I would be arrested for trespassing.

As for feeding arrangements, he told me to fend for myself. Seeing that I was confused and hungry, he organized for me board and lodge at a centre for homeless people.

I must say, outside Africa, it was my first time to see so many black people in one neighbourhood. Though black like me, they behaved strangely and their English did not sound normal. I realized they spoke American.

Most of them seemed excited when they found out I was from the motherland. They asked me about Obama’s family. When I told them I was from a different part of the continent, they couldn’t believe it.

To them Africa was just one big country. When I told my guide that, in our culture, it was bad to come such a long way for a funeral and not help with the various chores, he replied not to worry because various companies would be hired to do all the work. Though not allowed to go and help out at the family home, television kept me abreast of funeral preparations.

After a few days, I asked if the grave had been dug. My American guide wondered why I wanted to know. When I said it was because as an able-bodied man, one of my duties was to help dig the grave, he fell about laughing.

Then the big day came.
My American friend told me to get ready to attend the memorial service. I bathed and put on my somber attire. There were so many people at the memorial service. I joined a queue with various checkpoints. At the first one a burly security guard politely asked to see my ticket.
I couldn’t understand what he was talking about.


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