I’m a self confessed YouTube and TV addict, a while ago I came across a video clip of a US tlevision show called best funeral ever, the video showed a subject of “professional mourners”, and yes you read correct professional mourners, according to one funeral home director and pastor, these so called professional mourners have been around since the times of Jesus.
What do professional mourners do? They help the family mourn, by crying first at the funeral because according to this funeral director “some families need encouragement, someone to start crying first before they can fully kick in to mourning” that’s where professional mourners come in.
Like any other job professional mourning takes hard work, dedication, talent and a bit of training so they are trained before going to a field/ place of work. The home director trains them and like any teacher he has his best students. A woman who does the “feet and the shake” like nobody’s business and his best A+ student, a man who does what he calls ‘a tornado roll’, he swiftly rolls through the bench, bites his lip and manages to get me laughing like a mad woman.
Being an African woman I doubted the “realness’ of this American TV show, I’ve read on the blogs many times about how they script shows but present them as reality, I had my doubts until this past weekend when I attended a friend’s uncle’s funeral.
The Tornado roll, the feet and so much more happened, I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t there.
It all began at the pre funeral vigil, in Africa (South Africa) it is common for black communities to hold a pre vigil, a night before the funeral, the purpose of this is to support the family of the late during their mourning, the corpse in brought in late afternoon and it spends the night at home before they take it to the grave yards.
The vigil is normally held in the tent, as it did at my friend’s, everybody, the family, extended families, friends, neighbours and random people came in to bid the man farewell.
We were all high in praise from 21h: 00 till 5am: in the morning, a recallable number of Zion/ ZCC worshipers came in be gowned in their best church robes, his friends drunk as hell and the locals in their best behaviour.
I expected everyone to be in their best behaviour, sing worship songs and pray like the earth is ending but boy was I in for a surprise.
The bearded Zion pastor and a handful of dedicated women sang a slow song, prayed and the minute they said amen. The best funeral began, his drunk friends began singing Toyi toyi songs, dancing like miners on strike, shouting gang slogans and dancing around the coffin.
When the bearded pastor tried to stop them he was told he can retire to bed, because from now on they are celebrating their friend the way they know he would have wanted it. The singing and slogans went on till 4 am in the morning, in between songs they took time to light their cigarettes and smoke, what I noticed is that they all never took more than 3 puffs before letting a burning cigarette down on the floor. When I asked about this later, I was told they all had to leave some for him.
Bottles of cheap township vodka and whiskey were exchanged like handshakes throughout the night; they drank and religiously poured a sip on the ground for their brother to drink one last time every time a bottle was opened.
A word on the street is the fallen soldier was a known thief, robber, drinker and a fashionista in his neighbourhood.
It was only fitting that his friends came dressed in their best clothes carrying bottles of their most expensive booze on this day, few angry worshipers asked that everybody respect the family by not speaking ill of the dead. When one of his friends was called to talk about the deceased, he let it be known he didn’t mean to disrespect anyone but he had to be honest.
He told a story of how they did everything together, how they robbed people’s houses in the suburbs, how he had given his late friend his report card to use to register a higher grade when he failed his class, while he was in jail for theft.
Like in the best funeral professional mourners or should I say random mourners were present, one woman cried out loud about her cousin who had tragically passed in a car accident. Everyone gasped because nobody knew who this woman was and the deceased had died of meningitis not a car accident as she claimed.
Another friend expressed how said he was about his friend’s passing but what saddened him the most was the fact that he (deceased) never returned the fridge he stole from him. He will miss his friend but he misses his fridge more.
The baby mothers and girlfriends who all looked like Wesley snipes character in Woo foo, with long history of alcohol abuse written in their faces cried uncontrollably, causing cheap make up to mess up their already messed faces.
It seems everyone had a good and a bad story to tell about the deceased, from a stolen fridge, a borrowed report card, lost cows, his own grandmother’s missing tea cups he sold to his aunt and more.
This was truly the best funeral ever, made consider my own ways, I might need to fire some of my friends and change my ways if this is how people