Coronavirus in Kenya: ‘I buried my cousin on Fb Reside’

Mourners at Chris' funeral in western KenyaPicture copyright
Mercy Juma

The chairs had been positioned no less than 1m (3ft) aside – household sat on one facet, church officers on the opposite. Everybody wore a masks.

Everybody knew of the strict directions that the Kenyan authorities had laid down for funerals in the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Solely 15 individuals might collect for the burial of my cousin, Chris, and the whole lot needed to be finished by 09:00 native time.

By 07:00 the remainder of us had gathered, in entrance of our telephones and computer systems, watching the burial unfold as a pal live-streamed it on Fb.

There have been lots of of us to pay our final respects to Chris. He was a individuals’s particular person – the life and soul of household events.

His deep giggle reached you even earlier than he set foot in the home – in truth, you might hear it 200m away on the gate.

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Courtesy of Mercy Juma

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Family members and mates say Chris deserved a greater funeral

And Chris used to indicate up for individuals, be it at funerals or weddings. He was an important mobiliser, rallying individuals for all events.

So, on today, we confirmed up for him too. However not being there meant it was not the identical.

‘We could not play his favorite songs’

Chris was my instant cousin, however we had been raised in the identical home and he was greater than a brother to me.

He died in Kisumu in western Kenya on Easter Sunday, after being unwell for a number of weeks with liver cirrhosis.

The federal government gave us the rules for his burial. He needed to be buried inside three days.

However with lots of his household and mates beneath lockdown within the capital, Nairobi, not everybody might attend the burial.

The sermon was brief. The speeches had been restricted. And there was little or no singing.

Chris beloved music – he performed the drum equipment within the Salvation Military church band. So it was painful that no one may very well be there to play his favorite songs.

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Media captionGhana’s dancing pallbearers carry pleasure to funerals in regular instances

I watched as reside feedback from his mates and colleagues rolled in on Fb.

In digital solace, individuals left messages of condolence and talked of how nice a person Chris was.

And I believed, perhaps I ought to take screenshots and print this out as a result of this was primarily our condolences ebook.

Every little thing felt so totally different. We couldn’t hug, contact or see one another’s tears. We couldn’t throw fistfuls of grime on the coffin because it was lowered into the grave.

Mercy Juma


The Fb Reside failed so I couldn’t watch Chris’ ultimate journey to the very finish”

When a beloved one dies we search to grieve, we search for consolation and closure. However how do you that when you’re confined?

I used to be upset. I by no means imagined I must bury a beloved one via social media. I by no means thought I’d crave human contact that a lot. It was like a film, besides that I used to be a part of the forged.

And sadly, the Fb Reside failed, because of a poor community connection. So I couldn’t even watch Chris’ ultimate journey to the very finish. I didn’t see his coffin being coated.

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In lots of African societies loss of life and life are intricately tied. Many traditions see loss of life as a ceremony of passage – a transition to a different kind.

Therefore the significance of ancestors – they’re the individuals who have died however proceed to “reside” in the neighborhood.

This, in flip, signifies that when individuals die they need to obtain an ideal burial – full with rituals which have been noticed for generations.

For the communities in western Kenya the place I come from, just like the Luo and Luhya, an individual’s loss of life and their burial are extremely vital occasions.

Elaborate funeral with 10 totally different rites

A lifeless particular person is handled with utmost respect and there are loss of life and burial rites to be adopted, to make sure a faultless send-off.

Initially burials aren’t hurried, particularly for the aged. An individual’s loss of life is a name for celebration, even amidst the mourning and grieving.


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Coronavirus: Key information

  • Spreadswhen an contaminated particular person coughs droplets into the air

  • Virus-packed droplets could be breathed in

  • Dropletsalso can land on a floor

  • Touching floor after which eyes, nostril or mouth creates threat

  • Washing of arms is due to this fact advisable after touching surfaces

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It takes no less than per week for an grownup to be buried. There’s loud mourning and weeping, for days on finish. Folks huddle collectively and assist the bereaved to mourn.

Bonfires are lit within the homestead and other people collect round them, embracing, crying, reliving the lifetime of the departed.

There’s the ritualistic slaughter of animals, and the preparation and serving of meals and drinks to console mourners. It’s a present of unity amongst neighbours and household.

The lifeless are introduced residence a day or two earlier than the burial. They lie within the compound, to indicate that they’re accepted and beloved, even in loss of life.

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Courtesy of Mercy Juma

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Solely 10 individuals had been allowed on the funeral

The Luo, a Nilotic individuals from western Kenya, have among the many most elaborate burial customs in Kenya.

There are no less than 10 rites concerned from the announcement of loss of life, to the removing of the shadow or spirit of the lifeless from the homestead, to the shaving of members of the family’ hair, and eventually the remembrance ceremonies for the lifeless.

All these events require individuals to congregate and work together in large numbers.

However throughout this pandemic, most of those rituals are merely off-limits, whether or not an individual died of Covid-19 or not.

‘I’ve solely partially grieved’

Throughout the two days between Chris’ loss of life and his burial, individuals at residence had been forbidden from singing loudly at evening, lest they entice the neighbours who might need to come and grieve with the household.

There have been no bonfires to take a seat round. And in the course of the burial, even on the grave web site, there was no hugging, or touching, no handshakes or kisses.

Authorities representatives had been there to make sure all guidelines of social distancing had been adopted.

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Courtesy of Mercy Juma

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Mourners normally throw sand into the grave

Forty days after one is buried, a memorial service is meant to be held – the ultimate celebration of their life. We, once more, won’t be able to do that for Chris.

I’ve this sense that I’ve solely partially grieved for Chris. This isn’t how he deserves to be mourned.

Possibly when all that is over – after we can hug once more, and cry in one another’s arms – we’ll mourn him like we must always.

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