South Africa--In the olden days I thought attending funerals was a way of comforting the family in their time of need and as a way of paying our final respects to the deceased. Nowadays, I am not so sure anymore about the respect part. I am saying this because the other day when I was attending a funeral in Barberton I heard a sound I thought was rather unpleasant to hear at a funeral. Actually, I’ve heard this sound in every funeral that I’ve attended so far and it’s becoming annoying.
I was attending the funeral of Pastor Ndlala. He was a well-known man in Mpumalanga and in other provinces in South Africa. Ndlala was a hard working and respectable man. But sadly Tuberculosis cut his life short early this year. He left behind his wife and eight children. When my cousin called me and told me about the news I felt really sad, though I did not know pastor Ndala very well. I had only met him once when he traveled a long distance with my aunt to attend my mother’s funeral.
Since he was the pastor in charge of the whole funeral service at my house, I really felt the need to pay my last respect to him and his family. I immediately got on a train and traveled for about three hours to my aunt’s house so I could attend the funeral with her. My aunt left first during the week so she could assist the family with the funeral arrangements and other stuff. My cousin and I only joined her later on a Friday when the night vigil was to be held.
Thembi and I arrived just in time to join them when they went to collect the pastor’s body at a mortuary not very far away from the Ndala home. Hundreds of people from different branches of his church and his community attended the funeral. People were busy cooking porridge and meat with big three legged pots in the kitchen made by corrugated iron. Some sat in a tent singing gospel music. Others walked to the mortuary and waited in line to collect Mr. Ndlala’s body to take him to his home for the night so he could be placed in his final resting place in the morning.
It didn’t take long for the body of pastor Ndlala to be released at the morgue. Soon people walked side to side with the hearse as they sang and led the way to the Ndlala’s home. People stood up from where they were sitting and went to the gate to welcome the corps. Many people started to cry including pastor Ndlala’s children as they saw their father’s coffin being lifted off of the hearse to his bedroom.
Soon everyone gathered in the tent and the gospel. Preaching and prayers continued. And then I heard it. The most annoying sound that people should never have to hear at a funeral unless it is an emergency: the sound of a cell phone ringing during the funeral service! I must have heard about at least twenty cell phones ringing during pastor Ndlala’s night vigil. Every time it rang people had to stop whatever important thing they were doing or saying during the service and focused on the ringing cell phone. It was really embarrassing!
It was not just the ordinary people who were doing this, but even the pastor and bishops were also guilty of this cell phone crime. I really felt like screaming at them and asking them to just switch their cell phones off. The ringing cell phones went on all night long. Even in the morning when the pastor’s coffin was brought to the tent for everyone to say their final goodbye, the ringing cell phones still continued. And if that wasn’t already bad enough, the cell phones continued to ring at the graveyard. It would have even be better if they put the cell phones on vibrate or something.
And this really got me asking myself all sorts of questions. Have we lost all respect for our culture and ourselves? People in South Africa were never like this in the past.
Are we really that inconsiderate or is it just me who sees this as a problem? Surely we can all switch our cell phones off during funerals as a sign showing respect to the families and ourselves as human beings.