I love funerals. Jamaican funerals to be exact. I’m not a morbid person neither do I enjoy seeing people weep or grieve. I absolutely hate to see the body in the casket. So what’s so awesome about a Jamaican funeral?, one may ask. Let me tell you.
Yesterday I traversed through the beautiful hills and valleys of Trelawny to show my support for a friend who’d lost an aunt. I was psyched and my husband was puzzled. My lack of sleep, the crazy heat, and the bus-lag (3 hours) did nothing to deter me from having a good Sunday. Luckily for us, we arrived at the church rather early, so I was able to secure a seat under one of the tents on the outdoors. Within minutes the church was packed, all the seats on the outside were taken, and dozens of persons were standing and/or milling about. It was not when the hearse arrived after a fanfare and marching band but when I heard the two elderly women sitting beside me express their desire for a programme that I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s on!”
You see, it’s a very particular and quite baffling characteristic of Jamaicans: we love programmes! Funeral programmes to be exact. I do suppose that they need to remember the deceased, but at what length must you go to procure a very colourful, photo-filled, pamphlet-like bit of paper? Great and extreme lengths. I sat in awe with a wry smile as I watched the mourners bombard, chase, engulf, and then chastise those who had the monumental task of handing out the programmes. I overheard one man relating his experience in getting one, and had I not heard the beginning of the conversation, I could have surmised that he had followed a man behind a shed to get some drugs, due to the great level of secrecy the matter demanded. Those who chastised did so loudly. “A ongle people weh she know she a give! Yuh think seh when we go heaven God ago partial? God nuh partial!”
Of course, I waited until the two elderly women got their programmes and then borrowed one.
After enduring the heat beneath the tent for roughly an hour and a half, a few mourners who had not been so lucky to get a seat, began to loudly voice their opinion on the matter. Indirectly, we (those who came early enough to get a seat) were berated for sitting in our seats and not giving them up to those who were standing, particular to the older folks. We were lashed for not being considerate enough to join the seats together so that more persons could sit. We were scolded for not getting up for a bathroom break with no intention of returning. And, as if that was not enough, we were reminded that the seats were indeed not ours; they were for everyone. And, again, when we get to heaven, God will not be partial.
Realizing that this funeral was going to be one of the extended editions, I sourly gave up my seat and went back to the bus. For the next two and a half hours, I slept, purchased peanuts from Nutsy, chatted with other refugees in the bus, and had a magnificent laugh at the expense of a few persons giving tributes. One fellow in particular left an indelible mark on the “con-gre-gration” as he spoke so fondly (and in true Jamaican fashion, twangly) of the deceased in her “castik”. Of course there were those who sang from the heart and those who sang heartily.
I didn’t make it to the burial this time around, but I can only imagine how it went down. Pun very much intended. I did however receive my share of the nyammings: fried chicken and white bread, hold the soda.