A modern way to send off the deceased These days, funeral service providers do all the organising from pall bearers to the church funeral service, to transporting the body. By Connie Nankya (email the author) Posted Saturday, February 20 2010 at 15:03 In Summary In the past, mourning was a community affair. Upon ones death, the society would mobilise help and participate in the different roles required. However, today people have become less participatory. Nowadays, instead of having the family make arrangements for letting the dead rest, there are companies that are set up to do the job and a good number of Ugandans have adopted the trend writes Connie Nankya. Working as a pallbearer was one of the worst moments of my life. In 2006, I went to pick up a corpse from the mortuary. There, I saw another whose scalp was being sliced off, revealing everything beneath (brain and all). On another occasion, I had to jump over several dead bodies in search of one particular corpse after a church had fallen on a certain congregation in Kalerwe. These sights left me traumatised. I failed to eat or sleep after and wanted to quit my job but my employers took me through various counselling sessions which helped me recover, narrates John Mutumba, who worked as a pallbearer at A-Plus Funeral Management Services for two years. He is currently the Assistant Operations Manager. It used to be that family members chased after getting a coroner to determine the cause of death, a mortician to dress up the body and they would also buy the coffin and get a car to transport the body. But now these responsibilities can be shifted to someone else, a funeral service provider to do all the hard work while the bereaved family grieve without the hassles of preparation. When called upon for an assignment for example, I rush to work immediately and receive all the details in relation to the job ahead of me. My colleagues and I, a team of about seven people, then dress up and proceed with what we are expected to do, depending on the package paid for. This could include picking up the corpse from whereever it is, dressing it, sleeping at the vigil (just to ensure that my team and I are not distanced from the client), re-cleaning the corpse the next day for viewing and lowering the casket into the grave, explains Mutumba. Drake Wasswa, who has employed the services of pall bearers five times, says the provision of funeral services not only makes life easier but also grants ones loved ones an honorable burial, one done in an orderly way, with class and respect. In the past, mourning was a community affair. Upon ones death, the society would mobilise help and participate in the different roles required. However, today people have become less participatory. No one has the time to converge, cook, or help with burial arrangements, which makes it hectic for the bereaved. Also, having to watch the casket of your beloved one being lowered down the grave, amidst chaos, with ropes, can be painful, Mutumba says. What will it cost you? Although he declined to give the prices of all their services, Aloysius Mutyaba Mukiibi, the General Manager of Uganda Funeral services Limited, says, We provide a very wide range of services since we aim at relieving the bereaved of anything that would traditionally be expected. The costs of the services therefore depend on what one wishes to be relieved of. Also, in case a client requires outfits to wear on the special occasion, we refer them to Real Concepts, a company that can attend to such needs, he states. All this seems out rightly expensive to 50-year old Maureen Nabweteme, a woman who says that in the past, the death of a loved one meant proper grieving and there was nothing special about it especially in terms of costs. The news about ones death was spread through sending messengers to different towns while others within the community heard from the neighbourhood. Usually, the mood was very gloomy, food came from the gardens and community members prepared it free of charge. The bereaved family in most cases looked shabby to symbolise their sorrow. The widow would not take a shower until after the burial; she would neither comb her hair nor wear shoes except a gomesi with dry banana leaves tied around her waist. Children from the bereaved family had amafufu (bark cloth) tied around their waists too, she says. However, for Wasswa, despite the sorrow that one feels after losing a loved one, one is content when they see their relative or friend sent off with elegance and honour. It is true that upon the death of a beloved one, the family may go into a state of grieving and I agree they may forget about certain important and relevant things like how to send off the deceased and the required sort of arrangement. With modernity and the availability of professionals, society is drawn to having a group of people that are emotionally detached to help out at such a time. It could be costly but everything honourable comes at a cost. Besides, one has the option of choosing a particular package depending on what they can afford, the same way I did, he states. Rumour has it that if necessary, a funeral home is provided for people to mourn and even bury their loved ones. However, Mutyaba says, I do not know yet for a fact if there is a funeral service company that provides those services. What I am sure of is that we can provide the mourners facilities to arrange funerals but certainly not a house from where to mourn. While the tradition of having a funeral company do the hard work is a foreign thing, it is slowly catching on in Uganda. The debate perhaps remains as to whether this robs the family and the deceased a proper burial or funeral process as we are used to it, or not. Costs of funeral arrangements at A Plus Funeral home: n Funeral transport (from Shs300,000 upwards depending on the destination). n Coffins (from Shs800,000 to Shs5m) n Provision of pallbearers (between Shs150,000 to Shs200,000), n Wreaths (Shs100,000), n Body treatment or storage (Shs200,000). n Video coverage (Shs150,000). n Grave construction (depending on the materials desired - like cement, tiles, bricks at a cost of up to Shs1m). n Public address systems (Shs350,000). n Still photography (Shs150,000). n Catering services and order of service books. Hii makala imetoka kwenye gazeti la monitor Uganda. Km inavyojieleza zamani shughuli za msiba zilikuwa ni za communal lakini sasa hivi watu tunakodisha kila huduma sisi tunakuwa ni wenye kuhuzunika tu. Nimekuwa nikijiuliza hivi hali hii inasababishwa na watu kutokuishi kipamoja zaidi km zaidi kwa hiyo hawawezi kufanikisha baadhi ya shughuli km jamii bila kukodi? Au inasababisha na UTANDAWAZI unaotoka magharibi ambapo suala la mazishi linahitaji mualiko? Au ipi hasa sababu ya kufika hapo kwa jamii zetu? Ni kweli kuna faida zaidi km zilivyotajwa kwenye makala au ndiyo zinaongeza pengo katika jamii? Binafsi ninaamini na shughuli ya WANANZENGO (communal usukumani).