Today at 1:00 PM a man was found dead in his hut in a nearby village. By 8:00 PM his grave was filled in and the burial was over.
We got a call at 2:40 from our dear friend Patrick. The deceased was his uncle, whom he loved as his father because his biological father left when he was just three years old. We changed our plans and rushed to assist. The process of burial here in Uganda is beautifully simple. Here’s how:
- Buy a coffin on the side of the road at a cost of about $20 U.S.
- Buy some white cloth to wrap the body in, and another to drape the coffin = $22.
- Pick up sodas and water for the guests = $10.
- Take the coffin to the family compound in the village and lift the wrapped body in.
- Dig the grave by hand.
- Women mourners sit together near the hut. Men sit together nearby.
- After a short prayer by the local priest, bring the casket to the graveside.
- The priest prays and sprinkles holy water over the casket and in the open grave.
- The casket is lowered into the grave using ropes.
- A song and prayers are given at the graveside.
- Mourners sprinkle dirt onto the coffin and say farewell.
- A short service is held while the gravediggers fill in the grave.
Our experience with this process was touching. It was wonderful to help Patrick at this difficult time. Using gloved hands, I helped lift the body into the casket and close the lid. I learned what a body feels like after rigor mortis and the smell of death. I was also asked to the the main speaker, which was an honor. It was good to present the Plan of Happiness and explain where the man’s spirit was, along with the purpose of life.
The highlight of the evening was when we asked to meet the family. We were taken into the family hut and sat on the only chairs while everyone else sat on mats. One by one, starting with the oldest sister, we were introduced to about 20 family members. The spirit was powerful and we felt great love for these people. We shook hands with each person and greeted them in Acholi and English. Then Patrick, RaNae and I sang God Be With You Til We Meet Again, and a family member gave a prayer.
This is yet one more African tradition that we like. Burial is simple and inexpensive, yet effective. The fact that the body is buried next to the family hut is wonderful.