The chairs were placed at least 1 meter apart – the family was seated on one side and church officials on the other. Everyone wore a mask.
Everyone knew of the strict instructions that the Kenyan government had established for funerals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Only 15 people were able to gather for the burial of my cousin, Chris, and everything had to be done before 9 am local time.
At 7:00 am, the rest of us had gathered, in front of our phones and computers, watching the funeral unfold while a friend broadcast it live on Facebook.
There were hundreds of us to pay our last respects to Chris. He was a people person – the life and soul of family celebrations.
His deep laugh reached you before he set foot in the house – in fact, you could hear it 200 meters from the gate.
And Chris used to show up to people, whether at funerals or weddings. He was a great mobilizer, bringing people together for all occasions.
So, on this day, we came to him too. But not being there meant it wasn't the same.
& # 39; We couldn't play your favorite songs & # 39;
Chris was my immediate cousin, but we were raised in the same house and he was more than a brother to me.
He died in Kisumu, western Kenya, on Easter Sunday, after being ill for a few weeks with liver cirrhosis.
The government gave us the guidelines for his burial. He had to be buried within three days.
But with many of his family and friends trapped in the capital, Nairobi, not everyone was able to attend the funeral.
The sermon was short. Speeches were restricted. And there was very little singing.
Chris loved music – he played drums in the Salvation Army church band. So it was painful that no one could be there to play their favorite songs.
You can watch:
I watched live comments from your friends and colleagues appear on Facebook.
On the digital console, people left messages of condolence and talked about how good Chris was.
And I thought, maybe I should take screenshots and print them out, because this was essentially our condolence book.
Everything looked so different. We couldn't hug, touch or see each other's tears. We couldn't throw a handful of dirt in the coffin, which was lowered into the grave.
When a loved one dies, we seek to regret, we seek comfort and closeness. But how do you do it when you're confined?
I was upset. I never imagined that I would have to bury a loved one through social media. I never thought I would want so much human contact. It was like a movie, except that I was part of the cast.
And, unfortunately, Facebook Live failed, due to a bad network connection. So I couldn't even watch Chris's final journey until the end. I didn't see his covered coffin.
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In many African societies, death and life are inextricably linked. Many traditions see death as a rite of passage – a transition to another form.
Hence the importance of ancestors – they are the people who died, but continue to "live" in the community.
This, in turn, means that when people die, they must receive a perfect burial – complete with rituals that have been observed for generations.
For the communities in western Kenya where I come from, like Luo and Luhya, the death of a person and their burial are incredibly important events.
Funeral elaborated with 10 different rites
A dead person is treated with the utmost respect and there are death and burial rites to be followed, to ensure flawless expulsion.
First of all, burials are not rushed, especially for the elderly. The death of a person is an invitation to celebration, even in the midst of mourning and mourning.
It takes at least a week for an adult to be buried. There is high mourning and crying, for days on end. People huddle together and help mourners mourn.
Bonfires are lit on the farm and people gather around them, hugging, crying, reliving the lives of those who left.
There is the ritualistic slaughter of animals and the preparation and portion of food and drinks to console the mourners. It is a demonstration of unity between neighbors and family.
The dead are taken home a day or two before burial. They are in the compound, to show that they are accepted and loved, even in death.
The Luo, a Nilotic people from western Kenya, have among Kenya's most elaborate funerary customs.
There are at least 10 rites involved since the announcement of the death, the removal of the shadow or spirit of the dead from the property, the shaving of the hair of family members and, finally, the remembrance ceremonies of the dead.
All of these occasions require people to meet and interact in large numbers.
But during this pandemic, most of these rituals are simply prohibited, regardless of whether a person died from Covid-19 or not.
"I only partially suffered"
During the two days between Chris' death and his funeral, people at home were banned from singing loudly at night, lest they attract the neighbors who may want to come and suffer with the family.
There were no fires to sit. And during the burial, even at the tomb site, there were no hugs, no touches, no handshakes or kisses.
Government officials were there to ensure that all rules of social distance were followed.
Forty days after one is buried, a memorial service must be performed – the final celebration of his life. We, again, will not be able to do this for Chris.
I have a feeling that I am only partially fighting for Chris. This is not how he deserves to be regretted.
Maybe when this is all over – when we can hug again and cry in each other's arms – we will regret it as we should.