Healing Through the Funeral Feast

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“Wherever pain abides, there’s the nobleness of the human soul” – Maya Angelou

Some people find the idea of funeral feasts completely odd. In pre-colonial days, most British anthropologists could not wrap their minds around the pomp and pageantry that accompanied African funerals. Cruickshank, one of the earliest observers of Akan funerals, noticed that it was “a point of honour to make a great show at their funeral customs, and they vie with each other in performing these expensive burials. Even the poorest will pawn and enslave themselves to obtain the means of burying a relation decently, according to the ideas of  the country.” The thought of those ‘natives’ throwing money away on some dead chap must have really gotten the collective blood pressures of  the European sky-rocketing.

In contemporary Ghana, funerals are still accompanied with pomp. There is feasting, dancing, and even road blocking, depending on which part of Ghana you are coming from.  There are people who do not see the need in eating at funerals; for them, there is no need at all for the bereaved family to serve food to funeral guests.  They believe that the feasting that accompanies funerals is misplaced, even irreverent.  Funerals are supposed to be sombre occasions. When people lose their loved ones, the least mourners could do is to actually mourn.  This argument makes sense, really. Surely, the presence of such merrymakers at funerals is not an indication of disrespect and thoughtlessness.

Aside the nuisance of the occasional freeloader, some people really see nothing wrong with funeral feasts. This is because they have come to an understanding that grief can sit closely by mirth. They understand that the twinning of mirth and grief need not be a grave contradiction. After the storm, birds do sing, and so should we. The dead are gone, and as much as they were loved while they dwelled amongst the living, life must go on without them. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can be done about the loss we feel. If ever I am consulted on how I’d like my funeral to be, I’d tell my friends to dance; dance and feast all night. I’d tell them to dance on my grave even, in celebration of the beauty of the life we shared.

If ever I am consulted on how I’d like my funeral to be, I’d tell my friends to dance; dance and feast all night. I’d tell them to dance on my grave even, in celebration of the beauty of the life we shared.

Our ability to heal after pain is a blessing we should not take for granted.  Had we not been blessed with this capacity, we would be the most pitiable of creatures.  The rains of life beat us at every turn; there are times when grief constantly follows grief. Allowing ourselves an opportunity to smile, and to eat, while we mourn is our only respite from gloom.

Eating can be one of the first steps towards healing. Whose business is it anyway, if we feast our way to healing?  It is no one’s business but ours.

By Dede Williams

Photo Credit: funeralfund.blogspot.com

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