Monday, August 25, 2008

3 Days And A Funeral Later

Friday evening at 6:00 pm I decided to drive to southern Honduras. I packed my clothes, made last minute telephone calls and left about 8:00 pm. My friend Margarita's mom was very sick in bed for almost a month and I felt that something was going to happen, so I left late, drove in the dark (in Honduras right now it is darkish about 6:00 pm) and arrived about 10:00 pm. When I arrived, no one was at the house, so I drove to her mom and dad's house. I stayed until about 12 midnight, then went to Margarita's house to sleep. At 3:00 am Mercedes passed away.

Honduras funerals are very different from USA funerals. Kansans have a 2 hour visitation, a 30 minute sermon the next day, a drive to the cemetery and then lunch afterwards at a family members home.

IN Honduras at 3:00 am, calls were made to everyone they knew. People started arriving immediately. The people stayed around the clock (and no most didn't go home to take showers and yes it was hot around 100 degrees) until Sunday morning when Doña Mercedes was buried. It is very hot in San Lorenzo, so they place buckets of ice under the casket and then placed fans close to the casket to blow on the ice, which made it "almost" like air-conditioning.

Doña Mercedes was dressed in a wedding gown, a new wedding gown, no less. She was going to meet her groom (Jesus) and she wanted to be dressed for the occasion.

Everyone shows up to a funeral. People walked and rode horses and drove cars from miles around. And everyone stays and stays and stays. There is an uncanny gender "thing" that happens. All the women go to the kitchen and all the men stand outside and solve the problems of the world. Usually they kill a cow, but Doña Mercedes ordered that the tamales be purchased instead. 800 tamales were purchased Saturday early afternoon. No I didn't make a mistake. 800 tamales! For breakfast everyone was served chicken and rice. Then they started in on the tamales. Every neighbor, every friend, some enemies, every drunk showed up for tamales.

I think the thing that surprised me the most was the fainting and the wailing. I have been to my share of funerals in my life, but I have never seen the likes of what happened at this funeral. I think I have been introduced to a new and different part of Latin American or at least Southern Honduras culture.

Although this is not a photo of Doña Mercedes funeral procession, it was very similar to this. I found this photo on the Internet.

When we arrived at the cemetery we had yet another interesting experience. The tombs are above ground, but they are very close together and whoever made the measurements for the tomb, forgot to leave space where the casket could slide into the slot. The "foso" was placed too close to the next deceased "owners" "foso" and so the casket wouldn't slide into the opening. They moved the casket to the left and to the right and nothing. They pushed and shoved and all the male muscle and male minds all put together could not get a square peg into a round hole. Finally, the bricklayers, hired for the occasion began to chip away at the cement "foso" in order to make the opening larger. Meanwhile the rest of us and the mortal remains of Doña Mercedes baked in the 100 degree sun. No one thought anything of the miscalculation, no one even mentioned it, no one except for me in this blog. The brick layers did their thing and still the casket didn't fit in the hole. The mahogany casket was now scratched, the trim ruined and finally five or six of the guys made an executive decision to stand the casket up almost on end and shove it in that way. No one said a word as the casket was lifted to a 55 or 60 degree angle and shoved into the hole. I could only wonder if Doña Mercedes was head first or feet first as she was literally shoved into the "foso".

Understand, I am not being critical or unkind, I am just relating the major differences that I witnessed. If this had happened in the USA everyone would have been horrified and someone would have probably been sued.

I can only imagine how a Honduran might think that a Kansas funeral is dispassionate, detached, cold and disconnected from reality. A Honduran might think that a normal Kansan has few friends and they might think that the family didn't love the deceased one, we don't get emotional.

Nigerian funerals are another matter. When I was doing missions work in Nigeria, I had the "funeral experience" there. They buried the corpse under the floor of the house where the family lived. I was really glad that I was not staying at the home of the deceased. Everyone dressed to the hilt and I saw no tears at the funeral.

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