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Of half-truths and blantant lies at funerals

Death is a mystery that people will never understand.
We experience it day in and day out yet when it strikes it comes as a shock.
You would think that by now society would have accepted that humans are born to die.
Our fear of death, or lack of understanding of it, could be the reason why we revere the dead.
We loathe speaking ill of the dead because we are afraid of hurting the living and being judged.
Because we don’t understand death we are also afraid that if we speak the truth the dead might “punish us”.
Through socialisation and indoctrination by religious and societal beliefs we have convinced ourselves that the dead remain with us even if we have buried their remains six feet under.
I have attended funerals where the mooki (loosely translated to mean a nurse), who is charged with the role of telling mourners about the person who has died, was at pains to portray the person being buried as having lived a faultless life.
Some just lie about the dead.
I have watched in horror while baoki describe well-known thieves in glowing terms.
Sometimes the deception knows no boundaries.
Murderers are described like angels and criminals as heroes.
You would think that the person you have gathered to bid farewell was infallible.
We do the same for people who caused sleepless nights for the community when they were alive.
“Lepeli was a good man,” the mooki would start his speech.
And so for the next few hours of the funeral mourners are subjected to half truths and blatant lies.
Examples of when the person showed his good side are either exaggerated or simply cooked up.
I am sure if some people had the opportunity to attend their own funerals they would be shocked by the speeches delivered in their honour.
Surely some would laugh loud at the absurdity of it all.
Some might be disgusted that the living have now anointed themselves their public relations officers.
In our bid to soothe the pain of the loved ones and conform to societal norms we miss a great opportunity to help instigate some behaviourale change in our community.
Imagine the impact it would have on our youths and the community as a whole if the mooki would tell the mourners that the person they are burying was hit by a car while fleeing from the police.
How many lives would a mooki have changed if he tells mourners that the person they are burying died because of an untreated STI or that they were shot while trying to hijack someone’s car?
Indeed, this world would be a much better place if we punctuated our funeral talks with more truths than lies.
That way the mourners would appreciate the consequences of criminal or bad behaviour. They would reflect and evaluate their own lives and, perhaps, change for the better.
I have no doubt that this world would have less corrupt people if we make it a habit of calling a spade a spade in our funeral speeches.
Of course some truths told at a graveside might not completely change the world but I am sure they could prick some people’s consciences.
Nobody wants to be remembered as the nuisance that everyone in the community wished they never knew or lived with.
In portraying every dead person as having lived a good life we are in fact undermining the real good work of others.
There are men and women in our midst who genuinely deserve such accolades for they have done nothing but good things for those close to them and the community as a whole. These are the people we should be eulogising during their funerals.
But because bad people are eulogised we fail to remind the society that fine works are indeed rewarded.
Because we regard everyone good in death we fail to help society reflect on the consequences of delinquency.
The result is that we are missing opportunities to teach ourselves and those around us through solid examples.
Instead we are teaching people that no matter what evil they do on earth they will be described as heroes when they die.
Lepeli Moeketsi is a sub-editor with Lesotho Times and Sunday Express

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