Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Last week local artist Juliana Kanyomozi lost her son to complications arising from his long standing asthmatic condition. The outpouring of grief begun genuinely enough but soon took on a life of its own descending quickly into a tragicomedy before collapsing into a farce.

Everybody and every culture handles their grief differently.  At the end of the day grief is a personal and private affair for those closest to the deceased. A time for reflection on the life they lived and how they shared it with the ones they left behind. It is obviously a time for regret for things unsaid, activities undone and for the lost future with the person.

"Out of our own upbringing we invite people into our homes at these times when often times we just want to be left alone with our grief. The rest of us take this obligation to society as an invitation to intrude into the bereaved lives, displaying a disrespect for the dead they would not display for the living and generally being a nuisance...

And this is magnified many times over for celebrities, and more so in our increasingly connected world.

Let us list the common denominators in our various cultures grieving processes.

Somebody dies. We congregate at the home of the deceased or at some predetermined place where we generally pay our condolences are informed of arrangements and provide any assistance we are capable of. The burial is often accompanied with a church service or prayers. We may return to the home of the deceased to continue to commiserate with the bereaved and pledge help in coming days.
Of course that is a sanitised version of events.

As a backdrop to the main events there are often family disagreements to be smoothed over, protocol issues to be ironed out, egos to placated and, unknown to many but the closest relatives, these functions are often poised delicately on the brink of disaster.

So it does not help when strangers budge in on one’s grief, wailing more than the bereaved and generally overstepping their bounds.

One would excuse the odd mourner who, overcome by grief and generally acting out of place. But one cannot help but be disturbed by the growing tastelessness in behaviour surrounding funerals these days.

It starts with social media.

We will not begrudge people their “need” to profess their grief to the public but if one must, surely a line should suffice. Then of course there are always those happy to play the fly in the ointment, mouthing off about how the bereaved deserved what was coming to them, justifying their uncalled for observations with unproven allegations. But others still, in their mad rush to commiserate – or be seen to commiserate, totally lose the plot, “killing” some other innocent bystander in sending condolences to the wrong family.

It gets worse at the vigil when everybody insists on the seeing the body and these days even taking selfies alongside! At one vigil when what drinks the grieving family had were placed before one gentleman he complained that he does not take a certain brand of soda and could they run down to the shops to get him the one he wants!

At the funeral service all hell breaks loose. People jostle for the prime positions with the bereaved. They hold a running commentary of the event on twitter with the outside world. They walk in and out of church – presumably to receive calls.

By the time we get to the funeral we clearly are determined to hammer the final nail into the coffin – forgive the pun. The politicians jump in to speak to the people. People forgo the actual burial and set upon the food. It’s not unusual for drunken grave diggers to follow, or precede, the coffin into the grave. There always seems to be someone – unknown to the family, willing to put on a show of such inconsolable grief as to start tongues wagging about her association (wink! wink!) with the deceased.

What is going on?!

I am tempted to think, besides maybe, the growing poverty around us, which means we will get a meal any whichever way we can and to hell with etiquette, we have taken this tendency to see and be seen to absurd levels.

"More and more we are doing things for show and any occasion is fair game for our vainglorious prancing. It is as if we are fixated at the adolescent stage, wracked by insecurities, unknowingly putting our inadequacies on full display and worshiping at the altar of superficiality over substance...

Anybody with half a heart sympathises with Juliana and her family. But we demean ourselves and debase our genuine feelings in our misplaced attempt to be associated with the rich and famous.
If you have no genuine willingness to share in the grief of the deceased stay away. You will not be missed.

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