|This little boy caught my|
attention early. I gave him
a nod, and he never left
Job was waiting outside at a table when I emerged from my room. I wasn’t feeling tired at the time, but that wouldn’t last. We had scrambled eggs and bread with tea before walking up to the mortuary where Sam’s body was being kept. From there, we’ll walk in a procession back to Sam’s church, then his home. Members from Israel Church will be everywhere, wearing their bright white garments, playing drums, singing and dancing.
When we arrived there were already 6 parishes there. Parishes were differentiated by flags that looked almost identical except for some red stitching in the white part denoting where they were from. While we waited for them to prepare Sam’s body for transport, another 3 arrived; singing and dancing the entire time. They would march at a very slow pace following the wall around the hospital, then out into the street. Traffic would have to wait for them to clear the way before passing. There were “commanders” that would run along side the parishioners keeping them organized, stopping traffic and making sure they maintained the same pace. They never stood still – any of them. They kept that up for over 2 hours before Sam’s coffin emerged and was placed into the back of a pick up truck. They didn’t stop then, rather, they began to walk the path to Sam’s home. It was an exercise that would take another 2 hours. There was an opportunity to view his body before he was loaded onto the flatbed. Sam’s brother Dan road with the coffin along with some of his sisters and Sam’s wives.
|This brief video will give you a better taste of the |
sights and sounds(as well as the pace) of the day.
Make sure you turn your volume down...
By the time we started the journey to his home, there were 9 flags in the procession. Each time another group would be seen coming, the larger group would go to meet them and the smaller group would melt into the larger and return to the mortuary. Now, everyone was together. Job, Caleb and I walked behind the church members and
in front of a car that held some of Sam’s sons and the truck carrying the coffin. As we walked, people ran from their homes to join in the procession. Friends would come to greet me as we walked by.
|Sam's wives Caroline (red)|
When we arrived at the church there had to be close to 300 people, most of whom would have to stay outside the church for the service. I have to tell you something about Kenyans; when possible, they document everything with photos/videos. You may notice in the pictures people taking photos with cell phones to cameras; I even saw a couple iPads. It’s tradition and is often difficult to get used to. I was honored to be allowed into the church, seated off to the side with my friends. We sat on the right side with all the men – the women were on the other. Sam’s sons were in the front of the “men’s section” and his wives and sisters were in the front of the “ladies section.” Remember, we’re still in Kenya.
Everytime a man spoke, a woman had a turn. When it came time for music, the men would pick up their drums and the women would lift their metal rings and come together around Sam’s casket that sat in the aisle that previously separated the two groups. Eventually they would lay down their instruments and return to their seats. The metal rings were made of steel and were about the size of a bicycle tire. I was told that they were removed from various “tanks” (like oil drums). The smaller ones were taken from automobiles. They would rhythmically bang on them with something akin to a railroad spike. They’d been carrying them all day.
|Sam's wives Caroline (red)|
John Aguso led the ceremony and really did a wonderful job. Sam’s had a rather tumultuous married life that saw both wives leave him. I felt the tension from their presence yesterday, and it was quite recognizeable today. After saying several prayers and much singing, he walked among the assembly and called up the wives one at a time to introduce them. They then stood together on either side of Sam’s casket while John continued talking. “We are all sinners, and these two ladies are no different. But that is in the past. They have done the right thing by returning, but it was a
difficult thing to do. Their sins have been forgiven just as Sam’s have. They are part of this family and part of the church community and that is how they will be treated from this point on.” Job was translating for me, and this is the watered down version. The point was made. “Anyone who disagrees, come forward.” Silence. All I could think of was Yule Brenner saying, “So let it be written, so let it be done.” Many of you will need to take a moment to Google that reference to understand. We’ll wait.
John then called up the boys beginning with his first born from his first wife (Olive), Alex (the only member of the clan with dreadlocks like Sam). Then came the children from Caroline. Ben was the tallest of the bunch – probably even a bit taller than Sam was. As he introduced each of them, he commented on the similarities between Ben and Sam and turned around and looked at me and smiled. I was more of a brother to Sam, but I joined the group just to verify that I was still taller. John continued on with
|Sam's brother Dan|
some stories about Sam and I before I returned to my seat. I had forgotten that those from other parishes had never seen me. I was reminded of that fact as they came forward to take my picture at different times during the ceremony.
It ended with Sam being removed from the table and placed on the floor. One section of the lid was then opened revealing Sam’s torso. It was time for everyone to see him again, and make an offering to the family. A bowl was placed on the other end of the coffin and everyone dropped something in it as they passed by.
Eventually everyone left the church and another procession began that walked down a long path and into Sam’s home. Again following tradition, Sam could not take the easier route straight to his home. He is not permitted to walk through what was his father’s home so they walked around it. He then was placed directly in front of his home.
|Sam's first wife Olive, and his|
The church sits on the top of a small hill looking down on the clinic, Mbaka Oromo Primary School and Sam’s home. His corn fields were now occupied by three very large tents similar to the ones used at graduations and weddings. Resin chairs were stacked high and people would take one with them as they sought refuge from the sun in the shade of the tents. We sat in one furthest from Sam’s house but there was a constant stream of people coming over to introduce themselves and say “Jambo, karibu,” Hello, welcome. As custom would dictate, most of these people will stay here all night and continue through the burial ceremony tomorrow. I needed to return to the hotel and left the group around 6:30/7pm. We went right to a table to have dinner (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, although I was smart enough to bring some breakfast bars to snack on) and by the time we sat down, the thunder an lightening started. We moved inside when the rain started and it was a good thing we did. It was as if Mother Nature was using a pitcher instead of a watering can. It rained for several hours. That meant that the cell signal was terrible. I tried calling home but had no luck connecting. I sat down on the bed and started to upload pictures but fell asleep in the middle of the process. I woke up two hours later at 12:30 and called Andrea with an update. Although I told her I’d go to sleep, I was wide awake so I took the next couple hours to write this while I uploaded the pictures to the site. Hopefully, I put it together and get another 5 or 6 hours sleep before the day begins, and hopefully, Andrea won’t be upset that I didn’t go back to bed.
See you after the burial.