Personalised funerals the in-thing

Rebecca Kabaya

Nothing can lessen the grief of losing a loved one, but how one says goodbye should feel truly personal.

For the elites among us, there is no time to feel pressured about the right or wrong way to hold a funeral. There is a revolution in the burial of the dear departed, depending with one’s status.

Previously, most people died at home. The body was prepared where the death occurred, usually with just a simple bathing and dressing.

The body would lay in state in the house until the grave was dug. The family and community would transport the deceased to the graveside and fill in the grave themselves. Different religions and traditions may have altered this timeline slightly with different rituals, but the essence remained the same. Families and communities handled and dictated death care. With time embalming came and people can now choose if they want to, be viewed, have a church service in their memory and be interred surrounded by a bronze liner in a sealed metal casket. All that can be done!

A funeral that reflects the life of their loved one and a personalised commemoration, or an environmentally conscious wake, is one of the major characteristic of the ways the rich and famous are paying their last tributes to their relatives these days.

The comparison to weddings is a fitting one, given that many celebrants oversee both. Exciting developments have been slower to show at the funerals. Until now, where the “born frees” are coming through and they’re saying, this has to be authentic and are actively searching for it. Families look for a celebrant who fits in with who they are.

For the well-heeled location is often a pivotal decision, with burials now taking place before a memorial service at a stadium, lake; wherever is seen to be the most fitting site for a send-off.

Often these services cost way above the price of traditional funerals, because of the big difference in their perceived value. To them cost is not a major thing if the family feels like that person would have loved what they did, particularly if they know where the money has gone.

Some people will spend thousands if not millions of dollars on caskets.  A casket is a specially-designed box made to contain a deceased person’s body. Before people used to bury their loved ones in coffins, which can be described as containers that hold dead bodies for burial since the early 16th century and they were cost-cutting.

One good example of an expensive and lavish funeral was that of the former Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education Professor Jonathan Moyo’s daughter Zanele Moyo, who died at the age of 20.

Zanele Moyo burial

It was a personalised funeral with a theme colour of purple and white. Cars had number plates of her name and people were wearing T-shirts with her face printed on them.

At the gate one was welcomed by a red carpet that stretched half way into the compound and a white carpet took over.  It was a red and white carpet event with interior décor. The funeral could easily pass for a posh wedding. The family released 20 balloons into the air in celebration of the time the family spent with her before giving testimonies and sharing the special moments they had with her.

The funeral captured most people’s attention and reports say it was worth tens of thousands of dollars.

For the family, it was a special way of saying goodbyes to their loved one, whom they had lost at a tender age while studying at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

This year the country lost two national heroes; the music godfather Oliver Mtukudzi and the founding father of the nation of Zimbabwe former President Robert Mugabe.

Women pay tribute to the late Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi was mourned at his music studio, Pakare Paya in Norton, and later lay in state at the National Sports Stadium for the nation to pay their last respects to the music icon.

Both heroes had music galas held in their memory at the National Sports Stadium. People had the opportunity to see some artistes perform for free for the first time.

This has become the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They are buried in memorable ways. The former President was welcomed by President Mnangagwa at the airport. And just like the former minister Prof Moyo’s daughter’s, his body was escorted by a convoy of cars and a lot of Government delegates.

His body was air lifted to the stadium and to his rural home, which is not a common thing with ordinary funerals.

Most of the elite’s funerals are now modified. Family members can even choose to bury their relatives after a few days and some can extend to more than three weeks, because of the special embalming they would have had used on their relative.

Expensive catering companies will be present, offering a variety of food one can expect at a birthday bash or wedding. Some even offer expensive wines and other alcoholic beverages.

Whereas for the less privileged, having sadza and vegetables is routine, and if the family has cattle or goats, they will be slaughtered. This is a cultural norm among many ethnic groups in the country.

Culturally slaughtering a beast is regarded as a sign of respect to the deceased.

  Funerals, just like anything else are moving with the times and technological advancements, not only in Zimbabwe, but across the world.

Recently, on social media, there was a picture of a white man, who was buried in a computerised casket worth millions, circulating.