This morning has been a very sad, yet extremely culturally interesting one for Paula as she attended Lorraine's funeral at her home in Chris Nissen Park. Death really is just part of life and this was highlighted throughout all the proceedings. In many ways as white westerners we may have felt that some of the things that happen are disrespectful, but it was such a good reminder that death really is a natural part of life and nothing to be feared. As is customary for Cape coloured funerals, Lorraine's body was brought to the house and taken inside. The lid is taken off to reveal the face of the deceased and within seconds there is almost a rugby scrummage for people to get inside the little house to pay their last respects. People cannot wait to see the body. There must have been about 40 of us crammed inside the house with the coffin and at least the same outside. The proceedings begin with prayers and spontaneous songs and hymns, followed by a very charged preach with lots of 'it's true' and 'thank you Jesus's' from the crowd. Perhaps one of the most moving moments for me was when the group sang a spontaneous and very harmonious version of Be Still and Know that I am God in Afrikaans. The service was extremely fitting for Lorraine, a true Christian, who had lived bravely to the end battling one of the world's worst illnesses. Jesus's name was lifted high and she was honoured.
The hardest thing for me was the arrival of beautiful little Devidine, Lorraine's 17 month old daughter. She had been dressed up in lovely clothes and had white ribbons in her hair. She spent the whole time in Dad's arms and it was a picture to behold. There was one shakey moment as she obviously recognised mummy in the coffin and called out her name (can you imagine!) - thankfully, she seemed to forget just as quickly and turned back to hug Daddy. The service was not without humour either, as family members kept arriving with great pots of food and just bringing them in in the middle of the service. Then one of the pastors (in full dress) crammed into the tiny space had to break off from his prayer to answer his cellphone!! As I said - death is just part of life. This part of the service ended with us all walking once around the coffin and filing out of the house whilst paying respects to the husband and mother. This was another unusual experience for me as people literally 'manhandle' the face of the body to say goodbye. The most emotional part of the morning then came as Dad took Devidine to say goodbye to mummy. How any parent could not fail to remain tear less, I don't know. Finally the lid was hammered on and the dad was given the death certificate before carrying the coffin back to the car ready to go to the burial ground.
Emotionally exhausting it certainly was, but what a privilege and an experience for me to stand as the only white person in the family home and to be able to tell Lorraine's mother how I have come to know her daughter and what a friend she has been. I remain deeply touched by the courage with which Lorraine faced the end of her life and her devotion to her daughter and family as well as her deep love for Jesus. Another Godly woman has now been promoted from this life into glory!