Friday, June 25, 2010

Funerals and Ancestors

My precious 94-year-old grandma passed away recently, and I’m in Idaho today for her memorial service. Actually I’m here to officiate the service, meaning that I’m the one who sits up front like a pastor, reads the scriptures, and gives a short message. While we grieve over my grandma's death, we also celebrate her long and meaningful life. It’s comforting to know that she’s now in our Savior’s loving arms.

I like to compare our traditions with Nigerian ones. I’m told that funeral specifics vary between communities, tribes, cultures, and religions. A lot depends on if the deceased person is an adult, young man, baby, or religious person, and the cause of death. For example, last fall I was in an African village when gunshots erupted. After I dropped to the ground, Dr. Chris reassured me that the shots went into the air as a tribute to the village chief because of his honored position.

Many Nigerians believe there is another world where ancestors dwell and exert influence on the daily activities of the living. I wonder if elders started this belief so that their younger relatives would be nice to them! If my grandma has any influence over my life now, that would be a good thing because she would make sure that I had lots of good food, laughter, and love. Yep, she was that kind of grandma.

(Photo of me with my two grandmas in 2006. The one on the left is 95-years-old and still alive, and the one who passed away is on the right.)

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