By Fr Joe Babendreier
Leo (not the real name) sat in his office crying. He kept the door closed so no one would see him. The new boss had just informed him that no permission was given to attend a funeral upcountry. Leo was devastated. The new boss was a European who had arrived only a few months earlier. He knew next to nothing about African customs regarding funerals. Leo had already missed two whole weeks of work earlier in the year when his mother had died. Now Leo wanted to attend a funeral for his uncle. The European boss listened to Leo’s request and replied: “Enough is enough. If you want to go, you can go, but you’re not working for me anymore. Find another job. If you want to keep your job, you have to skip the funeral.”
Leo tried to explain how bad it would look if he didn’t go to the funeral. He said he would only be gone for three days. The boss replied, “But you were just there two months ago. Enough is enough. I’m not giving you leave for a funeral.” Leo stood speechless. The boss obviously did not understand. That was the end of the conversation.
The only thing worse than death, is death without a proper funeral. I remember, shortly after arriving in Kenya many years ago, that four people died trying to recover the body of a fisherman who had drowned in a storm on the lake. At the time, I asked, “Why did that happen? Why didn’t they wait till the storm was over to go looking for the body?” The answer was: “The man’s relatives were afraid they might never find the body. They would rather risk their own lives then leave their brother without a proper burial.”