Civility has grossly been hit by social inflation, we have observed too many moments of silence to the meltdown of our social order and this has left our people with the highest net worth of poor civilisation.
Funerals are emotionally complex, and knowing how to act especially when there is an unprecedented bumper crowd of mourners can present a challenge, or at least be confusing. Knowing the etiquette guidelines around funerals can help you feel more comfortable, from what you wear, where to sit, when to arrive and depart and the manner in which you memorise all contribute to the image you project to fellow mourners.
On February 14, 2018, a dark cloud hung over the MDC-T family and the general populace of Zimbabwe. A man who was regarded by his supporters as the father of democracy, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, also known as Save, died on that day.
The MDC-T leader deserved a civilised befitting send-off, but seven days later after his date of death; this publication carried a headline that read: “Ugly scenes at funeral…Tsvangirai buried in Buhera”. It is important to remember that, your role as a funeral attendee is to pay your last respects to the deceased, support and console those grieving and to participate in the communal grieving that takes place.
It was reported that violence erupted at the burial of Mr Tsvangirai, at his rural home in Buhera. Those involved in the ‘ugly scene’ did the opposite of what the late Mr Tsvangirai stood for. A funeral of any kind, in any part of the world should be treated with respect and courtesy. If you decide to attend your abusive step mother’s funeral, or your cheating ex-girlfriend’s funeral, do not take advantage of people’s presence and try to create a stage for revenge.
Carefully choose your words of sympathy and sorrow. Words from the heart are more effective than trying to copy and paste far-fetched words from a book, it will not sound human and real, people will doubt you. Express your sympathy using your own words, and to help you prepare, you can think about any good memories or experiences you had with the deceased, your message will connect with the mourners.
Personal stories are motivating and encouraging and I have seen this criteria working well for sportsmen and women. When a teammate passes on, the whole team joins the grieving family in mourning the deceased player and what comforts the family, relatives and friends is the manner in which the fellow teammates describe the good and bad times they spent together. They add humour to their message of condolence, this works very well because you want people to cherish the life lived by the deceased.
We have a variety of religions and the way they conduct their funerals differ in a way. Learning the funeral protocols for each religion will place you above the civility top line. You don’t necessarily have to know everything about other religions but the basics will help you stand out from the embarrassed. My grandparents used to say, “When you are in Rome you do what the Romans do”.
During the church or chapel service, relatives of the deceased sit on the right-hand side for most religions. Other friends, acquaintances, co-workers and members of the spouse’s family sit on the left. For close relatives, seats are reserved in the front rows.
Last week, I advised my fellow gentlemen on the choice of their tie colour and the impact it has on the wearer and the same goes to the funeral attire and choice of colours we put on when attending a funeral.
Historians note that, Queen Victoria was known for wearing black to funerals to show dignity and respect for those in mourning. Wearing black is indeed a longstanding tradition for mourning especially in the west and other areas of the world.
But for countries with different customs like India and China, the traditional colour of mourning is white.
Countries throughout Asia and Africa have a wide variety of customary funeral colours. In South Africa and Ghana, red is often won to funerals. You can also find countries that wear purple (Thailand), and blue (Iran). In Buhera, the majority were seen in the MDC-T red and black party colours. To be on the safe side, wear something comfortable, remember a funeral is not a fashion show, follow the basics, avoid loud patterns, take it easy on the cologne and all facial make up, it is not appropriate to show too much skin, so don’t wear something with a plunging neckline. Avoid mini-skirts, low-cut blouses or dresses, and spandex. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Women may wear skirts, blouses, dresses, or something decent that doesn’t emphasise your curves, cleavage, or too much leg. Keep your accessories simple. You may find yourself walking on the grass or on uneven ground, so leave your stilettos for another occasion and wear more sensible flats or low-heeled shoes. Don’t wear a floppy hat that’s meant for a day at the sports field. Jewellery should be understated, so leave your noisy bangle bracelets and sparkling necklaces at home.
However, there are exceptions to the above. It is acceptable to dress in a military uniform for the funeral of a veteran. If your religion or the religion of the deceased calls for a specific style of dress, follow the rules.
The casket of the late MDC-T leader was carried by several pallbearers on different days, and I personally feel it was an honor for all the pallbearers who were asked to take up the responsibility. When selecting pallbearers, make sure they can keep their emotions in check. A sudden emotional outburst is disrupting and can make a sad situation even worse.
Nonetheless, it was my wish and the world as a whole, to see a civilised befitting send-off for Mr Tsvangirai. Disturbing scenes were witnessed in Buhera, from taking pictures during the processions, assaults, violence; among other barbaric and rowdy behaviours.
It remains the society’s responsibility to groom children who become adults who value and respect one another, be it at a political rally, a product launch, a wedding, a funeral or any other occasion. There will never be a next time; this is the time to break the moments of silence and ignorance to poor civilisation and social order.
It is therefore apt to share my deepest condolences to the Tsvangirai family and Zimbabwe. Politics will never be the same without Save, May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Justice Simango is a Business Etiquette and Grooming Consultant who writes in his own capacity. He is a member of Toastmasters International. Feedback: [email protected] Whatsapp: +263717566382