Where fresh air strikes openly and freely

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In Namibia, Michael M Liswaniso, writing for AllAfrica.com, deplores the new custom of spraying air freshener at funerals. 

I will start by saying: Eish no please, enough is enough! It is partly inhumane and implies that our loved ones smell when we use air fresheners moments before we lower the coffin into the ground.

I have attended numerous funerals in this country but I have never seen anybody who stands next to the coffin and sprays it with some fragrances in the name of ‘Airoma strawberry’ or any other just to wind down the so-called ‘filthy smell’ emanating from the deceased inside the coffin.

That was until I attended the funeral of one of my close family members. I did not appreciate what I saw. The same thing happened at least at five different funerals in my mother’s town.

I know that when we die and are kept in the mortuary for several days – our lifeless bodies are likely to start disintegrating to an extent that they could partly smell, especially if the morgue is not functioning properly. But such a scenario is unlikely because of the hospital personnel who work hard to keep mortuaries in good working condition.

But to my surprise, most communities in Caprivi and funeral undertakers in some parts of the country have added the ‘air fresheners’ to their shopping list whenever they are to bury their loved ones. Apparently this is done to “avoid the bad smell at the final resting place of the deceased”.

Now, this is what perplexes me totally.

In all the funerals or burial services I attended in Caprivi and other parts of the country, there was no reek of any kind from the coffins. Yet, people continue to spray the coffins even during the funeral service in the church.

The practice distracts the mourners from paying attention to the service, disrupting the entire funeral service.

“Our morgue is always in a bad state that’s why many families have resorted to buying air fresheners at funerals just to avoid a bad smell emanating from the lifeless bodies of their loved ones,” said one source.

I find the practice disrespectful in the sense that even if there is really a bad smell, an 180 ml can of air freshener would never surmount the smell? I do not think so, given the fact that burials take place outdoors at cemeteries where fresh air strikes openly and freely. In addition, air fresheners are mainly meant for indoor ‘isolated’ areas – maybe at a memorial service in the church but still ….

“I saw it for the first time but we don’t do that in my tradition. It is really being disrespectful, it would even imply that the deceased is even stinking to the extent that even a dead dog with maggots is better while in actual fact that is not the case – we are human beings,” – these words came from a friend of mine who accompanied me to a funeral recently.

I have seen and heard of several people who have complained about the practice but the ‘new’ tradition seems to have found a new permanent home in Caprivi and other parts of the country.

My humble suggestion is for people to leave the deceased to take their last journey. Why not then bath our loved ones for the last time, and dress them in their favourite attire and let them wear their most ‘expensive’ perfumes that they might leave behind?

I guess this will help instead of letting one person spray around the coffin for several hours at the gathering. I hope this will assist, if not, then let’s look at other avenues that might work. Until next time, I say Kozo! Eewa


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