Nairobi News


NGIRACHU: Grieving in the time of the coronavirus

Being told that someone you know has died always gives you a jolt, and now, with a partial lockdown, handling the events after a death is more than surreal.

If the person has died suddenly at night, you cannot go to them, and if you do, you will have a lot of explaining to do at roadblocks.

When morning comes, and you start holding the meetings to organise the funeral, you will be doing it in unusual circumstances.

Everyone is wearing a mask and many are weeping behind the masks. You can’t shake hands or hug, and you can’t comfort the bereaved. You cannot be comforted.

You cannot hold meetings without informing the local residents’ association chairman, the Assistant Chief, and the Officer Commanding Station of the nearest police station.

Still, your neighbour is likely to inform the authorities, and police on patrol will come round and issue a stern warning, never mind the fact that you can only meet for a few minutes and you have to rush home to beat the curfew.

Because you cannot hold meetings, you cannot light a small fire or bond over the coals of a jiko, sipping tea or something stronger as you reminisce over the times spent with the deceased.

You have to stay home and grieve alone.

Death brings people together. Relatives and friends come from all over the country to stay with the bereaved and comfort them.

But now they cannot cross Chania River, Ting’ang’a, Ngorongo, Rironi, Isinya, Kyumvi Junction, Tala, or Landless.

If anyone wants to cross any of the entry points into the Nairobi Metropolitan area, they will need letters from chiefs and stamps by OCSs.

They will also have to convince the policemen at the roadblocks that their papers are authentic.

Once they cross into the newly-expanded Nairobi, they have to find homes that can accommodate them, as the hotels and lodgings are closed.

The funeral itself is another ordeal. Funeral homes allow only a small number in, and the seats in the chapel where the body can be viewed one last time have been moved to the back.

The service cannot be in a church as houses of worship have been closed, so it has to be at the graveside.

The local assistant chief will ensure that only a small number of mourners can be present at the service.

Where the digging of the grave is a communal task taken care of by local youth, that is no longer possible.

You have to hire gravediggers, and they have to be paid for digging and later for filling the grave. Only those at the graveside can throw in a few handfuls of soil.

The service will be shorter than usual, and the small number of people allowed have to practice social distancing, and wear masks.

There can be no food after the funeral, and everyone goes home to grieve alone.