Up until moving to Jamaica almost three years ago, I had attended only four funerals in my entire life: my grandfathers’ funeral which occurred when I was perhaps six or seven years old, my mothers’ less than six years ago, a good friends’ father’s funeral in 2005, and my own father’s funeral in October of 2007.
Burying both parents in less than six years rates very high on my difficult experiences chart, and it’s my belief that the only people who may understand this pain are people who have lost loved ones or parents. I told my husband recently that attending my parents funerals were the two longest days of my life. He is forever thankful to have both his parents living fifteen minutes away from and in good health.
Tears are still hard and sharp for me when I have the desire to telephone them, to share experiences of what life is currently like for me now living in Jamaica. Oh well, I tell myself, life goes on and I simply deal with my thoughts and feelings until they subside.
Anyhow, my experiences with funerals since living in Jamaica have been extremely different from those earlier experiences, as I have now attended three more in 2008 over a period of less than three months.
The funerals I have attended in Jamaica can be described as an entire community involvement experience, as they’re rarely ever private services for immediate family and close friends only, that begin at 10am in the morning, where you are back home or at your office for lunch by noon.
Firstly the sheer crowds are amazing, with standing room only in each of the three different churches where the services I attended were held. The first two I attended, were held in Kingston in Upper St. Andrew, both being extremely formal services where most people were immaculately dressed. I could have been at a wedding, a graduation reception, or even a Grammy award ceremony, had it not been for the presence of the casket at the front of the church.
I could have forgotten that I was at a funeral, as the atmosphere was more joyful than I remember earlier experiences to be. The heat of course stands out, as air conditioning was non existent at of these funerals, so the buildings were extremely hot.
The third funeral was probably the most difficult, as this was for a 19 year old cyclist friend of mine. His name was Alden Clunis and he was from an area called “Above Rocks” up above the Stony Hill area in Kingston. Clunis as we called him, was an extremely disciplined, polite, mild mannered funny young man, that I met since living here. He died after succumbing to head injuries after being hit by a bus on a 5am training ride.
His sidekick Shane is another funny character, who usually stayed with me a great deal on long training rides, as I often times was at the rear of our group. I now worry about Shane as those two were inseparable and nobody has seen Shane. Clunis usually greeted me at the beginning of a long training ride and then at the end, checking to make certain that I was okay.
He worked at a bicycle shop I frequent here in Kingston, and that was were we had some of our more recent chats about his future. My husband and I will miss him a great deal, as my husband even teased me some days that these young men behaved like ” I was their mother” since after each race they would come over to our vehicle knowing I would give them drinks, sandwiches, and warm, caring support. Rarely could I follow all those early conversations with these young energetic Jamaica cyclists, and now I wish I had caught more of what Clunis told, but oh well. Read about dear Clunis at
I cried throughout this funeral, as Clunis is what many would describe as young and gifted. He even recently qualified to represent Jamaica in the upcoming Olympics. His funeral was attended by the top brass from Jamaica’s cycling federation and cyclist colleagues from all over the island, many wearing cycling clothing and some even parking bicycles outside the church.
This funeral started at noon, and as you drove into the town you saw people dressed up all heading in the same direction. We stopped to ask this elderly lady who looked like she was heading to a funeral which direction was the church, before I was finished asking, she was trying to open the vehicles’ door for a ride with me to the funeral. ” Leh mi show yuh miss,” she said.
I left the funeral at 5pm and they were not even half- way through the program, which was extensive. I left only because I had another evening function to attend where I was the host. I really hated having to leave as I was curious to see how it would all end. I was amazed by it all, as a woman walked around the church yard, shouting at the top of her lungs “A who wah buy a bag juice, mi have wata. ” Some shooed her away yelling “tek weh yourself!!” I was speechless as I had never seen such drama at a funeral. Even the local “mad man (mentally ill derelict)” attended the funeral peeping through the church windows during the services. Community event indeed I said to myself.
I later heard it all ended at around 8pm when my dear pal was finally buried in the ground in the back of his church home. What an experience; as I drove away with a friend, trying to understand it all. I knew I would never see my smiley, face pal Clunis waving at me ever again. I last saw him a week before he was killed.
While the above video does not reflect any funeral I have attended here in Jamaica, both my husband and I have witnessed at least three different occasions where glass caskets with dead persons being taken for burial were seen being pulled on the road, by trucks with a glass hearse attached to the rear to accommodate the glass casket. The first time I saw this, I was speechless, as I saw several mini- buses trailing behind a vehicle pulling a glass hearse and glass casket, with a body bouncing around as the vehicle hit one pot hole after the other in road. I saw one as recently as this past weekend, with an elderly lady’s body moving each time the lead car hit a bump.
“Amazing!!!!” . “Only inna Jamaica” .