In the Caribbean where I started life’s journey, a funeral (burial ceremony) and the place where that funeral occurs, are important, as I suppose they are among all cultures where the connection between generations, and attachment between people and place, feature highly. Jacob had made Joseph swear that he would return his father’s dead body to Canaan and lay it to rest in the very tomb that Jacob had hewn.
What a send-off Israel (Jacob) had. Even back then, the Egyptians had developed the art of embalming dead bodies, and Joseph’s father, no doubt, got the best of the physicians to work. It took them forty days. Wow! Do we wonder how come the Egyptian mummies are so well preserved?
And then came seventy days of mourning. I am reminded of the mourning traditions is the Jamaican parish of St. Thomas. There mourning for the dead is unlike what one encounters elsewhere. Burial traditions tell their own story which we should probe to know much about those who are buried as well as those who do the burying.
Joseph had Pharaoh’s OK to go and bury his father, and more than that. “With hm went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household.” They had chariots and charioteers- a great company. Small wonder the Canaanites observed, “This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians”.
As I write, many have to bury their loved ones in absentia. There is no room for a great company. COVID-19 has made this a universal matter. It has removed the prospects of “a good send-off” for so many people.
When this pandemic is over, and people do get the chance to mourn, God help us. We are not yet in the position that Joseph and his brothers could have been in as we read “After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father”.
In many different places, I believe, the post-corona wailing will be a new brand of PTSD for those who were denied the opportunity to give their loved ones a good send-off.