Yesterday morning I woke up with the sounds of people screaming and crying and finally a man’s voice trying to calm them down. My sleepy mind noticed this very uncommon situation and I wondered what was going on.
In the afternoon Amadou told me that one of the men, living at a courtyard across the street, had died and that the funeral would be in an hour. Apparently the man had been ill for some time already. It probably explains his wife yelling several times to some of the neighborhood children over the past few weeks. It had left me wondering if it was the Ramadan causing it, since I had gotten to know her as a usually good tempered woman.
Some time ago I almost rode my bicycle into a ceremony at the side of a nearby mosque. Luckily I looked up from the sandy bumpy road in time to see the huge line-up of men – with something that could be a body rolled in and covered with cloth lying in front of them – only a 50 meters ahead of me. Just in time to turn right and take a little detour.
Asking Amadou about it, he had explained that it indeed was a funeral ceremony.
‘But there weren’t any women around’, I said in surprise. He just laughed a bit.
‘Monique, women are not up to that, they just cry and scream and get hysterical. It’s better for them not to be there. They just can’t deal with it, they are not strong enough at heart. They stay at home with the widow, cook the meals and wash the feet of their husbands and take care of them when they return from the interment.’
A wife doesn’t have the right to be there when her husband is carried to his grave, because women’s hearts are not strong enough? I was flabbergasted…
Our neighbor past away last night; his wife was only informed this morning. My mouth dropped when Amadou told me. He noticed my disbelief and for sure also my disapproval, when I said ‘Why didn’t they wake her up to tell her?’
‘Monique, a woman is not strong enough to carry that kind of news during the night. She’ll pass away also or at least get really ill and her screaming will wake up other people also. It’s better to wait till the morning and inform her and all the other women around, so they can take care of her and mourn with her.’
And so had happened, around 6am apparently.
She was only told in the morning that her husband had passed away, she wasn’t allowed to attend his funeral and now she’s not allowed to leave the house for three entire months. She has to stay in to pray for her husband’s soul.
‘But, who’s going to take care of her and her children when she has to stay in?’, I asked with still growing disbelief.
‘Well, that’s up to God. If he wants her to be taken care of, she will be. If he wants the children to be taken care of, they will be too. Her two oldest boys have no jobs, the other ones are too young. She has no family around. But maybe the neighbors will feel for them and give them meals.’
Amadou took a look at my face, and probably considered it wise to leave before I had regained my speech. Standing in the doorpost he added: ‘Only God decides on life and death, nobody else. It’s his will. Even if he takes both your feet he’ll give you the means to move on.’
Different religions and different cultures come with different traditions, and sometimes they are hard to understand…