Monday, January 28, 2008

Funeral For A Friend's Mother, or "How Sudie Spent Her Saturday Night"

The picture on the left is what came up when I typed "Nigerian women's clothing" in my browser.

I saw many outfits of this nature on Saturday, when I attended a memorial service for a co-worker's mother. My friend's name is Felicia, and her mother passed away during the Christmas season. I am assuming the memorial service was postponed to allow for relatives to come to the U.S. for the ceremony, but then I found out that the services were happening on TWO different continents. So that's Felicia's situation right there.

Her mother is around the same age as my mother, and both of them have one thing in common - they can carry themselves in a royal manner. Felicia is one of six children, and all the siblings were at the service.

This service was unlike anything I had ever attended before. In my hometown, you don't really see too much in the ways of African culture. I wasn't sure what to expect, nor was my friend DD, who shared a ride with me for the service.

The service was held in a huge Seventh Day Adventist church in Prince George's County, MD. It was full to the rafters by the time the service started. But what caught my eye first was the clothing. I had never seen anything like it.

The women had dresses similar to the one shown above...longer skirt, fitted top, and the headscarves tied in many different ways. The colors had significance, between the clothing and the scarves. It was like a rainbow in the clouds. Many others wore black, so it was good to see the splashes of color and be reminded of life amidst the sadness.

However, DD and I were in the vast minority...there were only six white people there. That's OK with me, but it was a little weird at first. I never felt so pale in all my life. I guess that's an inkling of how the "other half" might live in my hometown. But it didn't matter to us...we were there for Felicia.

Other things I noticed;

  • Apparently, PowerPoint is being used more and more for video presentations at funeral services. My grandpa DuVall had one at his visitation (we weren't in it because apparently we weren't as important as his precious antique cars...another story for another day), and Ruthi made one up for her father in law when he passed. It is a wonderful touch, especially when you can add music and effects to the presentation. There were many beautiful photos of Felicia and her family for all of us to see.
  • The MUSIC!!! Many things can be said.
    • There were good singers in the congregation, but DD couldn't hear them, only me. I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not. *sigh*
    • There were two soloists - one male, one female - and they were wonderful. The male soloist sang "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" and "Wind Beneath My Wings" (not my favorite, but I'll deal with it). The female soloist sang a really nice arrangement of "Amazing Grace" (pre-recorded accompaniment...quite nice).
    • The women's choir at this church sang also. They sang one of my mom's favorite hymns, "Be Still, My Soul". However, I did notice that some things transcend race and culture...namely, the fact that in every church choir across the world, there is one person who can't carry a tune in a lead-lined bucket with a vacuum sealed lid, and they usually sing the loudest. The accompanist was banging the right note on the keyboard, but this woman kept missing it. It wasn't too painful, but I did have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing.
    • Another thing that transcends race and and brimstone sermons that are given at (in my opinion) inopportune times. DD got pretty upset when the sermon kept going on about death being evil, etc., so we left before the service was over.
    • This was the first funeral I've attended where photos and video were taken. That was a little hard to get used to, especially when you're one of six white people at the service and it seems like they'd come to our aisle every ten minutes or so.
    • All the children wrote a remembrance of their mother, and it was wonderful to see how much she was loved. The children sang a song, and the grandchildren sang a song as well.
But all in all, it was a beautiful and moving service. Felicia and her family loved this multi-faceted woman with all their hearts. I really feel for them as far as the journey to come, but I'm sure they will find peace in laying their mother to rest in her homeland.

The hardest part, though? Trying to get back to normal when the services are over and everyone else has gone back to their routine. I have felt this, and I know Felicia and her family will feel this too. It's not fair, but it's part of it.

I guess that's one thing I have picked up when dealing with my father's memory - I now know the road of losing a parent. It's a horrible one, and no matter what, I don't want anyone to feel like their sadness is forgotten and not important to others.

Not on my watch, anyway...