In diaspora, I have seen different ways in which people choose the last resting place for their loved ones.
A few years a go, an elder man who had lived in the UK for about 50 years went back home for a visit. He was from my town. During his trip, he fell ill and passed away, the man was said to be in his late 70s. His children were not very familiar with home so they made an arrangement for their father’s corpse to be repatriated back to the UK for burial. He had pre-existing health condition known to his family so paperwork was easy to sort out.
This incident was a new twist to the popular way in which I heard many Africans especially first generation immigrants in the UK deal with deceased family members.
The ones I have heard is people in diaspora sending corpse of parents back home for final burial. This BBC article shows how trendy repatriation of corpse amongst Africans.
In this article, a Ghanaian had to crowd fund in order to afford the costs to send his uncle’s body back home, he did so due to family pressure.
Another lady said she had to bow to family pressure of repatriating her husband’s corpse to Zimbabwe, even when she knew it would’ve been better to bury him in the UK where she could visit graveyard as often as she is pleased.
News of Nigerians taking body of family members to be buried back home is quite common here in the UK, many people prefer it that way.
Then I think about home where significant number of people have left their villages and small towns to settle in the city. How do these people deal with the corpse of loved ones? Were they buried where they had worked and have homes or do they insist on taking the corpse back to the village where only few (if lucky) remember them?
Looking at a few examples, different patterns emerge. My mom’s younger brother settled in Lagos in the 70s on his return back from schooling in Canada (good old days when jobs await returnees) so decided Lagos was the place to put his root.
So when he passed away a few years ago, the children and his widow decided Lagos is the most appropriate place to bury their father and husband, it is the place he had his home and had raised his family. Extended family from home with no question asked were happy to make the trip to Lagos for the final burial and Owambe.
In other words, people in Nigeria often have no problem being buried in Lagos state even when they see other state as their ancestral home. This is likely to be true for the Yorubas.
Conversely, a few months ago, my sister’s mother inlaw passed away. She was in her mid 90s. When I asked my brother inlaw where his mother will be buried, he said ‘home’. ‘Where is home?’ I asked.
The ‘home’ that his mother wanted to be buried at was not Ife the town she has lived at for 70 years, definitely not Lagos the place she died at and not even her husband’s town. Her wish was to be buried in her birth town infront of her house. The wish that her children honoured.
Beliefs around burial and final resting place is fascinating. Everyone seems to have strong opinion to support beliefs they hold dear.
No, I am not dying but I found this topic very interesting and a lot less depressing than Nigeria politics of these days.