LOUD WHISPERS: Grandma’s Funeral

My voice has gone.  My feet hurt so badly. People are talking to me and I am nodding my head but I can’t hear a word of what they are saying. I have a four-hour drive ahead of me because I have to make it to Lagos no matter how late it is. There is a memorial service the following morning to mark the 5th anniversary of the passing of my late friend and sister, Funmilayo Olayinka, former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State.  I am getting ready to leave the guest house where I have been staying for the past five days in Ilara-Mokin. I have just had a blazing row with some family members who thought they were being helpful and had according to one of them, gone on to ‘use their initiative’ to incur a lengthy list of legitimate but unauthorised expenses that I am expected to pay.

Before my Grandma, Madam ibilola Oni Awoseye passed away at 100 years old in December 2017, she had asked me to make sure her funeral was a grand one. With the support of my family and friends, I tried my best to do as Mama wished, within the limits of available resources. I planned meticulously and felt good about the fact that there was nothing outstanding and I could just pack my things and leave Ilara-Mokin. I was fooling myself. My situation was like that of a hotel guest who is about to check out and is presented with a long list of room service and mini bar charges incurred by others and put on your account.

By the time I was done settling all the unexpected bills I was very cranky. Then I looked outside and the sun was shining in full force. My mood changed and I started to smile. My relieved relations began to tease me saying they know I can never stay angry for too long. Seeing the sun reminded me that for the four days it took to complete the funeral rites for Grandma, it did not rain during the day.

On Tuesday April 3rd, my mother and the other children of Mama received members of the extended family to kick off the celebration of Mama’s life. This ceremony involves presenting gifts such as a goat, parts of a cow or a whole cow, depending on what the family can afford. My mum and her sisters presented two cows, and according to my mum, there were some who tried to corner all the meat to themselves and did not want to share equitably. She lamented that values have changed so much that even elderly people cannot be trusted to do the right thing anymore. I shrugged and told her that even if we presented 50 cows the outcome would be the same. I did not attend the Tuesday morning program but I arrived in the community that afternoon.

On the morning of Wednesday April 4th, all the wives married into the Awoseye immediate and extended family gathered to celebrate the passing of their most senior wife. I had asked for an approximate number of the wives and I was assured that they were between 60-80. To be on the safe side, we prepared gifts of plastic buckets, rice, tinned tomatoes, salt, and so on for 120. Before we knew what was happening, word spread and lo and behold, the Awoseye Family was besieged with hundreds of women claiming to be ‘family wives’! I found it all so hilarious, but I was also thankful that we were able to use the event to reach out to women in the community. After the session with the family wives, the ‘ITA’ Celebration Dance featuring all Mama’s descendants took place.

On Thursday April 5th, we went to the private funeral home in Akure where Mama was to take her on the 10-kilometre journey back to Ilara-Mokin. After a lot of singing and dancing to the music of the undertakers’ brigade band, we started the funeral procession back to Ilara. A few minutes after we had driven out of Akure, the funeral convoy stopped. There was a problem with the hearse conveying Mama. My heart started to beat faster than it should. What would we do if the vehicle carrying our Mama broke down on a highway?  Can you imagine the embarrassment? As I was about to start panicking, my mother’s brother who we call ‘Arole’ (The Heir) said we should get down from the Coaster bus and start singing and dancing with the brigade band while they tried to figure out what was wrong. Fortunately, we were in front of a filling station so it looked like we were getting fuel or waiting for other family members. We started singing and dancing by the roadside, while I kept glancing nervously at the hearse. Within five minutes the problem had been solved (overheating) and we could move again. Then one of Mama’s daughters declared, ‘There was nothing wrong with the vehicle.  Mama was originally from Akure and did not want to be taken away without us dancing and celebrating her in her place of birth.  You will see, nothing else will happen to the vehicle till we get to Ilara’. Indeed, nothing else happened. I am not the superstitious kind and I do not believe in things like that. Yet, I know not to contradict people who have a particular way of viewing the world and its challenges.  In that moment, my older family members were happy to believe that Mama grounded her vehicle to make sure she left Akure in style. It worked for me, because that way I would not be held responsible for hiring negligent undertakers.

The lying-in-state was very beautiful, thanks to a wonderful woman called Fumbi Adebayo who owns Rostal Decorating Services. Fumbi is one of the best decorators in Nigeria and her work is exquisite. I am hereby doing a free advert for Rostal! I have worked with Fumbi on several events in the past and she never ceases to amaze me. I told her I would like a mini exhibition for Mama, depicting her various vocations as a trader and farmer. Fumbi pulled it off beautifully, showcasing the tools Mama used to fry Akara, the clay pots she sold as a young woman and the yams she farmed with my Grandfather.

After the Christian Wake-keeping service on Thursday evening, there was an all- night traditional vigil as is the practice in that part of Yorubaland.  There were four different performing troupes from Ondo and Ekiti States and it was all very colourful.

The funeral service on April 6th was beautiful and the officiating Ministers were very happy with us because we had presented a generator to the church in the name of Grandma. As the service drew to an end, I started to relax, since there was just one major thing left – the reception.

What can I say about the reception? Well let me just throw in a few words. Too many people.  Initial chaos with seating arrangements. Everyone wanting to sit at the Ondo State Governor’s table. Enough food. Excellent music by Treasures band led by Seun Odusote who tells anyone who cares to listen that I ‘discovered’ him in 2009 and made him a star. Beautifully dressed women and elegantly attired men. Hundreds of politicians politicking. Very pleased family members. Scores of Area boys and girls doing their usual thing of harassing guests.

So, dear readers, Grandma’s funeral was as grand as she asked for. I re-affirmed a number of lessons as I carried out the assignment Mama gave me. Money is a good thing to have, but mutual support, respect and cooperation is what keeps families together, not just the material things. I also reflected on the fact that the love and support of friends is priceless. My friends rallied round and made it look like I was a billionaire. I always talk about social capital and how important it is. I found out that I had it in abundance and for that I am deeply grateful. As I was leaving Ilara, I got a call from one of my Uncles in the United States. He told me that someone from Ilara had sent him a WhatsApp message saying that Grandma’s funeral was ‘the Grandest Ilara has ever seen’. Gbam! Now I can go back to balancing my accounts, preparing for a new political season and collecting my thoughts on the passing of the great Winnie Madizikela-Mandela. Rest in peace Grandma. Have a great week everyone.

(Rostal Decorating Services can be reached on +(234) 08023109892)


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com





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16 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Grandma’s Funeral

  1. Iniobong Akpan April 9, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Awwwwnnn. How i Wished I witnessed the ceremony. I knew it would be grand like mama requested for. Well done mama Erelu. The world will celebrate you and replenish your pocket in Jesus name.

  2. Shola Ademide April 9, 2018 at 7:43 am

    May your strength be renewed and may you live longer than Granny. Well done Erelu and God bless the soul of granny. I watched a little bit of it on your instagram page and saw the excitement on your face when you told us about the grand burial. God bless your heart.

  3. Dom Dom April 9, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I feel happy for you ma’am; first, that you live such a blessed life as to get to celebrate the life of a grand mother in such a grand manner and second that you and the entire family were able to fulfill her dying wishes. May her soul rest in peace and may God replenish your pocket

  4. Femi Diipo April 9, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    I was looking forward to this burial and a part of me actually wished to have experienced it. Well done ma’am and i believe the lord will continue to strengthen you. May he keep your mother alive longer than your grand mother, and you too in good health and sound mind way longer than them both

  5. DSEED April 10, 2018 at 12:17 am

    You are such a wonderful grandchild. You did a great thing by giving mama the last due respect she deserved. Omo rare loma gbeyin awa na (in yoruba). Amen. But ma we didn’t see any invitation…lol

  6. Olakunle Olajide April 10, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Rest on Grandma….And well done ma’am for pulling off a grand funeral. I can imagine all the brouhaha that would have occurred. Please get your voice back and try to get some rest before commencing the next project.
    Wishing you a splendid week.

  7. Victoria E April 10, 2018 at 9:28 am

    There is no greater joy than living long to see one’s children in health and wealth. I am glad mama enjoyed that in life and also in death. I watched the little clips on instagram though I feel you cheated us by not inviting us to be there o. God bless you and strengthen you, please rest well o. Please!

  8. Loreta Williams April 10, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Kai! It took place in my town o. I am sure my mum was part of those that witnessed it. I have to put a call through to hear full gist. Celebrations can be really demanding but we bless God for Strength.

  9. omilola Adeleke. April 10, 2018 at 9:37 am

    See how mama has done advert for free for this woman, this just goes to say, nothing beats customers satisfaction. Well done mama, God bless your friends.

  10. Victor Udoh April 10, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Well done Ma. I know how demanding things like this can be in a rural environment. People can like to eat and eat and not be full. They want to grab every opportunity and its not their fault, it’s just the poverty level.

  11. Olaniyi Desmond April 10, 2018 at 9:42 am

    I have been waiting for this story. Congrats on the success of this celebration, your mum will live longer and you will live longer. And I also, want to congratulate you on the special announcement made by our Minister, We can’t wait for good governance in Ekiti State. God bless you and bless your team.

  12. Bamidele Joshua April 11, 2018 at 9:01 am

    What a beautiful experience. Thanks for honouring the words of mama, God will bless you abundantly. Please, take time out to rest.

  13. Sharon Miller April 11, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Culture is interesting, celebrating our traditions, our heritage makes us uniquely Africans. No matter how educated we are, we shouldn’t forget the place of culture and that is what you have exhibited here. Some people will be too big to follow the rites but you celebrated our culture and shared it with the world. I am sure mummy is proud of you and granny is very proud of you too. God bless your heart and those of your friends that supported you all through. Well done ma.

  14. Aderanti Esther April 11, 2018 at 9:08 am

    if there is anything I have discovered in this world, it is having a bank filled with goodness because that bank will surely overflow. You have shown to be a good person that’s why your friends rallied round you. This is the point I got in all of these, we should be good to people because that goodness will come back smiling at us.

  15. Legzycool April 11, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Well done ma’am for taking the pain to grant your grand mother’s wish. Rest on Granny.

  16. Eric Onuoha April 25, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    What an experience. I wish I was there. I am particularly happy that everything you needed for the successful funeral of Mama was available.


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