Family First Friday–Funeral, Samoan Style!
Over the last couple of days I have been attending our friend’s funeral services. (Yes, you heard me right—the last couple of days.) He was/is Samoan. The funeral went something like this: Thursday 1-4 p.m viewing, 4-7 p.m program with open microphone, family wake 7 p.m.- whenever. Friday morning 10 a.m. viewing, 11 a.m. family prayer, 11:15-12:30 p.m funeral service, 12:30-1:30 p.m graveside, 1:30 p.m.- whenever luau/BBQ/whatever you want to call it.
Drew and I were there from 5:30-7 p.m last night and today I was able to attend part of the viewing and the funeral. During the open mic part last night, people just got up and shared stories about the deceased and what they loved about him. There was a lot of laughing and many tears. Some people got up and sang as families or small groups. The casket was open and in front of the congregation, surrounded by his wife and children. When it was over, his Samoan family took, pictures with him in the casket and they hugged him while they just sobbed and sobbed over the body.
Last night, they all wore black, but today, they all wore white. I wasn’t dressed appropriately either time. Silly me, I went American style—nice brown pants, white shirt, colorful jacket last night, and black today.
What I really appreciated about the entire service was how ‘healthy’ their grieving appeared. They took off TWO full days to visit with each other, share their emotions, and mourn the loss of their loved one. It seemed so healthy and healing compared to us Americans who might take off two hours during the work week to ‘pay our respects’ to the deceased and their families.
The contrast between the two cultures was so stark! I have been to dozens and dozens of American funerals, some conducted by ministers not of my faith, and even one Asian one. But this Samoan one was by far the healthiest one I have ever seen. People shared their emotions freely. Some believed in an afterlife, some were not sure. They shared it all with each other. Grown men stood up and watered the floor with their tears as they spoke of their great love and brotherhood. His sister expressed all of the reasons she would fight with her younger brother (the deceased) and she even shared some of his retorts. His wife shared that they had good times and bad times. Her words: “It wasn’t all peaches and cream. But I have hope for you young couples who just got married. You can do it! You stick together and you make it work!” Even his oldest son said, “I am the black sheep of the family,” [now paraphrasing] my dad and I didn’t get along. We were always butting heads. But I knew he loved me and I will miss him.
My dear sweet friend’s husband was only 49! When I hugged her on Thursday night (the first time I had spoken to her since her husband’s passing), she told me that they had had a great weekend together and spent the morning (that he passed away) visiting with each other and the kids. He passed away at home. She said she wouldn’t have changed a thing, except she wished that they had more time.
It was just a testimony to me that we all need to do what we can to leave our loved ones on happy notes. We just do not know when the Lord will call us home or what the circumstances regarding our home coming will be. How sweet it is that they had been spending some quality time with each other and their relationships were at peace.
Good-bye my dear friend….until we meet again! Thank you for the things your culture has taught me about how to grieve!