Last night we had the wake for her and it was my first wake to go to in Togo. We stayed up till about 11 p.m. with everyone saying prayers, singing, telling their stories about her and so on. At some point this other woman in village, who was drunk, came walking up to the front dancing in front of everyone while the band was playing and people were going around collecting money to pay for the funeral. People were laughing and commenting on how this woman was replacing the one who had passed away, as that sort of spectacle is exactly what the deceased would have caused. Then today we had the burial for the woman. We again met in the same place just outside the Chef's compound where everyone gathered and there were more prayers and more music (I was fortunate enough to have the trombones right behind me!) and we all eventually walked to the cemetery following the truck carrying the casket. As we walked up to the grave site I noticed that many people stopped early and hung back, while others went up to the grave site. Then as it was explained to me that the women don't go up to the grave and I realized it was all the women who had stopped early and it was the men that were surrounding the grave. When I asked why this was the case it was explained that they think women don't have the heart to handle being by the grave and that they might fall. But apparently a woman can go around the grave if she so chooses. Then while we were all gathered around grave as the casket was being placed in the ground, the same woman from the night before comes walking in to the cemetery wearing the hat of the deceased and creating quite the spectacle. My first thought was that she was either drunk again or just acting like the deceased in order to say she was some how possessed by the deceased or something like that. It was then explained to me that the family gave her the hat and asked her to act like the deceased. So that's exactly was she was doing, walking around crying out during the burial, yelling at people, and just stumbling around. Apparently this is very common to have someone act out as the deceased at the burial. I just found it odd, distracting, and a little eery as she did an amazing job at acting like her and it really seemed like the deceased was walking around at her own burial. She also continued to walk around and act like the deceased for the rest of the day. It was eery.
One thing that always strikes me here is how different their views on death are from ours. But I guess in a country where death is so common, it's not that surprising that they accept it and deal with it a little better than we do. I believe they said that within the last 5 months this family, which is the Chef's family actually, has lost a total of 8 family members. Even though here that would include very extended family it's still just crazy how frequent death is here.