Burials occur in Bundibugyo on a daily basis. And attendance at burials is an extremely important part of the culture. I don't feel that we fully understand why people attend burials. Surely, there is some part in which people provide emotional support to one another in their grief, but I frequently see people attend who had little relationship with the deceased (or their family). There may be some peace-keeping aspect with the recently departed spirit as well as a peace-keeping with the family remaining behind. People being people though, there is also an "attending to be seen" aspect. Important people attract larger crowds, some who are curious and some who just want to be associated with the power or prestige to give the impression that they had some relationship with the important person or their family.
Today, two local people were buried. One was the wife of a local "big man", a man who holds a powerful government position (presidentially-appointed) in another district. As a woman, she was important only by her association with the power and prestige of her husband, but many, many people came from far and wide. People came to see and be seen.
The other burial was attended by a scant few. The one buried was an elderly codger, the sort who you might imagine in line for the downtown homeless soup kitchen, who came to our church and was considered by most to be a bit of a nuisance and disturbance. He straggled in and wandered out pretty much at random in his tattered, odoriferous rags always carrying a long walking stick. He often interrupted the service with his raucous speech and loved to move around shaking hands with as many as possible. He also would often fall asleep on the back of the church during the sermon (- when one of our single women fell asleep in church recently some of the little children started calling her by the nickname used for this old vagrant). It made me happy to see this old beggar in church because I believe Jesus would have welcomed him to his feast table. I can't think of a better picture of "the least of these my brethren."
He died alone. Neglected by his family. But my heart was encouraged this afternoon to hear that a small delegation of leaders from our small church chose not to attend the prestigious burial of the politician's wife, but of this little old man, a veritable nobody. They buried him and preached a message of the gospel, that God loves us in our weakness, in our sorry begging state.
I attended neither burial, choosing rather to spend the day pursuing an x-ray of Luke's ankle. However, in a private moment I shed tears for that old man who came to church with nothing and left this world with nothing.
I think I might hear the soft echo of his coarse voice in praise of the everlasting King.