A few years ago I witnessed for the first time cremation sea burial. It was a small family gathering, in the middle of nowhere on the pacific ocean. I thought it was beautiful for its simplicity.
Before then, I have never given any thoughts to complicated decisions that come with burying loved ones, then I realised that growing up in Nigeria we tend to do one of two things: bury at home or at the cemetery.
The choice is largely for the close family to make, so for most people especially for elderly parents, they are buried at home, some would even go as far as burying the corpse in a room to show how much they were loved.
In my small town we have church burial grounds in the outskirts of the town usually for dedicated members of the church, however it is not uncommon to see grave humps in neighbourhoods scattered around the town, some cemented to keep the grave intact, for others who are cash-strapped, the humps clear away in no time after few raining seasons.
In other parts of the world, say UK for example where burying at home is legal, one of the major reasons people opt for public cemetery is because of the strict rules by the Environmental Agencies to protect the groundwater and consideration for neighbours.
A few months ago a friend while at my place received a call that her 51 years old sister passed away after a few days illness. I was keen to know where my friend’s sister would be buried to see if we, especially the educated ones have moved on from the cultural home burial.
In the end I learnt the lady was buried in the front of her house. The reason for this I’m told was that the public cemetery was too far from the city and that the 60k charge for a spot could be put to better use.
The couple had 2 young adult children one still at the university – they both live away from home and likely not going to return there. Their immediate hope was to rent the property out, and perhaps sell it in the future.
With the rate of people moving out of family homes and never looking back, here I would opt to pay a tidy sum at a public cemetery as it is fairly guaranteed headstones would be intact and accessible for family viewings for years to come.
On the environmental impact of burying at home. This is my biggest concern. Around our homes many households have individual boreholes/wells, a few metres away is soakaways (sewer) and to imagine another pit to bury a loved one would not cut it if we were to think about health of the residents.
Most of our homes are quite close together, so possibility of water contamination is high in our case.
Here I wondered how Ekiti State is doing regarding the proposed law in 2012 threatening to ban residents from burying their loved ones at home. I thought Dr Fayemi’s did very well bringing this into the light. The idea of having affordable public cemetery is a fantastic one as all can contribute to look after it.
Like any change, I read about Ekiti State kicking against the idea initially, with explanation to the benefits, this should not be too hard for us to embraced.
Not that cremation will gain popularity in Nigeria anytime soon, but nonetheless, it is not environmental friendly. Here is an interesting article on burial around the world.