Death, observes BG CORRESPONDENT, KELETSO THOBEGA, is an integral part of human existence and many people mourn in different ways.
Human beings have seemingly moved away from viewing death as a sombre affair and are opting to celebrate the lives of the deceased by coming together after the funeral in what is often referred to as ‘after tears’. Although common in many parts of the worlds, especially Europe, the trend is not a common feature of Botswana’s social landscape. However, it seems to be catching as after funerals; especially in urban areas, many people flock to bars and sometimes even at the deceased’s home to enjoy alcoholic drinks. If the deceased was a regular among the pub-hopping enclave, a special ceremony is held for them. This practice is somehow conflicting in a supposedly conservative country like Botswana.
In countries like Ireland, it is not unusual for friends and family to be served refreshments that include alcoholic drinks and even have a toast in memory of the dead person. Sometimes the deceased’s coffin is taken into their favourite pub for a brief farewell before the burial! “When someone dies (especially if they were young) it is fitting that friends and family come together and share a drink in their honour. Of course this depends on the personality of the deceased. I have attended many after tears-sessions and I find that it’s easier for people to interact and share their pain and memories, instead of going home to be miserable alone,” explains Tshidiso Motheo. While others may perceive it disrespectful because alcohol and come-together are often identified with jovial celebrations, others view it as celebrating the person’s life. Janet Kebadisang agrees. “After tears are good for reviving the dead person’s memory and mingling with people you haven’t seen in a long time. The presence of alcohol is debatable but most people drink and there is nothing we can do about it. I personally don’t see it as merriment but a celebration of life. We reflect on memories of this person and share stories.”
On the contrary, Bogatsu is adamant that it is uncultured and doesn’t echo Setswana tradition. “It seems like people are happy and in a jubilant mood when they drink alcohol. In the olden days, people came together but did not drink alcohol. Youth have taken to practicing social cultures that are disrespectful and lack value.” He added that in some rare cases, traditional brews are served but drinking is not done the way it is nowadays, where after tears sessions are often flamboyant affairs. “I find this after tears practice unnecessary. Some people are mourning and others find it fit to drink alcohol? Goodness!” exclaims Cindy Motswaiso. According to her, when her younger brother passed away last year, his friends wanted to have a formal after tears session but the family turned them down. “He had many friends and was a party lover but it seemed inappropriate to use the day of his burial for a bingeing session. I understand the after tears was held at a bar a few streets from our house.
At least it wasn’t held at home as that would have been quite disrespectful!” Regardless of this stance, many mourners are shamelessly taking to this after tears trend. After the funeral proceedings, burial and lunch, mourners usually converge at one place for drinks. Ties are loosened. Top two shirt buttons unbuttoned. Cufflinks removed. Jackets are flung onto backseats. Scarves are taken off. Thighs are flashed as ladies settle onto camp chairs. Cooler boxes are heaved from car boots. Ice is crushed. Beers opened. Wine bottles corked. Whisky mixed. Sounds of cluttering glasses can be heard. In the backdrop is the sound of chatting, laughter and sometimes blaring music. Backs are patted. Hugs and air kisses are exchanged. Some who haven’t seen each other in a long time hold onto one another much longer... At a glance it would appear to be a reunion of sorts. Anecdotes are shared. Jokes are passed. The current news or scandals are discussed. Drinks frequently touch dry lips. Adam’ apples increase and decrease as the cold liquids make their way to the stomach. Cans are thrown to the ground and another is opened. A bottle is opened and its contents poured into glasses held in outstretched hands. The tempo increases. The chattering goes on until late afternoon or evening. Only then does everyone stagger to their cars to make their way home. Some sing, others cry while others plan for the week ahead, the burial of a few hours earlier, forgotten.