There’s never a good time to talk about death, but as it’s part of life, the conversation is necessary. Even more important is what should happen to a person when the Grim Reaper comes knocking at the door.
In the early 1990s, I remember writing a feature story appealing for more Kenyans to donate their organs and even their entire body after death to help others live. It was not a popular idea at the time, and I wonder if it has gained popularity since.
At the time, I was inspired to write on the topic by a woman who had been a columnist on the newspaper I worked for who had died and left a will donating her body to the University of Nairobi’s Department of Anatomy. Those of us who heard about it had expected the bereaved family to override her request. I recall being pleasantly surprised by them agreeing to honour their sister’s dying wish.
I would love to know if this practice has become more popular or whether Kenya’s trainee medical doctors and pathologists are still mainly dependent on unclaimed bodies from the public mortuary for their studies.
Back in the day, there was still a lot of debate, particularly among Christians, over whether cremation was acceptable instead of burial. It wasn’t until 2002, when the wife of a former Anglican Archbishop of Kenya was cremated, that the practice became more palatable to some.
One of the things I find most refreshing about life in South Africa is how insurance companies encourage people to prepare for the end. They are forever advertising funeral plans and funeral cover on TV and radio, urging individuals and families to pick a funeral plan that covers funeral expenses — the coffin, the hearse, transport to place of burial or cremation — and benefits.
These benefits include practicalities, such as airtime to contact relatives and groceries for when they come to join in mourning.
Families and individuals are encouraged to buy into the funeral insurance cover, and for those who can afford it, this provides a cushion against financial pressure at a time when you are already suffering emotionally and could do with some help.
I notice that over the last few years, Kenyan insurers have seen the advantages to such cover, and a number of firms are now offering similar services, but I would love to know how wide the uptake of such services is. I wonder this because I still read and hear of fairly well-off Kenyan families and people appealing for assistance and holding harambees to raise money for funerals.
If funeral insurance is priced fairly, more people will be able to afford it and give their loved ones a dignified send-off.