STILL STRONG

Busia grandfather, 83, plans grand party for his own coffin

Father of 18 said that his move should be emulated especially by his Teso community.

In Summary

• The jovial father of 18 says his move should be emulated, especially by his Teso community, to avoid overburdening people at death

• Otieng' says plans are underway to construct a shelter where his grave will be dug. 

Alloys Otieng', 83, at his Akoret home in Teso South constituency.
Alloys Otieng', 83, at his Akoret home in Teso South constituency.
Image: JANE CHEROTICH
Alloys Otieng', 83, at his Akoret home in Teso South constituency.
Alloys Otieng', 83, at his Akoret home in Teso South constituency.
Image: JANE CHEROTICH

It is the neatness of the compound that first strikes you when you enter Mzee Alloys Otieng's homestead in Okatekok sublocation, Teso South, Busia county.

The grass is trimmed and the new maroon paint on the main house betrays a recent refurbishment job.  

It was lunchtime when the Star visited and a group of 10 young children of varied ages were feasting under a tree on a mat outside the main house. 

On their plates was a meal of chicken, chapati, rice and vegetables — a celebration of Mzee Otieng's 83rd birthday. 

On being alerted of the presence of visitors, the tall man stepped out of the house, resplendent in an orange agbada with intricate patterns on the chest, and a hat to match. On his feet were black rubber shoes. 

The elderly man surprised residents 14 years ago when he bought a casket for himself, ostensibly to spare relatives some of the costs that would be associated with his funeral.

But now, he says the model is old, and he has ordered a carpenter to make an upgrade for him.

And, Otieng' is preparing to hold a grand ceremony to bring the modernised casket to his new home in November. He will invite residents and family members to witness where it will be kept.

He, however, will not disclose where the casket is, just yet, except that it is safely kept in neighbouring Obekai village.  

“I do not see anything weird with my decision to make myself a decent coffin. I'm happy I have turned 83, but when I die, I rest assured of a decent sendoff,” Otieng' said.

On his decision to procure his own coffin, his answer is simple, “Anyone who is born will die.”

The jovial father of 18 and husband of four wives said his move should be emulated, especially by his Teso community, to avoid overburdening the bereaved. 

Otieng' said plans are underway to construct a shelter where his grave will be dug. 

“I'm sure my children would have afforded a decent burial for me when I die, but I wouldn't want to burden them so much, that is the reason I started the preparations early enough,” he says. 

Otieng' wondered why people tend to do so much for the dead, instead of showing them the love while they were still alive.

But his family were cautious about talking to the press about his actions. His daughter and second wife declined interview requests. 

A village elder, Gilvas Okaroni, said they are surprised by Otieng's decision. He said in his 52 years of life, he has never witnessed such a case in the larger Teso region.

"Because he has decided, let it be. He has challenged children to ensure they take care of their parents while they are alive, instead of waiting to contribute for their burial arrangements," Okaroni said.

(edited by O. Owino)