Funeral rites the world over can sometimes be more wrong than right. This moment of grief can cause additional grief not only to family members, but also to the pastor or church representative helping with the funeral plans. Panama funerals as with most aspects of ministry are never dull, I tell you. There are some special aspects of the funeral service that I generally find quite challenging. The following are some areas that generally end up going wrong.
Setting the Date
Funerals in Panama sometimes takes place as early as 3 days after the death. It depends on how quickly the family completes arrangements with the funeral home. Notice I did not say as soon as the family make arrangements with the Pastor? In Panama, just as in Jamaica, the family members of the deceased usually assume that Pastor ought to fall in line after they set the date for the funeral. Many have been ‘brite and bumptious’ enough to set the date then inform the pastor. Well…you can just imagine what happens when I am ‘informed’.
Knowing how quickly funerals occur here has helped me establish a pattern. Where the death occurs between Friday and Tuesday, the funeral service will take place between Thursday and the following Tuesday. It is also quite common to have morning services at 10:00am as well.
The Order of Service
Panama has given me more than enough compelling reasons to revise the funeral order of service I used in Jamaica. And there are still more revisions yet to come. I was teetering on the edge of being very Roman Catholic at least in some critical aspects of the funeral liturgy. I haven’t quite gone all the way yet. But when you’ve sat through some of what I’ve experienced you’ll understand why the change.
Since it was too much to be included here I gave the order of service it’s own page. Read Panama Baptist Funeral Liturgy here.
All the Interments I’ve done since I’ve been in Colon, have taken place at Mount Hope Cemetery in Colon. I’ve only done one interment in another cemetery in Panama City. They were as different as chalk and cheese. The service for the latter took place in the chapel right there in the cemetery. It was an odd service to say the least.
In Colon, I’ve noticed that the pastors or deacons of the Protestant churches are the ones who usually go to the burial ground to conduct the interment. In the Roman Catholic tradition, at least from what I have experienced, the priests do not go to cemetery. According to my members, priests have to be paid separately for them to go to the burial ground. Since neither our church, nor their pastor charges for funeral services that is a little difficult to understand. But hey, this is Panama.
I learnt early not to be fooled by the large turnout at the cemetery either. Many come to the graveside not to pay any last respects to the dead. They are there for the numbers on the headstone. Oh yes! The numbers on headstones are important to Panamanians. They play this number in the Lottery. So it is not unusual for persons to draw near as soon as the headstone is put down.
Then after Pastora finishes the burial, the Lodges take over to do their thing. And that is something else. Another ceremony is held at the graveside. And might I add that most of my elderly members are members of Lodges. Some have held ‘high office’. When they pass on, all kinds of shebang takes place over and around the grave. Admittedly, I’ve never seen the whole thing because they tend to wait until the Pastora is done. But, from what I’ve seen amusing springs immediately to mind…
Read some of what transpires during the interment at a funeral in Jamaica in this Gleaner article on Jamaica Funeral Rites.
From my first funeral service I saw them. The ants. I love to stop for a while and watch them march uphill or downhill. These large black ants travel great distances with bits of petals from the flowers taken from the wreaths. Funeral attendees, family members and friends pull apart the wreaths and stick the flowers into the earth that covers the grave. No concrete is used here just red earth.
And the ants takes bits of petals, forming a straight line of varying bright colours. It is a most fascinating and beautiful thing to watch and it almost makes the whole burial experience a little pleasant. Almost…
Take care until,