Everyone knew of the strict instructions that the Kenyan government had laid down for funerals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Only 15 people could gather for the burial of my cousin, Chris, and everything had to be done by 09:00 local time.
By 07:00 the rest of us had gathered, in front of our phones and computers, watching the burial unfold as a friend live-streamed it on Facebook.
There were hundreds of us to pay our last respects to Chris. He was a people’s person – the life and soul of family parties.
His deep laugh reached you even before he set foot in the house – in fact, you could hear it 200m away at the gate.
And Chris used to show up for people, be it at funerals or weddings. He was a great mobiliser, rallying people for all occasions.
So, on this day, we showed up for him too. But not being there meant it was not the same.
‘We couldn’t play his favourite songs’
Chris was my immediate cousin, but we were raised in the same house and he was more than a brother to me.
He died in Kisumu in western Kenya on Easter Sunday, after being unwell for a few weeks with liver cirrhosis.
The government gave us the guidelines for his burial. He had to be buried within three days.
But with many of his family and friends under lockdown in the capital, Nairobi, not everyone could attend the burial.
The sermon was short. The speeches were restricted. And there was very little singing.
Chris loved music – he played the drum kit in the Salvation Army church band. So it was painful that nobody could be there to play his favourite songs.
I watched as live comments from his friends and colleagues rolled in on Facebook.
In digital solace, people left messages of condolence and talked of how great a man Chris was.
And I thought, maybe I should take screenshots and print this out because this was essentially our condolences book.
Everything felt so different. We could not hug, touch or see each other’s tears. We could not throw fistfuls of dirt on the coffin as it was lowered into the grave.
“The Facebook Live failed so I could not watch Chris’ final journey to the very end”
When a loved one dies we seek to grieve, we look for comfort and closure. But how do you that when you are confined?
I was upset. I never imagined I would have to bury a loved one through social media. I never thought I would crave human contact that much. It was like a movie, except that I was part of the cast.
And sadly, the Facebook Live failed, due to a poor network connection. So I could not even watch Chris’ final journey to the very end. I did not see his coffin being covered.
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