Sunday, October 12, 2014

Graves in Liberia

One of the things that makes ebola hard in Liberia is that the dead cannot be honored. Granted, that seems like a minor detail compared to the death and fear, but people have risked death themselves to honor their dead.

There isn’t a lot we can do about this: those dead of ebola cannot be touched, and would most safely be cremated--not exactly a customary way of honoring the dead. But I wonder if we can do something. If the burial teams have the names (and parents) of the dead, could someone carve the names into a stones to stand by a mass grave? Quite a few would be "woman known only to God."

I don’t know if anybody there could do it, and the lag time in getting something made elsewhere and then shipped there is large, so this probably wouldn’t be much use anyway, but if people knew their family members were being commemorated, it might be a little comfort.

UPDATE: Maybe it would help with the problem of bribing of burial teams.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

The Indo-European custom, which comes down to us in so many forms, is "flowers for the immediately dead; wood for the recently dead; stone for the permanently dad." I suspect something like that, which caught the underlying idea of how the dead should be honored in that culture, would be more easily accepted.

Photographs seem to have changed everything in some cultures.

james said...

I hadn't heard that description before--where does it come from?

Photographs would be a good idea if the deceased had had any made, but that's not too common there.

However, the Americos brought over a number of American customs, and Decoration Day is a big deal in Liberia. Having a monument and inscription would (I think) have some cachet, and might be a passable substitute for the traditional rites.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I read about it first in a fairly recent book about Stonehenge - I forget which. It sounded like something I had read in Mallory about Indo-European burial customs, but that came up blank on skimming. I let it lie, shaking my head. Then it started to show up in discussions about early Celtic and Germanic customs.