Funerals – Trinidad style

The Meenister’s Log.

I conducted several funeral services when I was ministering in Trinidad in the late 1970s/early 80s

The custom was to have the open coffin at the entrance to the church and the mourners would file past, looking at the deceased  (I remember overhearing one of the congregation saying of the corpse “doesn’t she look well?”).

After the church service, it was basically a free for all getting to the cemetery which was a few miles away.

We simply waited until everybody turned up (often the hearse was last to arrive)

The lid on the coffin was re-opened in order for everyone to have a last look.

And – very often – an unusual thing to us from a different culture: the passing of a young child over the dead person three times to prevent the spirit from causing any harm to them – something that originated in Africa…and of course half the population are Afro-Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the grave-diggers would be lounging about – sometimes leaning against gravestones; sometimes swilling rum.

The coffin would be lowered and they would start shoveling earth on it…most times joined by a weeping (usually female) member of the family who would grab a shovel and throw dirt on the grave for a few minutes, before giving up in distress.

We would wait until the grave was fully filled in – come rain; come shine.  And when it rained, it rained; when it was shine, it was scorching.

At the time I was there, it was all burial as there wasn’t a crematorium (I believe that there is one now)

However, the very first funeral that I conducted in Port of Spain was different.

It was a family of Indian (sub-continental Indian) background (such a group makes up almost half of the population).

They were members of the Church and loyal ones at that, and we discussed the type of service that would be appropriate.

And then I said something like “And then we’ll go on to Lapeyrouse Cemetery”

“Oh no, we just want you for the “churching”; he’s going to be cremated (Hindu style) by the banks of the river.

And he was, though I wasn’t invited.

Old ingrained habits die (!) hard


child being passed over the coffin

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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