Xhosa Funeral Traditions

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A letter from a Xhosa Grandmother to her grandchild explaining the traditions of a Xhosa Funeral.

So today I want to tell you about how we bury the dead and why we do this.
You will have seen us empty the house and make space for all the family that comes from all
We have to feed them, and they sit with us bezila nathi (they mourn with us).
As you know most of the time the funeral is on the second Saturday after the death and the
body will be brought to the house just before the funeral. Everybody must come to the day of
the funeral and many people give speeches.

On the day of the funeral or some time soon afterwards you have seen our elders go out and
buy a cow and slaughter it very early in the morning. The men cook the cow in big pots full of
boiling water and they do not add any spice. Then we all eat the meat, outside of the house.
All the meat must be eaten before any other food is served.

Our elders speak to the ancestors and we are all serious during this time. This is when we tell
you to keep quiet too. The dead person carries our messages to the ancestors so that they
remember us and do not forget to forgive us. In this way we send the dead person to their
new home, so that they can become a true ancestor. Our prayers help them find the way.
This we call, as you know, „UMKAPHO“.

Maybe you have wondered why we do this mainly for the men and not for the women. Well,
the women know the way, so they do not need help.
We put beer and meat and flowers and a white candle in the corner of the house. The beer
and the meat are for the ancestors to taste. The burning candle keeps the bad spirits away
that like to come to funerals. That is also why we burn imphepho.
(Some of us don’t like children to come to the funerals, because of the bad spirits, because
children can see more than the adults can, and they do not want you to be disturbed by
what you see. But I think if we speak openly to one another about these things children can
deal with them quite well.)
We must never burn our dead. We must always bring them back to the place they belong to,
so that they can be reunited with all the ancestors and sleep in the ground they were taken
There we put them into the grave. We also put food for them and their walking stick and
other things into the grave that they might need.
On the day after the funeral we like to sprinkle you and the adults as well with water and
herbs to cleanse you from any shadows you may have picked up.
The clan decides together how long ukuzila should be: Sometimes 6 months, sometimes 9
months, sometimes a year. The women have to wear black during that time and stay at
home. The men usually wear a black button or scarf.
At the end of ukuzila we women gather round the widow and bring her new clothes. We take
her old, black clothes off and burn them. Then we put the new colourful clothes on her. We
call this “„KHULULA IZILA“ (which means take off from mourning.) This is why we only ever
wear cheap black clothes during ukuzila, because at the end of ukuzila they get burned.
The men do not have this ritual.
After about a year or longer we hold as you know “UMBUYISO“. This is when we celebrate,
that the person who died has now become a real ancestor and has come back to us to help
and protect us.

We welcome him home. So we slaughter another cow. This time the women prepare the
meat with spices in the way the person would have liked. And we eat the meat inside the
house and celebrate together that they have come back to us.

Sometimes “UMBUYISO” and the unveiling of the tombstone happen at the same time.
“UMBUYISO“, we celebrate again and again. Whenever we have a dream about the person,
and they ask us for food or drink, we celebrate it, in their honours. It says “welcome home” to
the ancestors.

My dear umzukulwana, I have written a little today about how we bury our dead.
The important thing to remember is that they are just in hiding (this is what the Xhosa word for
funeral means) they cannot be seen, but they watch over us.

Suggested Graveside Sermon

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Funeral for Graveside Service

Memorial Services are in reality for the living and on such occasions they serve a three-fold service!

The First Purpose of a Memorial Service is to Remember the Deceased
A. Obituary Reading

The Second Purpose of a Memorial Service is to Comfort the Broken Hearted.

A. There is comfort in the memories of how __________ touched your life and made it different.
B. There is comfort in remembering that death is not the end.
C. There is comfort in knowing that you can see those who have a relationship with Christ again.
D. Our greatest comfort is found in Christ.

“When sorrow comes, as come it must,
in God man, must place his trust.
There is no power of mortal speech
The anguish of his soul to reach.

No voice, however, sweet and low,
can comfort Him or ease the blow.
He cannot from his fellow men
take strength that will sustain him then.

With all that kindly hands will do,
and all that love may offer too,
He must believe throughout the test
that God has willed it for his best.

…. No words which we have the power to say can take the sting of grief away.

That power that marks the sparrow’s fall
Must comfort and sustain us all.
When sorrow comes, as come it must,
in God man must place his trust.

… And only he may stand serene
who has faith on which to lean.”
.[Edgar Guest. One place it can be found is Sofine’s Edgar Guest Collection - www.sofinesjoyfulmoments.com/quotes/edguest.htm]

Jesus said, “come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
Jesus has promised through the writer of Hebrews, “I will never leave you ..nor forsake you.”
And it is through a relationship with Christ that we are able to say as the Psalmist, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

The Third Purpose of a Memorial Service is to Prepare the Living.
In reality we are not given a choice about whether to met death, or even when to meet death, only how to meet death. There is in the Gospel according to John a story recorded in the eleventh chapter that speaks to the situation we find ourselves in today. Here Martha and Mary’s beloved brother Lazarus has been sick and has died. Jesus’ words of comfort to this grieving family speaks to those whose hearts are heavy today.

Read (John 11:1, 17-27)
“A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha…. (3) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Master, the one you love so very much is sick."… (17) When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. … (19) and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. (20) Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house. (21) Martha said, "Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. (22) Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you."(23) Jesus said, "Your brother will be raised up." (24) Martha replied, "I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time." (25) "You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, the Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. (26) And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?"
(27) "Yes, Master.

How to select the right funeral flowers

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

When you are giving funeral flower arrangements you are paying your last tribute to that person. And, for this reason, you should put a lot of thought into what you select. Make sure that your final selection reflects the personality of the person you wish to honor. Is it something that he or she would enjoy? It should be.
If the recently deceased liked the outdoors, incorporate natural outdoorsy pieces into the display. If the deceased enjoyed a certain type of flower, try to use those flowers in the arrangement. Tell the florist as much as you can about the deceased to help them to capture him or her in the arrangement. If you are completely stuck, ask the florist for guidance; he or she is likely to have images of traditional funeral arrangements on hand.

Flowers for a funeral do not have to be sent directly to the funeral home. It is perfectly acceptable to send flowers to the family's home.
This is the time to express your sympathy for the family of the deceased and sending your arrangement directly to their home might even give it a more personal feel. When should you send the flowers? There's no correct answer to this question.
You could send them immediately or wait a week or two. Flowers are meant to show your sympathy and, no matter when they arrive, the family will know that you have not forgotten—that's what really matters.

Traditionally, placing a tribute in or on a casket is a right reserved only for the close loved ones and family members of the deceased. If this is something you would like to be involved with, contact the family members of the deceased and ask if you might have the honor of contributing to the casket tribute.

The way individuals pay tribute to sympathy varies greatly. Each region is different and it's in your better interest not to make assumptions about which type of funeral flowers to send. Before choosing, ask your florist for recommendations. If you get lucky the florist might even know the types of flowers that others have ordered (including the family) and can arrange something complimentary.

Mortuary Cold Storage

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Morgues function to provide a clean and isolated environment in which bodies can be autopsied, preserved and/or prepared for death before a funeral. Morticians and autopsy technicians use morgues to ensure that the proper cause of death has been noted and to visually prepare the body for the viewing of the family of the deceased. This preparation phase is psychologically important to the family of the deceased, who are likely to be more at ease seeing the body of the deceased as they were remembered in life.

Cold storage is known to slow down the rate of decomposition and preserves the body for identification, without cold storage decomposition advances rapidly, within 12 to 48 hours in hot climates decomposition will be too advanced to allow facial recognition.
There are two types of mortuary cold chambers:
  • Positive Temperature: Bodies are kept between 2°C and 4°C. While this is usually used for keeping bodies for up to several weeks, it does not prevent decomposition, which continues at a slower rate than at room temperature.
  • Negative Temperature: Bodies are kept at between -10°C and -50°C. Usually used at forensic institutes, particularly when a body has not been identified. At these temperatures the body is completely frozen and decomposition is very much reduced.
In some countries, the body of the deceased is embalmed before disposal, which makes refrigeration unnecessary.
In many countries, the family of the deceased must make the burial within three days of death, however in some other countries it is usual that burial takes place some weeks or months after the death.
Tough Times Long Distance Funeral Transport  has recently added a cold storage facility to it's services in order to better serve their clients

Choosing a Funeral Home

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Depending upon the wishes of the family and their specific needs concerning the death of their loved one, there are many activities a funeral home will take care of, from the time they are first called until the chosen services are concluded. No situation is exactly the same. Many funeral homes offer various "packages" of commonly selected goods and services that make up a funeral. But when you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy individual goods and services. Meaning: you do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want, you have the right to choose what you find appropriate for your loved one or even yourself. 

According to the Funeral Rule:
·       You have the right to choose the funeral goods and services you want  (with some exceptions).
·       The funeral home must state this in writing on the general price list.
·       If state or local law requires you to buy any particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, with a reference to the specific law.
·       The funeral home may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket you bought elsewhere
A funeral home that offers cremations must make alternative containers available
the following list is a brief summary of things a family should know about the services a funeral home performs upon a person's death:
Be on call to serve families when a death occurs, 24 hours a day.
Remove and transfer the deceased from the place of death to the funeral home.
Perform professional care of the the deceased, as requested by the family, which may include washing, embalming, restorative art, dressing, casketing, hairdressing and cosmetology.
Arrange a consultation with the family to gather information necessary for completing paperwork and to arrange the details of the funeral service.
Formulate, complete and file of all necessary paperwork, including certificates of death, or other premits and authorizations.
Compose, with the provided information, an obituary - including service information, biographical information and survivor information - and send to all newspapers requested by the family.
Offer assistance to the family by contacting the family's choice of clergy, other officiants, musicians and singers if requested.
Contact and arrange necessary details with the cemetery, crematory or other place of disposition, inquiring about fees, regulations and other requirements prior to funeral services.
Help families with questions about veterans affairs, social security benefits, insurance claims and other inquiries.
Help families by arranging flowers, framed photos, photo collages and other memorial pieces in chapel during services and/or visitation.
Assist the family with other arrangements that are needed after the service, including death dates added to existing monuments or purchase of new monuments.

At Tough Times we take the time to understand your needs, our experienced staff are on hand to help with every detail. Contact us today 

Choosing a Coffin

Thursday, 20 October 2011

What Coffin to choose
Choosing a coffin or casket is an important aspect of arranging a funeral.  At Tough Times, we recognise that your choice will depend on many things, including:
- the wishes or personality of the person who has died
- the shape, design or colour of the coffin/casket

- your family's religious or cultural background

- whether the funeral is a burial or cremation

- budgetary or environmental considerations or

- a preference for either a contemporary or more traditional style

Caskets made of wood (soft and hardwood) or metal can be bought quite cheaply.  Carbon steel caskets in different gauges (20 gauge being thinnest & 16 gauges being the thickest) or bronze/copper caskets come in 32 & 48 ounce materials per square foot can also be bought at good prices.

Obviously, the cost of a casket varies depending on the material used, the quality of construction and the type of interior.  Bronze is the most expensive material.  It has maximum strength and resists rust naturally.  Copper is less expensive than bronze, but stainless steel has higher tensile strength.  The price of a wood coffin depends on the type of wood used.  There are many makes and models.

Funeral Flowers

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Comforting a grieving family is never an easy task and people often feel quite helpless at being unable to do the right thing. Fortunately, flowers are a good way to condole one\'s loss and are sent to the funeral home for display during the viewing and service.

In the first couple of decades of the last century, funeral flower arrangements were usually large, sweet-smelling badges shaped as hearts, crosses and logos of organizations. For example, a Rotarian would take along a wreath in the form of a broken wheel to a fellow Rotarian\'s funeral. From 1970, this practice gave way to customized funeral flower arrangements that depict the deceased\'s profession, such as anchors for seamen.

The various kinds of funeral flower arrangements include the wreath, which is a circular floral arrangement of flowers and greens; people believe that its shape symbolizes eternal life. The floral stand is another type of arrangement. It is visible only from one side and is placed on a stand and can be ordered in a choice of up to three tiers. A cross-shaped arrangement symbolizes the deceased\'s faith in Christianity. The family of the deceased usually orders an arrangement called a casket spray for the top of the casket. If a child dies, floral arrangements in the shapes of angels, bunnies, bears, or other objects are done in white with leafy trimming. Once the funeral service is over and the grieving family begins to cope with their loss, it is completely in order for you to comfort them with flowers or a plant that shows that they can count on you for support. Traditionally, white flowers are used.

Chrysanthemums, roses in red, white, yellow and pinkScience Articles, white lilies and carnations are the flowers of choice. 

How to register a trust?

Friday, 23 September 2011

How to Register a Trust           
 There are two types of trusts, namely the inter-vivos trust and the testamentary trust. The inter-vivos trust is created between living persons, whereas the testamentary trust is derived from the valid will of a deceased person.
Steps to follow to register an inter-vivos trust
Register the inter-vivos trust at the office of the Master in whose area of jurisdiction the greatest portion of the trust assets is situated. If more than one Master has jurisdiction over the trust assets, final jurisdiction will rest with the Master of the office where the trust was first registered.

           Submit the following documents to the Master:
·         A completed Acceptance of Trusteeship application form for each trustee (to be completed    by the trustee)
·         A completed Bond of Security if required by the Master for each trustee
·         The original trust deed or a copy thereof, certified by a Notary
·         R100 – in the form of either uncancelled revenue stamps affixed to the trust document or a stamp impressed with a franking machine approved by the Commissioner for Inland Revenue
·         An undertaking by an auditor, if applicable 

 Example of Details Needed 

Name of Trust
Full name & Surname
Identity Number
Physical Address
E-mail Address
TRUSTEE 1 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Occupation:
TRUSTEE 2 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Occupation:
TRUSTEE 3 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Occupation:
TRUSTEE 4 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Occupation:
In the event of more than four trustees, please e-mail a detailed list with the information of those trustees to info@trusts.za.net
BENEFICIARY 1 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Relationship to Trustee:
BENEFICIARY 2 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Relationship to Trustee:
BENEFICIARY 3 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Relationship to Trustee:
BENEFICIARY 4 Full name & Surname: Identity number: Residential address: Relationship to Trustee:
In the event of more than four beneficiaries, please e-mail a detailed list with the information of the addition beneficiaries to info@trusts.za.net
Physical address of trust
Name of auditor/Bookkeeper
Contact details
E-mail: Phone: Fax: Cell:
Street address
Postal address
Bank Name
E-mail Address

State Funerals

Monday, 12 September 2011

At a State funeral in South Africa the State assumes responsibility for the ceremonial arrangements and provides appropriate military honours. Such a funeral constitutes the final act of homage by the State and the nation to South Africans who have held high public office or rendered distinguished service. The Cabinet decides whether a State funeral should be offered. It is guided by precedent and by such considerations as the public office which the deceased held, the nature of the services rendered to the nation and the public esteem which the deceased enjoyed.

For example The government decided to grant a state funeral to Walter Sisulu, who led the decades-long campaign against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela. Mr. Sisulu, 90. The state funeral was helod on May 17 in the Johannesburg township of Soweto. An official state funeral means the government will bear some of the costs, members of the South African military will participate, and flags will be flown at half-staff during a period of mourning.

If the offer of a State funeral is accepted by the family, the funeral service is usually held in a church of the denomination to which the deceased belonged. A historic change was introduced on the death of Prime Minister Strijdom when the Cabinet decided that the service should be held in the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings in Pretoria. This precedent was followed a few years later at the time of Dr. Verwoerd’s death. The officiating clergymen are selected in consultation with the deceased’s family, whose wishes are also sought on such matters as the order of service and choice of hymns. Clergymen are drawn from both language groups. The military honours, which are an integral part of State funerals, are determined by military protocol, by the deceased’s military associations and the public office which the deceased held. Flags are flown at half-mast from Government buildings on the day of the State funeral. South African diplomatic and consular missions abroad also fly their flags half-mast on that day.

Funeral Processions -The does and dont's

Thursday, 11 August 2011

When in a funeral procession ensure that you do not do anything illegal while driving, such as drinking beer. Do not think that the police officers guiding you will let you get away with such behavior."

Unfortunately, most of us would not be surprised. Funeral etiquette has almost expired in this anything-goes age. And riding in a cortege is far too often a frightening experience as the bereaved must contend with impatient, ill-mannered road hogs set on getting where they’re going quickly _ even if it kills them.

"The basic rule of thumb is just respect," says Cheetah Lubbe, director of South African Long Distance Funeral Transport company http://www.toughtimestransport.co.za  a website offering long distance funereal transport "One should never, ever, cut into the middle of a funeral procession."

As for those in the cortege, Cheetah says the big rule is to follow the leader. "A (funeral home) staff member will drive the lead car with close family members and will be responsible for leading the procession through traffic lights," he says.

Here are some practical tips:

All passengers should wear seat belts.

You should follow the vehicle in front of you "as closely as is practicable and safe."

No speeding. Don’t drive faster than 55 miles per hour on a highway with a posted speed limit of 55 or greater; drive 5 miles per hour below the posted speed on other roadways.

Turn your headlights on. The first and last vehicles in a procession should turn on their hazard lights.

When the lead car enters an intersection, the cars behind it should follow through the intersection "as long as it is safe to do so, even if the traffic light turns red." Funeral processions have the right-of-way in intersections unless an emergency vehicle approaches with lights or siren activated, or a law enforcement official directs the cortege to give up the right of way.

For drivers who encounter a funeral procession, the National Funeral Directors Association advice boils down to four simple words: Stay out of it.

Unfortunately, many motorists need to have it spelled out for them:

Do not drive between vehicles in a funeral procession unless instructed to by law enforcement personnel.

Do not join a funeral procession to secure the right of way.

Do not pass a funeral procession on the cortege’s right side unless the line of vehicles is in the farthest left lane.

Do not enter an intersection, even if you have a green light, if a funeral procession is proceeding through a red light signal.