Yesterday I went to a funeral. The woman who passed away was the grannie of my good friend. The funeral was in a village called Mont Rolland. It is about 1 hour north of Dakar. The village had a very relaxed, peaceful ,calm feel to it. There were many baobab trees and tall, thin elegant palm trees scattered among them. If you stopped talking, you could hear the deep silence of the nothingness surrounding the village. It reminded me of being in the South African bush, but without the distant sounds of the wild animals and the birds.
Grannie Marie died at the age of 106 years and she was buried in the catholic church in the village. It was a beautifully simple church, painted in a Mediterranean yellow with high ceilings, but with zinc instead of the usual Italian murals we see in Europe. On the walls inside, there was the picture of a European looking Virgin Mary and the Stations of the Cross were paintings of Africans.
The mass was a lovely one, in an eclectic mix of languages- Wolof, French and Latin. The chanting and singing were also in the different languages. I understood the French and much more of the Latin than I would have thought. My high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Greene would have been proud that I was finally using what I had learnt …allbeit 40 years later! Better late than never. That is exactly what the priest said in his sermon. Grannie Marie had converted to Catholicism at the age of 83! The priest said “It is never too late to find Jesus”. I would however take from that that it is never too late to re-examine your beliefs and discover new ones. What a feat it must have been for Grannie Marie to leave her animism behind and believe in the Virgin Mary.
The family and relatives at funerals and weddings Senegal wear the same outfit. They decide on the colour and the style beforehand. For Grannie Marie, the chosen design was a long violet dress, with puff sleeves and pleated from the waist down. After the mass, the whole village walked to the graveyard, everyone animated and busily chattering The graveyard was very big and I had the impression that there were not many Catholics in the village or at least ones who were buried there. After the burial, we all gathered back at Grannie’s to give our condolences to the family and make merry. The atmosphere was not at all sad, it was really a celebration of a life well lived.
Although I did not know Grannie Marie, being there to celebrate her life reminded me that it is never too late to follow your dreams and desires.