Funerals today –– like everything else –– can be quite expensive; and not every relative or family is able to afford them, with all the expected trappings like service and profile brochures or booklets and portrait buttons for posterity. These costs, of course, come on the heels of those for the mandatory funeral home preparations of the body of the dearly departed, and in tandem with the price for church service and burial –– or cremation.
We can thus imagine the double stress and trauma suffered by indigent or financially challenged families or relatives without the means to cover such funeral expenses for their loved ones, who might have been receiving minimal pension or welfare benefit, or living without any form of individual income whatsoever.
Such a picture was brought to mind with the Nation reportage of the plight of the family of former Opels singer Rudolph Bandit Waithe who passed away two weeks ago, having succumbed to prostate cancer. According to Mr Waithe’s daughter Janelle Reeves, her dad had no money to cover his funeral arrangements when he died, the bulk of what he did possess being used to settle a matter before the law courts.
To Ms Reeves’ comfort, Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett has intervened, and we all have former Opel member Richard Stoute himself to thank for that most considerate act. Comforting too is Ms Reeves acknowledgement that the New Dimensions Church at which Bandit’s farewell service seemingly is to be conducted will perform all ceremonies at no cost.
In these trying economic times, we may yet not be guaranteed that Government can fully administer funeral arrangements for those in sure need; and it would be desirable if the better off among us of the citizenry sought to supplement whatever national burial assistance programme there might possibly be. And so, Richard Stoute’s call for the establishment of an entertainers’ fund that the families of passing artistes –– the vintage and legendary ones in particular –– might access is commendable and worthy of our profound consideration.
There can be no greater respect expressed for the dead than the comfortable and dignified celebration of the life of the departed one, and his or her being laid to rest before mourning family and friends without any socially and financially traumatic preamble. The Rudolph Bandit Waithe dilemma –– now itself laid to rest –– ought to fortify our commitment to the traditional respectful regard for the dead and their survivors.
Indeed, it is not the money spent or the lavishness afforded that determines how much we love and will miss the deceased. It is the facility and greater ease of coming together as family and friends to reflect, cry, laugh even, and embrace each other that makes the funeral of a loved one meaningful and memorable.
Yes, we can come to this state on behalf of our veteran entertainers in need of assistance at death, if action is taken now, rather than, as Mr Stoute has implied, waiting “until it is too late then to see what we can do”. To boot, an entertainers’ fund with trusted administrators can guide a family to spending within reasonable budget, preventing many a grieving group from falling into a financial trap when they may not be thinking lucidly. We want to ease the burden of grief; not swell it.
Of course, there are other Barbadian veteran entertainers, who have contributed much to the musical culture of the island, who on their passing will almost certainly require some helping hand, and as in Mr Stoute’s lament, they must not be left by the wayside. Our consideration for them, as for fellow Barbadians generally, will be based upon the biblical exhortation:
For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to the poor, and to the needy, in the land.
–– Deuteronomy 15:11.
Most of us will be aware that Jesus was at one with Moses on this; that we should lend a hand to our needy brother that our hearts not be grieved, for in giving, the Lord our God will bless us in all our works and all that we put our hands to.
When Jesus told His disciples they would not have Him around for ever, but “the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11), he was echoing the sentiments of the divinely inspired Old Testament prophet –– sentiments we could all well make very serious attempts to heed.
And when we do lend a hand to our needy brother and sister, let it be as an example –– not public fanfare, as Jesus said of the noises of “the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets”. (Matthew 6:2.)