Living with a corpse: The story of the Mugabe family

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TWENTY days after the passing on of one of Zimbabwe’s founding father, Robert Mugabe, his corpse has always been housed at his Blue Roof residence, until Thursday when his final burial place, Zvimba, was announced.

The late former President’s immediate family has been at the residence and visitors flocking in to extend their condolences, with the president of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema being the latest visitor.

Pictures of Malema at the Blue Roof are circulating on social media, one with a seemingly pain stricken Grace Mugabe desperately trying to compose a smile and another of the family at their dining table having a meal.

Among the most intriguing of the images which has provoked a lot of conversations is of Malema viewing Mugabe’s body, with Robert Junior behind him and Simba Chikore coming next.

Under ‘normal’ circumstances and following the death of a person, the body is kept at the morgue for about three days before being transported to the deceased’s home where it will lie in state overnight.

The next day, body viewing is conducted after which burial procedures will follow, giving closure to the loved ones that indeed, the life of the deceased would have been concluded.

Now, here is the difficult part. Mugabe died in Singapore on September 6 and his body was embalmed before his remains landed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

Citizens and his friends from all over paid their last respects and had their opportunity to view his body one last time.

The shocker of a 30-day grace period for the funeral while his mausoleum was being constructed immediately followed and now 20 days later, his body is still to be buried.

Many have now concluded that ‘piecemeal’ body viewings are still underway.

Which brings us to the current quandary: How many times has the family been viewing the body since they are living with the corpse in the same mansion?

How does one decide that now they are viewing the body because so and so has come to pay their last respects, do you open the casket and show off the corpse like is done with a newborn baby.

So, after a guest greets and passes condolence messages, do they request to see the body or does the family offer to do so with: “He died after a long or short illness; it has been hard for us as a family, but come this way we will show you his remains.”

That may sound ridiculous, right? But honestly, how is it done?

Is there anyone who has assumed the role of opening the casket at every instance or any gun can shoot?

How will a family ever come to the conclusion that they will continue opening the casket?

I must admit, thinking of it now almost feels like a joke in bad taste.

Growing up in the African setup, dead bodies are regarded as sacred and kind of scary.

I remember my time in the rural areas and passing through a graveyard. I used to be scared to death, especially at night.

I would rather choose a longer route to my destination or break my legs running past the area.

Call me superstitious or whatever but up to this day, I am still scared of dead bodies, graves, lingering spirits and ghosts, and I doubt that I am the only one.

How then, under these circumstances that have befallen Grace and her family, does one sleep knowing that a fallen comrade is lying in the next room?

At most African funerals, mourners sleep in one room with the corpse, singing and crying throughout the night.

Is the family still huddled around Mugabe’s remains or do they lock his corpse in another room and place a security guard at the door?

Do they each go to their respective bedrooms in their mansion and slide into their ‘silk’ linen retiring for the night and view the body before breakfast the following day?

How do they heal from the loss when the closure of burying a loved one is still to be experienced?

Do you crack up jokes in the same house?

When a thin layer of dust accumulates on the casket, who dusts it?

Who moves the body to clean up the room and keep it fresh?

All this, in my little heart, feels like a lot of pain being postponed on a daily basis.

It feels to me like having your loved one in a deep slumber every time you view the body, which would only hurt more, like having him but not really having him.

I wish the family gets comforted in these trying times and get the closure of burying their father as well as allow the former President to rest in peace.

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