The church is expected to be the conscience of the society and a place to seek peace and refuge, especially in times of turmoil.
Whenever people are mourning, religious leaders are supposed to remain firm and calm. Despite the fact that they too could be mourning, they are expected to give the mourners a shoulder to lean on as they comfort the lonely souls of friends and relatives through prayer and wise counsel.
These men and women of the cloth are also viewed as the moral barometer and perfect hence they are at times blamed for looking aside as a wrong is perpetuated in their midst.
They are at times called names for remaining silent as some injustices is meted out against the entire community that looks up to them for protection.
However, despite the way many people look at them, a burial scene at Gatugu village of Kiambururu in Githunguri was different.
Pastor Mary Muriuki and Reverend Joseph Wairi, could not afford to allow the insults against them pull them down. They stood firm, paced from one corner of the deceased’s family farm where a grave had been dug early Thursday morning, in readiness for burial of Daniel Wainaina Gitau (28), born in a family of two boys and two girls.
The young man had passed on three days earlier at the Kiambu Level Five Hospital after spending only three days at the hospital.
According to the Hospital Administrator, Mr. Eston Mbuthia, the deceased had succumbed to COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken the lives and economies of many nations.
The Administrator regretted that at times families and friends of people who succumbed to COVID-19 were in denial. He said these people refused to accept that their patient had died of the dreaded pandemic and if the Government did not take precautions, some relatives and friends could easily handle the body and in the process, they could infect themselves.
The idea of their friend and colleague’s coffin being wrapped up in polythene paper to protect them as per the requirement of people who died from the disease, did not augur well with them. Dawning blackT-shirts, they were unhappy, abusive and uttered unprintable words.
“You church leaders are dogs. You represent the Government here and you don’t speak on our behalf. Why are you allowing the police to mistreat our friend in death?” Josiah Mwaura posed, as he pointed at his watch complaining that it was wrong to bury someone as late as 4.00 p.m
“What crime did he commit? Now that you have condemned him for having died of COVID 19 is there any other mistake he committed so that his body had to make a stop-over at the police station?”
These are among the many questions that kept lingering in the minds of Wainaina’s friends and colleagues, while others openly insulted the police officers who had been deployed to the burial site to ensure that peace prevailed.
Moses Gitau told PC Katana from Githunguri Police Station “You know this is our home. It is only us who know where it is bushy, the thickest part of the forests and the shortcuts to any main road.”
During this particular burial, the men of the cloth and the police complimented one another towards one goal. Their maturity towards calming the friends and colleagues to avert chaos excelled. Their tone was low but assertive.
Their wisdom in articulating who had been pained most between the friends and the family was well done and the most they could do was to sneer, make faces at the officers and the two preachers but they were finally calmed down and appeared to have let go their wish to bury the body themselves.
At exactly 4.30p.m protocols pertaining to burial rights were conducted by the two church leaders who prayed at length. At least only half of the mourners closed their eyes as most of them conversed amid the prayers but in low tones.
Then the surveillance team from Githunguri that had been teamed up with the mourners at the Githunguri Police Station took over the session.
Six of the undertakers carried the coffin and halted intermittently. They headed to the grave and placed the coffin down before they took the ropes and started using them to lower it inside the shallow grave. Prior to that, the grave was fumigated to the chagrin of the mourners who observed in silence.
Thereafter, the team leader scoped some soil on a spade and passed it over to the other team members and after they threw some soil inside the grave, the more than 50 friends grabbed the spades and continued burying their friend, whose cause of death they disputed.
The deceased’s wife and sister wailed painfully as the soil covered their loved one and had to be assisted, removed from the scene and taken to their home.
According to colleagues who are taxi-drivers in Ruaka in Kiambaa, “Wainaina had only suffered from severe headache, was not coughing and did not exhibit symptoms of fever as is synonymous with people who succumb to COVID-19.”
Margaret Gathoni, a colleague and friend who visited him in hospital blamed Kiambu Level Five Hospital for having caused the untimely death of their friend whom they described as generous, jovial and good hearted.
She says the deceased had complained of poor diagnosis which she says had resulted in the doctors only dispensing to him Panadol which was not helping to clear the pain.
KNA heard one of the friends say, “We cannot allow you people to bury Wainaina like a dog. Even if he has died of COVID, what crime has he committed to deserve this kind of treatment in death?”
Reverend Mary Muriuki of PCEA Banana Parish who is the pastor to the deceased in Ruaka while calming the crowd explained to them that the hospital had revealed to the family that their kin had succumbed to COVID -19 on Tuesday 21st in the evening when the father returned home and found the villagers attending prayer session at the family home, and they had accepted.
So friends and colleagues have no locus standi to refute the results as it’s the parents who have lost their loved one and not the friends who want to pose to be in so much pain. Rev Muriuki regretted that they had caused unnecessary chaos since morning which had consequently delayed the burial rights of the deceased who was God fearing and a man who really helped the church in the development agenda.
Reverend Dr. Joseph Wairi of PCEA Kamuchege Parish accused the mourners of causing unnecessary trouble. He recalled that the villagers had arrived at the burial site by 10.00a.m and were peaceful during the service.
“Thereafter, when we started communicating with those who had gone to the mortuary, they started getting impatient and started leaving one by one but promised to return,” he said.
The people who had brought chaos that threatened to disrupt peace were his friends and colleagues from Ruaka but it is wrong to dispute what the family has been told and has accepted, said Reverend Wairi.
Wainaina’s burial was well coordinated despite his friends’ intention to take over the burial ceremony. The police were brought on board at the right time so as to escort the mourners and ensure the surveillance team were not prevented from doing their work.
The Hospital Administrator clarified to KNA that bodies of people who died of COVID-19 pandemic were not subjected to post mortem examinations. Immediately the patient succumbs and the death is confirmed by a doctor, it is usually put inside a body bag and the family notified so that they could be set for the burial within the shortest time.
Such a body is also not buried by the family members as dictated by some traditions in our society but that is the work of the government so as to contain the spread of the disease.
In the case of Wainaina, when the friends and colleagues began showing signs of becoming rowdy, Mr. Mbuthia called OCPD Kiambu Police Station for officers to be available to join the team for escort.
They unfortunately commandeered the driver of the hearse to take off, but soon, he was directed by the Administrator to drive into Githunguri Police Station so that the health protocols could be observed. From there, they were teamed up with the surveillance team which is supposed to inter the remains of a person who has succumbed to the pandemic.
It was, however, commendable for the police officers and the two preachers to have read from the same script and supported the surveillance team to carry out the burial ceremony without a hitch.