Why It Matters

… saves disappointment and frustration when this decision is made by the TIME it is MOST needed

Thanks to a recent heart-to-heart talk with Suzie and Zack, not their names of course, whom I met on a recent trip, to visit a relative.  I found them a little different from the norm. They amazed me, with their unyielding appreciation for ordinary life, and yet, they also had quite a profound view of life and death.

Isn’t it Paulo Coelho who wrote, “….And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it…”? 

Well, later in the evening of our arrival, a chat with Suzie and Zack ensued, going well into the evening, over dinner.  Although it initially kicked off hesitantly, I was soon pleasantly stunned after a while, that we shared a hunger for answers and questions that lie beyond the day-to-day. And as the evening progressed, it became more clear to me that they also loved to advance the ball, grounded on day-to-day events, they also got a thrill  illuminating deeper issues of life.

We had an incredibly short time, but the chat left me excited.  Its on this conversation that I anchor the thoughts I share here.

While I’m aware, such a conversation about  a final resting place is taboo for some, and not a comfortable topic. Yet, I think, we ought to talk about it openly. Agreeing with Suzie, this conversation needs to happen one way or another.

And so……though it may not be top of your mind now, but since one day we’ll all be gone [I dislike using the word “gone”].  I reckon, to confront ones own mortality and make advance plans – not only to ease the grief of those left behind – and decide the type of “send-off,” needs to be one of the most important decisions that a person makes during their lifetime.

It would be great, to make this decision, NOW so that when the “dreaded day” comes, those near and dear, can focus on processing their grief [or joy] instead.

Now More Than Ever …… granted the number of reported  disappointed and frustrated people, when this decision is NOT made by the time it is MOST needed.  This conversation, I think, now more than ever warrants our  attention.  Because, the failure to provide clarity over the manner, fashion and location of ones’ final resting place sets the stage for a tragic – as is sometimes the case – and acrimonious [often financially and emotionally  draining] fight in families.

While there is never a way to completely guarantee the “send-off” will be just like one has imagined in life. There are some ways to minimize the risks that your plans and wishes for a burial [or cremation ….. or send-off of your imagination within the law….] will not be carried out as you desire.

It would, however be great, I think, that you make this decision, NOW, so that when the dreaded [or craved] day comes, those near and dear, can focus on processing their grief [or joy] instead – stay with me.

Is Yours a Burial or Cremation – spill the beans ….

heart to heart talk Final resting place message to family family business consultants oumamuga voice IFFB_Kenya 3

I consider “the how” of the send-off here a very deep question….. because while burying the dead is a common local practice,  which many do not even question ….. , if you asked most, you are likely to get the answer ….“it is the way we have always done it!

But times, and understanding of some of these issues seem to be changing. 

Zack reminded us of the debate in the Kenyan Parliament in 1967, when the firebrand Butere MP Martin Shikuku  sought the removal of Kariokor Crematorium “from an African area”, arguing that the smell of “the smoke from dead Indians” was offensive to residents, and how then Parklands MP F.R.S. De Souza responded that cremation was the “cleanest and healthiest way of getting rid of the dead.”

Zack, in an easy-but-earnest tone, informed us that cremation long considered a mode of “send-off”  for certain religious communities seems to be gaining popularity in Kenya and is steadily dominating funeral rites in many countries.. Lately, he reminded us, it has  attracted not just public figures, but people from all walks of life as a platform of choice for their exit. Unknown to many, though, Zack mentioned, Kenya hosts  one of the oldest crematoriums in East Africa, dating back more than 3,000 years old.

I couldn’t help thinking that, “send-off,” and the song “Ashes-To-Ashes” increasingly seem to be acquiring an evolving meaning – for some,  just as it did for me at Prayag by the shores of the Ganges years ago, and not too recently at the Kariokor Crematorium in Nairobi when seeing off my  friend Peeush Mahajan – I trust, I can tell you more on this someday. . 

So whats your exit [or entry] of choice? Burial…..?,. Cremation…..?

It used to be a luxury not to confront the issues of ones death, but end-of-life planning is increasingly an important concern….

Make and Communicate The Decision

You’ve, perhaps, heard this well-known saying ‘it’s what he/she would have wanted’

So I guess, after carefully consideration of all options for a final resting place, whether you want to be buried or cremated, but things can change of course. It is important to actually make a final decision – and communicate it.

Planning ahead can do just that. And while everyone is different – some people want it religious, others prefer a very personal ceremony, remembering and celebrating their life without any reference to religion of any form., and yet others may want humor – its worth customizing your own send-off in advance. 

During the conversation, Suzie shared how an acquaintance, Peter Ndungu, had offered some kind of funeral PlanA “set it and forget it” type of purchase, with very few people revisiting it after buying – with the exception of an annual bill, of course. Yet, I think our conversation entails a lot more.

Share the plan ……in some cases, these plans are mentioned to lawyers, religious confidants, perhaps, even a peer.  With the assumption, that the message will get to the proper individuals who will be responsible for carrying out the plans upon your exit. More importantly however, many unexpected events can often occur between the making of the arrangements and the time of exit. Offices and companies move, or go out of business, relationships may sour to a point, people who were once thought of as trusted friends become mortal enemies. A whole host of situations can arise, that keep the plans for this important decision from being carried out to its fullest extent. Am certain those of us old or curious enough, remember the SM Otieno saga back in the day.


And failure to share this plan, that is when tragedy strikes…… .


To avoid this incredibly sad, stressful and unfortunate scenario, it is always important to never assume and instead be sure to strike up the conversation – and document it.

Carrying out the Decision 

And now, finally, a note to the family member or friend who find themselves in the honorable position of having been selected to carry out a person’s final decisions and choices regarding the fashion, mode and location of their resting place.


Do not engage in more than is required, do not be enticed in the midst of grief to spend more than may be wise or necessary in order to “create a fitting memorial” for the family member or friend. The main thing is to carry out the decision, and to stay true to the plans, no matter what else may be offered.


And if you’d sat in with Suzie,  and encountered the infectious insights from Zack, I have little doubt you too, perhaps will start this conversation, because of its ability to assure that when you take your final breath, your legacy will live on in such a way that your spirit will be able to rest peacefully through the ages in the very home that you chose – like i have. 

My advice, which you are free to discard: decide and take your pick! Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you [it doesn’t to most people], work on and make your decision available. 

……This is about putting the right punctuation mark at the end of the book…..  What better tribute to a life well lived! ??

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