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St Thomas funeral homes offer music, games packages

Funerals no longer a dead business in St Thomas

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 07, 2014    

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The Golden Grove Cemetery in St Thomas was recently transformed from a place of rest into a party venue as relatives of a deceased man employed a non-traditional method of mourning their loss.

Latest dancehall hits blared from a sound system as a woman showed off her dance moves amidst cheers from a large throng of people. Nearby, groups of people engaged in card and bingo games as the deejays at the console created a vibe for the large crowd standing and sitting on graves and rewarded their enthusiasm with free phone cards and other giveaways.

This is said to have become the norm in St Thomas where residents have been hosting these party-style celebrations at the gravedigging for their loved ones.

The latest such event was held for 33-year-old Romane McLean of Duckenfield, who died after a short illness.

The solemn approach usually associated with death was visibly absent as hundreds of residents crammed into the cemetery to participate in a range of fun activities while a handful of men worked on digging the grave.

In-between hefty servings of food and alcohol, the women formed themselves into smaller groups to play bingo and card games on top of the tombs in the cemetery.

Even children, who are usually scared of going into cemeteries, were right at home playing on the tombs.

However, what was most unusual for some passers-by were the two deejays who were seen busy spinning records on the console set up on a tomb. The deejays urged the residents to participate in the various competitions to win prizes.

Brother of the deceased, Dwight Francis, said the entire entertainment package was provided by a funeral home in Morant Bay.

He noted that as the competition increased among funeral homes, operators have become more creative in trying to attract customers.

"The package from the funeral home included the music and the deejays and we had a choice of taking it for the gravedigging or the set-up (nine-night), but we took it for the gravedigging because we have another music system to play for the set-up," he told the Jamaica Observer North East.

He pointed out that while revelry was unusual in a cemetery, it was what his brother would have wanted.

"He was a very fun person and this is what he would have wanted and so, while it is a sad time, we are enjoying ourselves for him," he said.

While not saying what the package cost, Francis said this is becoming a regular occurrence in the parish. Such events, he said, tend to pull out a large crowd of people who, while not participating in the actual gravedigging, are there to make the moment more bearable for the relatives of the deceased.

People, he said, began congregating at the cemetery from just about 8:00 am and were there way into the dusk.

Resident Irvine 'Shaggy' Watson also confirmed that it is becoming a norm in the eastern parish for persons to host these elaborate gravediggings. He noted that they are especially large when they are kept at the cemetery. "This is a regular thing a St Thomas yah now, man," he said, as he enjoyed a swig from a beer bottle.

"Most Duckenfield people bury here, and here so the whole a mi family bury," he said, when asked about the staging of such an event in what is supposed to be a place of rest.

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