12 days of funeral

POSTED ON 2011-11-03
  by Dena McMaster

Aimee Hedrick is learning some of the rituals and ceremonies surrounding the funeral of a Tigak person.

The woman who died was a village matriarch with nine children and countless grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Because of the great number of Tigaks involved the funeral has developed into a large affair. Her funeral or matmat was12 days long.

  • Day 1 is a meal that allows people to talk and work as they normally would rather than being quiet for the mourners.
  • Day 2: Community meetings are held to discuss funeral arrangements.
  • Day 3: Food and fuel is purchased to accommodate those who come from other islands to help and the meals that will be shared with those who work.
  • Days 4-5 are spent preparing saksak found on another island.
  • Days 6-9: Materials are gathered and temporary houses for cooking, sleeping bathing and crying are built. Groups of men go fishing both to feed the many extra people and to sell the fish to buy other food. Others cut firewood and the women weave mats from palm fronds to be used for sitting and sleeping.
  • Day 10: the crying house is decorated in preparation for the coffin. The coffin arrives late in the afternoon and the wailing begins. Their grief is palpable, the air rank with tears and sweat. The women throw themselves to the ground. Sometimes they are drug away because they become excessively emotional. The giving of money and food to relatives begins and people sing throughout the night.
  • Day 11: The funeral service takes place and the coffin is carried to the burial site and put in the ground. At the close of the service the wailing begins again. This is followed by a huge meal shared by all the mourners.
  • Day 12: A final meal to signal the end of mourning and matmat work. This brings freedom to tear down all the temporary shelters and clean the area. Following the meal a time of traditional joking takes place where some members of the old woman’s family throw food, grease, pig blood and other things associated with the meal on their in-laws. They chase each other around and laugh hysterically showing that it is time to be happy again and the official time for mourning is over.

“For a student of Tigak culture such as myself, this has been a goldmine about which I will be asking questions and understanding more for months to come,” wrote Aimee. “I am thankful for this great learning opportunity and especially for the relationships that have been built as I’ve experienced all of this with my friends in the village.”

Pray for Aimee as she learns the Tigak culture and language in preparation for sharing God’s Word with her friends.

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