I’m here in Bogor now for one week, staying with my Dutch-Indonesian friend and his husband in the Kampung. The Kampung where I stay is an urban settlement near the city of Bogor. It’s own community where people know each other. Of course there is electricity and water. But in general the houses here are small and simple decorated. The bathroom is a typical Indonesian one. A ‘bak mandi’, water container, in which water is stored, cold water only. You scoop it with a ‘gayung’, looks like a big spoon, to wet yourself. Then apply soap and rinse with water. You won’t find a lot of valuable furniture here and might even think these people are poor, but everybody seems to have a local smartphone brand, average worth of 300,00 USD.
My friend came here a week ago with the idea to spend time with his family, especially his mother. His mother already had health issues, swollen lungs due to pollution. Making it difficult to breath. She had been under treatment, but like minimal as it unfortunately goes for the majority in the Kampung for whom specialised medical treatment simply is to far away, or too expensive to pay for. I joined my friend and his husband to spend time together in the Kampung. Giving me this opportunity to experience live here, being among locals.
During the first week after my arrival, I learn to know her as an old woman, 72 years old, who was very active in and around her house. Taking care of the family, doing laundry, cleaning, watering the plants, always having a smile and a singing voice. I knew about here health issues but it seemed that she was doing alright since her son arrived.
Friday midday 5 o’clock. We are having talk about what we want to eat. I love rendang, tender and tasty meat since it absorbs all the spices during the slow cooking process. The three of us decide to go to the city to look for a restaurant. When we are about to leave I find his mother laying on a small mat on the floor in her house. She looks weak and a bit confused about what is happening around her. We give here some medicine and promise to bring some food. We say goodbye and head off to the city. With a small green public car, called Angkot we leave.
As soon as we finish our meal in the restaurant and have bought some food for my friends mother he is receiving a phone call. Immediately I know its an emergency. His facial expression confirms my suspicion. He starts to burst out in tears. We need to go home. At that particular moment we have no idea what happened but we know something is wrong with his mother.
Prepared for the worse it turned out to be the worse. Outside the restaurant he receives the final message. His mother passed away on her way to the hospital. From this moment on I have no idea what will happen, we need to go home as soon as possible. Since his family is Islamic the funeral also would be held according to Islamic culture. At that moment I had no idea how that exactly goes. I never experienced any nor I do have an understanding of the process. It’s frustrating to wait for an Angkot car to bring us back home. While in other cities there are so many taxi’s available. Here I barely see any.
It’s 7 o’clock when we arrive back at the Kampung. It’s all quiet. The previous days, every time we arrived back in the Kampung, we as foreigners, receive all smiles and ‘hello mister!’ from the kids and neighbors. Now everybody is silent and looking at us without a smile while we are speed walking to the mother’s place. When we arrive at the house, close family members already gathered. Outside in the small garden a portable stainless steel washing table is being set up. Here on this table his mother will be washed before being shrouded.
When we enter the house two women are preparing the Kafan, the sheets in which the body will be shrouded. They are cutting sheets in different shapes and put in place on the floor. The body of the mother also has arrived back from the hospital and is laying on the floor on a mat covered with a cloak. In the meantime, family members are saying prayers. She is carried out by family members to be washed on the washing table. In the meantime, the praying continues and we are all waiting for her washed body to return. When she returns they are shrouding the body. It’s just past 9pm when the mother is washed and shrouded. Still family and relatives arrive, mourn and pray around the body.
My friend informs me that the praying will continue the whole night till the next morning. The next morning 6am the family will gather and leave at 7 for the funeral. I decide that I need a sleep, since I’m not a family member or any close member of the family.
It’s Saturday morning 6.30 when I arrive at the house. Outside men are sitting. They were up whole night leading prayers and reading the Quran. My friend is already awake. He barely did sleep. Soon after 7 o’clock his mother is carried out of the house in a carrying case and brought to the nearby mosque.
We are all following, that is, all men are following. Since only the men will pray in the mosque. In respect of my friend, his husband and me are following to the mosque and attend the ceremony over there. I’m wearing a sarong and my neat long sleeve shirt. When I brought this with me for special occasions, like parties or other more formal events, I never did imagine I would use it for a funeral. When we are all in the mosque and the service is started, outside a wedding passes by. A convoy of small couches with horses carrying them, decorated with bells make a lot of noise and actually disturbing the service, since everybody is distracted by the bells and looking outside. Luckily it doesn’t last too long for the last coach to pass by. In the mosque I mainly hear ‘La Illaha illallah’ repeated over and over again. This Shahada, or testimonial, is an Islamic creed declaring believe in the oneness of God. It means ‘There is no God but Allah’. It’s 8 o’clock when the praying is finished in the mosque and the body is carried out and loaded in the back of an ambulance.
While the ambulance turning on the siren and driving off to the graveyard, we are all following on scooters and with some cars. Arriving at the graveyard the body is brought to her final resting place and placed in the grave. Here family is gathered around the grave while men in the grave prepare the grave for the body. When the body is in the grave it is covered with earth. Another praying is carried out while everybody squatting or cross-legged sitting. At 9 o’clock the ceremony is finished and we are all heading back home.
From here there will be a 3 days mourning. Where every evening family and friends would meet to eat, drink and carry out praying. I know that in Islamic religion the body will be buried within 24 hours, but still for me to undergo this procedure is a bit strange. When I’m sitting near my friend’s house on Saturday midday and overthinking what all happened, it’s a bit surrealistic for me to realize that his mother was walking around the day before, and now already buried at the moment I’m overthinking this.