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Christina Mothapo’s funeral

11 July 2015

Today we buried Christina Mothapo, at 89 the oldest member of our Mamelodi mission congregation. She had been, like most of the other members, a member of the African Orthodox Episcopal Church, whose leader, then Archbishop Simon Thamaga asked in 1997 to join the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Christina was not only the oldest, but also one of the most faithful members.

Christina Mothapo with members of her family on her 87th birthday, 1 Jan 2013

Christina Mothapo (in blue dress) with members of her family on her 87th birthday, 1 Jan 2013

We first used to meet in a school classroom, and Christina walked up there for services on Sunday mornings. When the school raised the rent for the classroom beyond what the congregation could affor (from R30.00 a month to R200.00) we met in Christina’s house. That made it easier for her, because she was beginning to find the walk difficult. But it had some drawbacks — in a church building, the church is visible when it meets. In a classroom, it is less visible, and in a house, it’s almost invisible.

Val remarked that it was rather sad that an old lady should have so many beautiful flowers when she was no longer around to enjoy them.

Val remarked that it was rather sad that an old lady should have so many beautiful flowers when she was no longer around to enjoy them.

For the last couple of months, Christina had been ill in bed, and we had the service in the next room, where she could hear it, but not see it.

She also got a new blanket as a pall to cover the coffin, and another old ladyt in the congregation said, "Rather give me a blanket when I'm alive and feel the cold."

She also got a new blanket as a pall to cover the coffin, and another old ladyt in the congregation said, “Rather give me a blanket when I’m alive and feel the cold.”

One of the things Christina was very insistent on was that she wanted an Orthodox funeral, and was worried that after her death people would do strange things. One problem is that many people belong to burial societies, and one of the things they do is print funeral programmes, but those who draw up the programmes have no idea what Orthodox funerals are like. But we somehow managed to marry the two.

Deacon Stephen Hayes and Reader Peter Chauke at the funeral

Deacon Stephen Hayes and Reader Peter Chauke at the funeral

There are three cemeteries in Mamelodi, and while I had been to two of them before, it was the first time I had been to this one, rather unfortunately placed next to a municipal rubbish dump. I was struck by the number of recent graves. A few, like Christiana, had lived long lives, but so many have died relatively young, in  their 30s and 40s.

Christina Mothapo's grave, after the burial

Christina Mothapo’s grave, after the burial

With the saints give rest, O Christ
To the soul of Thy servant
Where sickness and sorrow are no more
Neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Thou only art immortal
Who hast created and fashioned man
For out of the earth were we mortals made
And unto the same earth shall we return again
As Thou didst command when Thou madest me, saying unto me:
For dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return
Whither we mortals all shall go
Making our funeral dirge the song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Memory eternal! Memory eternal!
May her memory be eternal!

Segopotšo ka go sa felego!
A gopolwe ka go sa felego!

 

 

 

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