Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Tongan Tradition: the funeral

Hymn 114:  I wander through the still of night, When solitude is everywhere—Alone, beneath the starry light, And yet I know that God is there. I kneel upon the grass and pray; An answer comes without a voice. It takes my burden all away And makes my aching heart rejoice. –Theodore E. Curtis

Malo aupito  to Sister Teni, a wonderful sister missionary and friend, for sharing some of these tender pictures with us.  She helped Maama and her family through a difficult time.  Death in Tonga is a communal affair and funerals are usually large, involved and expensive.  Because there is no embalming done here, the body is frozen until the deceased person is prepared for a viewing in the home and burial.tongatimes 008Various congregations (Latter-Day Saints,Wesleyans, Free Tongans, Catholics, etc.) come  and go to pray, sing and mourn continually throughout the evening. Wailing occurs as a release of feelings.   Tents and small lights are erected for the mourners who will sit on woven mats throughout the  night until just before the funeral in the morning.  They will present gifts of tapa, woven mats, cloth, a pig, etc. to the eldest member of the family.   In turn, the family must provide plenty of food for the mourners which is a hardship. Tongans wear black when they are in mourning and close relatives wear large woven mats for three days.  Funeral attire 018Wesleyan congregation singing at a wake:Wesleyan Members of Congregation at a Wake President Makemaile and President Shumway bring comfort through scriptures, prayer, and song:The Weslayan Wake--Pres. & Sister McMurray (Makelmeli) Pres. Shumway With some of you we have shared the sweet story of Maama and her testimony translated and written by President Shumway.  This lovely young sister passed away recently after suffering for so many years with “Weber” disease in which her leg grew abnormally large.  We share some pictures of Tongan funerals with love for her and her family:  tongatimes 010Eli, Maama’s husband,  mourns the passing of Maama as he comforts their son:009 The body is then taken to the burial place early the next morning in a car or truck decorated with tapa cloth or woven mats.    tongatimes 013tongatimes 014After the funeral the gifts are redistributed back to the people.  The family usually ends up giving more than they have.tongatimes 015tongatimes 016The body will be wrapped in tapa cloth and banana leaves for the funeral and buried in a family plot; a mat is held up as a screen for the burial.tongatimes 018Sister Vuki, President & Sister Shumway, Sister Teni and family pause after  Maama’s burial.tongatimes 019Quilts are placed at the grave of the family members and left for display.  When a quilt wears out, the family will replace it with a new one.quilt 078 077 103 To honor the passing of a Noble in the Kingdom of Tonga, purple and black cloth is draped on the homes and fences of his village: 124 The new noble of Houma is appointed by the king.  He lives here in Hoema where his father did before he passed away in June.135  This is the noble’s burial site in the village of Houma.  136  How sublime are the priceless gifts of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ wherein we may know that we can be reunited eternally with our loved ones in the world to come. Looking towards Eua078


Wendy Cowling said...

Thank you for your photographs! They bring back many memories of my times in Tonga. Please pass on my greetings to Eric and Mrs. Shumway and let them know I am still in the land of the living and likely to be so for a while yet. Best wishes,
Wendy Cowling, Hamilton, New Zealand.

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jack william said...

I am enquiring about the death of a child, Robert Nash who was approx 6 months old, when he died around 1960 or 61. I believe he was buried at a cemetary in Nuku'alofa. Is there anyway I may obtain information re this child as to burial site etc.

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