FUNERALS by their very nature induce pain and anxiety among the deceased’s close family members and associates.
Emotions run high mostly when the body of the deceased arrives home from the morgue, at body viewing and when the remains of the departed are lowered to their final resting place.
The bereaved wail, some collapse or go into a seizure imagining a life without their loved one or memories jog back and reminisce on quality times shared with the departed.
Some cry for wasted time on the way when they could have made peace, pay back favours, acknowledge their appreciation for rendered help, nurturing or many other favours and deeds coming with co-existence.
In the case of a dead parent, children cry because they may have failed to take care of their parents in their time of need.
Such is death.
But imagine going to a funeral or burial function where no one is wailing, weeping nor sobbing, but people are all in a happy mood and the gathering resembles a party?
People are all dressed smartly in their different attires, be it church uniforms, formal clothing or fashionable apparel from designer stores.
Mourners’ spirits and moods resemble a celebration and that coupled with a lively preacher leading proceedings completes the show.
The presiding officer was Father Chitumba, a Catholic priest, whose hold on his flock was tangible.
He had even dared humiliate anyone making noise during his mass.
He injected life into the same funeral mass by pacing up and down doing his thing expanding his service theme of preparedness.
Witty as he would be, he picked the famous verses of the 10 wise and foolish virgins of the Bible drawn from Matthew 12 verses 1 to 13.
A master of his act, he involved mourners asking questions and making the mass belong to them.
The crowd of about 500 people, was by far a large number considering that this is a midweek event and it’s in a rural set-up. People were seated still and paying attention.
Such were the scenes at the burial of John Regai Matsinhise, a centenarian who died aged 103 on November 12, and was laid to rest two days later.
He had a total of 14 children, 32 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren. When his time for promotion to glory came, he had held in his hands a great great grandchild.
An educator of note, Matsinhise’s career started in Musana, Mashonaland Central province, after his 1949/50 teacher training at Gokomere Mission.
He moved back home to Masvingo province and taught at Beardmore Mine in Bikita before joining Makweva, Majada, Masema, Munjanganja, Mutambara, Mushangwe, and Chitsa primary schools in Gutu, where he acquitted himself with marked distinction.
At Mutambara and Ranga schools, he helped build churches of his Roman Catholic sect.
Matsinhise got a burial and send-off befitting his status as a gentle giant and community hero.
His homestead at Demawatema Kraal under Headman Mupata, some 30km east of Gutu Mpandawana growth point, resembled the heroes acre despite not having a single government official or politician in attendance.
“We are not mourning. We are celebrating the life of a legend in his own right, a wise man in our village, one of the best councillors we ever had and perhaps a chief or parliamentarian we never had,” said Charles Mazango, a relative.
“He helped build a church at Mutambara and still had the mind to do the same here at our school. He was selfless, calm and calculating. What are we without him?”
At independence in 1980, he was elected councillor for his ward, a job he executed professionally.
“Today, we witness corruption. He led us well in his role as councillor. He distributed stuff allocated by the government with wisdom and without nepotism or favouritism. They don’t come in this mould anymore, goodbye our hero,” Mazango wrapped up his speech to a rapturous applause.
“Yes, we are not mourning, we are celebrating the life of a legend. The sign here is like a tree with good fruits, you can simply tell by the numerous fruit shells or peels on the ground that many frequent it.
“The crowd here resembles fruit shells or peels. My uncle was that sweet fruit,” said family representative Thomas Matsinhise, a nephew of the deceased.
“Here lies a teacher, a father, a friend, a wise man and all the superlatives to describe a beautiful human being,” he added.
Born 103 years ago, Matsinhise was one of the earliest people to train as teachers in his village and being the first born in the family, he groomed his brothers, one becoming a teacher and the other an agricultural extension officer.
As a team, the three educated their relatives and when they got married, took their children through secondary and tertiary education, setting the pace in their village and being positively infectious.
A soft-spoken man by nature, Matsinhise solved many disputes in his community and beyond, at the same time developing himself into a businessman of note.
He was a family man who cycled to far away schools he worked and back home every Friday to join his family on the crop fields, imparting industrious knowledge to the community in his path.
Matsinhise passed on at Gutu Mission Hospital, where he was in and out in the evening of his lifetime.
There was no State-assisted funeral, no hero status accorded to him despite being a full liberation war collaborator.
Come February 20, 2024, Matsinhise would have celebrated his 104th birthday, but fate had it otherwise for this larger-than-life character among his own who proved that true heroes are not made, but born.