On Saturday I attended the funeral of my friend Neville in the local Catholic church. Neville was what is know as "Coloured" (mixed race) here in SA, black as the ace of spades with his equally "Coloured" wife who was blond. I've known Neville and his wife for more than sixteen years, a more gentle and caring man I have yet to meet. His wife, daughter and three grandsons were the centre of his life, his world.
Neville was a man with a wicked sense of humour, he could find something funny in the worst of situations, Neville's laugh was infectious, when he laughed you could not help yourself, you would find yourself laughing with him. Feeling bad, talk to Neville he would soon make you feel better, got a problem, discuss it with Neville, between the two of you a solution would be worked out. No matter how busy he was he could make time for any one.
The church was packed and there wasn't place for the proverbial mouse, Black, White, Indian, "Coloured", Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, (and every shade in between), Hindus, Muslims, and Pagans, all there to pay tribute to the man they loved and admired. If you want to know what a man was like during his life, attend his funeral. Looking across the packed church I thought to myself, "This is what heaven will be like, "every race and tribe" ".
The service was led by the Arch Bishop of Bloemfontein, a black man with an imposing presence, broad of shoulder and broad of girth, with a deep melodious voice - a preachers voice. It wasn't because Neville was an important man, (in the greater scheme of things he was Mr No Body like the rest of us) that he merited an Arch Bishop for his funeral service, no, they had been friends since Neville was a young man and the Arch Bishop a lowly parish priest.
The funeral service was called a Resurrection Mass, and the Arch Bishop with his beautiful voice delivered a gospel filled message of the resurrected Jesus, (and the hope of those who believed in the resurrected Jesus). No one could have any doubts as to the fact that this was a Christian funeral service full of hope, not one of despair. Even an ex Calvinist like myself could not find fault with the content.
After the service I thought how blessed I was to live in a country like ours, with it's diversity of people and cultures. I have friends among all race groups and among some that I count as best friends are Muslims. I feel very sorry for people who live in bland single culture, single language, single race countries, about as interesting as tapioca pudding.
It always amazes me when I hear of countries overseas where people complain about immigrants changing the culture of a country. They enrich a culture and if the local culture disappears or is weakened it couldn't have been worth much in the first place.