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Business of goodbyes

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to Grave Trade6_CITY_E1

There is a Shona proverb that says: after birth, next comes death. Though in most cases the two do not happen one after the other, there is no denying that we are all in line for that final.

So it is understandable that the man in the suit who interrupts your favourite soapie makes money by selling funeral policies. We may want to call him heartless for cashing in on death, but that phenomenon is not new. People die every day, whether the insurance salesman appears or not.

If you have been to a hospital where someone has died you’ll know it takes no time before the guys from the morgue arrive to move the body. The coroner looks at the corpse as just a job, while somewhere an undertaker is digging six feet into the earth.

It is all part of life and one day someone is going to read this story after you and I are long gone.

Which brings us to Grave Trade, a documentary series that looks at T Cribb and Sons as they show us how they run their funeral business. As chilling as the subject sounds, the Cribb family is gainfully employed, as business is good.

The business has been in the family for a long time and this show only catches up with the fourth generation of Cribbs. We see John, his sibling Graham and daughter Sarah. They take us through their lucrative business where we see the unfazed funeral conductors, the grim pall-bearers, the calm and collected drivers, the mortuary technicians and the extras of this machine.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think these people were planning a wedding, but perhaps the black clothes are a give-away. Otherwise the planning is just as meticulous.

We start off with the grieving relatives whose final wishes are to give their dead loved one a decent funeral as a final gift. However, the company has to deal with any case that comes its way, from those willing to spend tens of thousands to those who can barely afford the funeral. Regardless of the situation, one way or another, the Cribbs make sure all their clients leave satisfied and a little less hurt by the death of their loved one.

Then the show spins off from the funeral company to follow some archaeologists whose addiction is historical burial practices. They dig up evidence of how burials were done from Neolithic times up to the Victorian era. We know how – through history books and Hollywood – Egypt paid its last respects to the pharaohs, but it wouldn’t hurt for this show to get into that, too.

What you will find interesting is that because of the emotions we attach to the dead, we bury them with some sort of respect. This respect blinds us from the fact that the person we are spending thousands on is actually not here anymore. In a week, maggots would have started their party as the corpse decomposes. Some will argue that the simplest burial is the best because the dead are not impressed by the material things of the living. And this becomes more apparent when the graves or tombs we pay thousands for are disrupted by some archaeologists years after we are gone.

No matter what your take is on this subject, your turn is coming, and this show almost prepares you for what will happen to you once your foot meets the bucket.

• Grave Trade, tonight, 9.25pm on History (DStv channel 186).


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