After some 25 years in the wilderness seeking out the dead wherever they were to be found, Ezekiel Thomas is going full time to the rostrum as he sets out to preach the gospel to those needing the way of salvation.
Thomas will this month hand over his funeral home to his son and daughters. After a quarter century in the business, this is the fulfilment of a dream.
“Five years ago, with the help of my wife and family, we acquired this piece of land at the Best Road cemetery on the West Coast of Demerara and which was rejected by others. Today, as you see, a beautiful Funeral Home is located here at Vreed-en-Hoop on the West Coast of Demerara,” he said.
Having achieved this milestone, Ezekiel has now settled down to fulfil his heart-felt desire, that is, to preach the gospel to the poor, and deliverance to the unsaved and those in need of good news. One feature of his years of seeking out and burying the dead among the living has been the construction of a church at La Parfaite Harmonie, from funds earned from the funeral parlour.
Indeed, Thomas subscribes to Booker T Washington’s philosophy that the work done by a man does not lower a man, but makes him a better man. Many probably assumed that he would have walked in his father’s footsteps and become a sugar boiler. Instead, he started working with Bob’s Funeral Parlour at Pouderoyen on the West Bank in 1992. Two years later, Bob showed him the ropes.
After Bob dismissed him, he thought to fashion a career of his own. He was determined to operate the first poor man’s funeral parlour. It was a scary job, he admitted, noting that as a boy he often obtained lunch by raiding “Fat pork” and “Whitey” trees in cemeteries. He also remembers days when his survival depended on his ability to be satisfied with a few gulps of water and the fruits he raided from trees as a poor, wandering school boy.
Thomas was required to travel by land or air to locate and prepare the dead for burial. “It was not easy ranking with the dead,” he said, recalling his days spent working with the post-mortem team.
In those days, they had to wait for the arrival of the District GMO or whoever was tasked with conducting the post-mortem. It was not unusual for Thomas and his men to wait in the cemetery for three days and three nights for the medical team to turn up. It was Ezekiel and his team’s duty to keep the dead in the best of condition during this period. Often, using ice to slow down decomposition. One can imagine the privation brought to bear by the singing, stinging mosquitoes, and the inconvenience caused by the advent of the unpleasant weather.
According to Thomas, caring for the body means winning friends, but it also meant the loss of friendship as people are not particularly inspired by being friendly with persons who are known to bathe the dead. It was no easy task.
Thomas started off his business buying coffins from manufacturers and re-selling them to bereaved relatives. This he offered at cheaper prices than the established parlours, for 12 years, as he laid the foundation for his funeral home. He said that he secured the contract from Le Repentir Cemetery which meant the beginning of service from Best Cemetery. The entire West Demerara, East Bank Essequibo and the islands have benefited from the services offered at Ezekiel Funeral Home. The company handles about 20 funerals per month.
In handing over the company to his children, Thomas said he is sure that they appreciate his years of hard work and sacrifice.