Home » Governance » ’The Undertaker’ Is No More

He was an undertaker par excellence. He did his job with passion and tenacity. Michael Galiao, the undertaker who demystified death, is no more. Death has indeed robbed the profession of a torch-bearer. As such he was in the job for decades. Over the period he had became a common figure at the burial of heroes at the National Heroes Acre.

The pencil-slim undertaker who helped send many people to their final resting place will today be sent to his. His body, reduced to a few grammes of ashes, will be interred at Warren Hills.

What a way of ending a journey that saw him take lead in the burial of prominent people among them national heroes like Amai Sally Mugabe, Cdes Moven Mahachi, Chris and Herbert Ushewokunze and musician Simon Chimbetu.

Galiao also buried people of many traditions making him a reservoir of knowledge on burial rites.

In an interview with local media in 2010, Galiao said of the art that had seen him make his name, burying the dead depends on people’s traditions, religious and cultural rites.

Tall and lanky, with a steady gaze, Galiao was approachable man. His “work suit” – a dark suit and white gloves – made him a marvel to watch as he expertly performed his duties.

The Michael Jackson look-a-like was unfazed by big occasions and would always take time to do the work to the best of his knowledge.

Sadly only memories remain.

Born on October 24, 1963 Galiao became an undertaker on November 1, 1985 at Mashfords Funeral Services which was later bought by Moonlight Funeral Services.

At the job Galiao kept improving himself until he attained the position of training manager at Moonlight Funeral Services. His career saw him briefly join Doves before tracking his steps back to Mashfords Funeral Services now rebranded Moonlight Funeral Services.

The man who made undertaking look easy encouraged other people to take up the profession. His duties, among others, included embalming, burying or cremating the dead, as well as planning the actual funeral ceremony.

In an interview with our sister paper in June last year, Galiao described his work as more an art than a job.

“I’m blessed with the artistic skill to make the dead appear more life-like when they depart this world for the next. It is all about making family, friends and acquaintances remember their departed in the same way they knew them during their days.

“You could say that I’m like a carpenter with a chisel and hammer, or the potter with mortar and water,” he was quoted as saying of his beloved profession that did make him a public figure.

Since the early 1990s, Galiao had been a familiar figure at State funerals, driving the hearse and leading pall-bearers as the nation bade farewell to many a hero.

Born to a Portuguese father and a Zimbabwean mother, Mr Galiao came from a family of nine. He lost his parents at a tender age.

It seems the loss of his parents “took away part of his heart and swept away the fear of death” leading him to take the parlour as a workplace.

Galiao started adulthood as a radio operator in the Ministry of Defence, before taking a post in the administration department of Mashfords Funeral Services.

As fate would dictate, his break came when the official undertaker did not report for duty one day and he volunteered to stand in.

Since then for the past three decades on a daily basis, he had interacted with death.

Galiao, also known as Pinyo to his legions of friends, reckoned many people still view undertaking from a negative perspective as evidenced by the many dropouts that he had experienced while undertaking trainee undertakers through their classes.

But death knows no boundaries the man who worked with the dead for over 30 years breathed his last on Sunday morning, closing a big chapter of life.

Galiao, who was 52, succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease in which scars are formed in the lung tissues leading to breathing difficulties.

“The Undertaker”, as he was popularly known in Arcadia, was a divorcee. He divorced nearly two decades ago and following that separation with Lynette Makuvaza, Galiao never remarried.

The marriage gave him three sons – Zaine, Andrea and Storme.

“I do not intend to marry a lady without children because she is bound to desire to have children with me. At my age, I do not want to deal with nappies,” he was quoted as saying in 2013. And to his word he never remarried until his death.

At the time of his death Galiao was a training manager with Moonlight Funeral Parlour, where he buried between five and seven people a day.

Family spokesperson Rosey Galiao described the undertaker as a family hero and a person who was willing to help.

“We have lost a family hero. A man who struggled to unite the family and indeed the void he has left will be difficult to bridge.

“He will be cremated as was his wish. We could not dispute it.

“We are not sure why the sudden change of the manner he was to be buried. Michael said he had buried many people and would not like to be buried in that manner. It is like his will and the family has to adhere with it,” she said.

His son Zaine described his father as man who worked for the nation.

“He was a man who put a lot of effort in his work. My father was a kind man who helped in burying many people including prominent people.

“Despite his work he was a kind father who was approachable. He was a good father, a father to whom you would lean on every time. He was father who was free with every one, he was not strict,” he said.

His wish was to be prepared by someone he had trained and that wish was granted.

From his beloved Moonlight Services Parlour, his body was taken to Arcadia Catholic Church for a Holy Mass before his body was taken for cremation in a private funeral. Galiao, the man who took so many bodies to their final resting place, also had a change of heart. He opted for cremation despite having spoken gly against the practice.

Cremation is generally regarded as taboo but as attitudes are changing more indigenous people are now opting for the practice and can discuss the option without being labelled social outcasts.

Hopefully, all those he buried are waiting to welcome him to another world.

Source : The Herald