Warning: Words such as death and dying occur frequently in this piece.
An igbo proverb says, that when a man passes by people bearing another man’s corpse, it looks as if it is mere wood they carry.
These words were entrenched in my subconscious years ago, perhaps, from one of the african writers series.
One of the greatest mystery, is to sit and laugh with someone today and not be able to do so tomorrow, and this is not because they have moved houses,literally.
For years, I couldn’t find the right words to describe the ache, emptyness that death leaves you with. Sometimes, in a mother that has lost a child, you take away the physical memoirs, then one day you find that child’s pair of shoes, tucked away in a corner, then you wonder how two tiny pair of shoes can bleed your wounds again.
I found the only description I cling to, in a clock that stopped working. I lost an old friend some years ago, by chance, a few days later, the clock in my dining area stopped working and had to be taken down.
I found myself glancing at the spot every other time I passed, but all I met was the small rusted nail, fast become a useless anchor.
My dead clock taught me death and dying.
Sometimes, you haven’t come to terms with a loved one who has died, and you find yourself constantly searching, like my dead clock. Then the blank wall, and you almost hit yourself for forgetting.
This went on for days, till I decided to save my neck the trouble of angling to no gain, by buying another clock. Needless to say, it wasn’t the same, the old clock was a special wedding gift.
This let me know, that nothing,no one, can replace a dead loved one. Sometimes, a new clock can only help you heal, but this does not negate the neccesity for healing.
Death reminds me of dying.
The bible passages at a wakekeep or funeral evokes a plethora of emotions. They do not tell you sugarcoatedly, that you too will die one day.
‘Fade, fade, each earthly joy, Jesus is mine‘ the choir would chant ever sorrowfully. In those moments, I wonder how my end would be. I think of how death does not come as we live, how the posh have died harrowing deaths, how the less posh lie down to sleep and leave with a smile.
I think of the ones privileged to die surrounded by family, and I think of the ones who die lonely, unknown, sometimes, with not a body to be found, like my father’s brother during the civil war.
I think of people in so much pain, that they opt to die by mercy killing, and I think of people murdered in cold blood, beheaded, shot, burnt, of the silent screams of babies who are killed before they live.
Then I think of losing.
I dread the day my phone would ring, with news I don’t want to hear. I pray for the ones I love in one sentence, it is a short prayer, that does not convey the magnitude of hope in my heart when I say it. I tell them
“You will always go and return”
But in my heart, I know that one day, they, I, must go and not return. So I add an addendum in my heart, asking God, to let us go after a very long time, to keep us here for long enough for eachother.
Then I think of being at the other end of losing.
“Your wife didn’t make it sir, but the baby did”
I think of how this sounds likes a Nollywood cliche, till you have a grown man in tears in front of you, helplessly and near cluelessly clinging to a baby, as old as his wife’s body was cold. I think of how I couldn’t put my self in his shoes, but in the shoes of his wife. How does my soul want to rest? So with my thoughts in her shoes, I mutter a silent prayer to God, to keep me for my children, let them not know the pain of a sheep without shepherd.
Then I think of the dead.
I think of the ones resting in peace, and the ones whose spirits still roam. I think of my late schoolmate, of the first time I dreamt of her after she was buried. Of how I felt no fear nor goosebumps, of how I teased her
“You said you would call me at the weekend, and you never did”
Don’t mind me, I didnt know I would travel” she laughed, her bubbly self not gone.
How we laughed and gisted, and she stood to leave and asked
“Please give me water”. The content on her face as she drank, and the smiles I woke up with.
I think of how I woke up, three times from similar scenarios, and the way the conversation ends in a request for water. I end up wondering how far apart both worlds truly are.
And then, I think of the strange way, a pamphlet on the importance of praying for the dead was left in the pew in front me in church. So I pray more frequently,
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.
A candle for my goddaughter who left today,three years ago, a candle for you my schoolmate, a candle for you, our late groomsman, a candle for the woman whose wakekeep I shall attend this evening, a candle for Stephen the carmelite, my brother’s brother, a candle for Nigerian soldiers fallen in battle, a candle for victims of violence.
Today will not be admonitions to live godly lives, no, today is not to remind you that all is vanity, or that we take not our struggles or riches to the grave. Today is for the dying and the dead. Be with the first in their uncertain moments O Lord, and grant repose to the latter.
Finally, I think thoughts that quieten all the others,how St.Paul says to the Romans, that hope does not disappoint us.
I think, that this earth is not my home.
On all souls day, Nov 2.2015