Can you remember seeing your first dead person?As a child we were privileged, I am not mincing my words ‘privileged’ I say to view our dead relatives laid in state.
With a kind of stupefaction I cannot express any better I still manage to gather my wits and write this.
It is very common in the African culture to have the remains of a dead relative or friend brought back home laid in state and viewed for a day or two before the body is ferried to the final destination for burial.
The images will live with most of us forever depending on how young we were exposed to it. It engraves itself into our brains and never ever fades – it becomes the unforeseen tattoo you wish you could scrub off, but the memories are so greedily cherish, that we preciously keep them in pain, debilitating inexplicable pain.
Can anyone remember seeing his or her first dead person? I do, it was my great grandmother ‘Mbamba’ at the age of about 7. Apart from the fact that I spent the night before she died with her braiding her very fairy white hair for she was in her late 90’s – death didn’t warn me, I woke up to the coldest skin and face that my heart shattered into a thousand pieces and suddenly turned me into adult, robbed me of my childhood innocence of fearlessness and flowery thoughts – raw and hot reality suddenly made me develop, so quick too.
Looking back now I think death stinks!! It’s got a kind of stench that will make you want to wash your clothes, wash your hands, wash your body over and over again, but it will linger and make you sweat and sleepless for days – potentially hallucinating from shock and fear rather than reality _ I did see her/ghost a couple of times _ that, a story for another day.
Yes, that is the worse thing that can happen to you as a child – Death of a close relative or friend. In some parts of Africa like Cameroon, the family circle is unbelievably extended, the neighbour down the street is your relative because you are raised to call her auntie unlike Mrs this or that, we are such a gregarious bunch that names do not come to us easily because we consider everyone akin, sister this or that and when you pack your bags to the shores of another country someone says ” Hello meet Mrs X, Y, Z” before you finish shaking hands, the names have evaporated from your mind.
We are a family and that made death something very common and connected – greatly impacting everyone every time it occurred, the cries from one home dragged the whole town running screaming and wailing with no reservation, mothers lamenting holding their wombs, fathers did it speechless and red-eyed, children rolled on the bare muddy dirt but you could tell the pain was shared and the burden was common _ that is a family, not a people. The Ultimate kindred law of attraction.
I forever felt viewing dead people dressed up and beautifully laid in state was scary until I visited a mortuary in my stubbornness to help with getting a dear one ready for their big day – that was all the lesson i needed and can only put them in these words:
No No No No No No
I want to scream I want to wail
I want to shout my intestines out
I want to puke
Oh death why do people say you are wicked
You are so terrible that you are ignorant
You surely don’t even know what you are
You take someone so beautiful and vibrant
Lay them on a slab so cold and hard – and filthy
Skin dried and sucked off everything life worthy
Who is this person again?
I hold it in; I am warned not to cry
But it is not crying I want to do
I want to disappear into nothingness
Is this what they call the end?
I look around and see half a dozen other people waiting cold on the slab
To get them set for their big day
Immediately I am reminded of a slaughterhouse
That smell again _ that disgusting smell of death
For the rest of my life, I will never forget this day
I came out of ‘that place’ naked
I came out empty, stripped and broken
It sucked away my pride, arrogance, and love for extravagance
It killed hatred, overzealousness for the things of life
It made me a new person
A person more wilful, living every day as though it were my last
Being more appreciative of minute things in life
Letting go of the things that have no meaning _ at all
Leaving a mark as little as possible that I was here
Because on that slab – there is no proof
That is the entire lesson I needed
A lesson I believe we all need
To make us understand that life in itself is death
Live like you are dead
A person who ignores death
Oh – Is so so ignorant about life
Picture used is found on Williamson’s Beauty Tumblr