I attended a very painful burial today. She was 31 years, or would have been by October. Her husband was a mate of mine at my days in Voronezh, Russia. Since we reconnected about 4 years ago, we had remained cordial. On my return from Mali, last week, I got a text from him announcing the burial date of his wife, I was shocked and dumbfounded. Recollecting now, I was in a meeting at Ikeja, and my senses were totally numbed. When later I told my wife, she was simply screaming and also taken in. I hardly get to see my wife taken in like that but that was the impression this news made on her.
It wasn’t a hard decision for me to make to attend the burial, we later spoke, and I confirmed that to him. I hardly have words for such losses but somehow I recollect mumbling something and hung the phone. I cannot recollect her face; my wife did remember her been kind and giving; this coming from my wife, who hardly compliments and is quite reserved in making statements, is indeed instructive. We spent some few minutes or about an hour with the family, one December day and that was it. We talked on all sorts of things, remembered our days in Russia and also about our infertility. Then, the couples, Nelson and the now translated Amarachi, encouraged us; told us it took them some doing before they had theirs and told us that we would come through it.
Now, getting back to those days, one gets an eerie feeling that we are all a kind of walking corpses. She was impressive in her simplicity and though then we exchanged a few words about all sorts of things, none of those words stuck, all that is left is the feeling that we could simply have talked more.
When I visited Nelson subsequently, I never saw her again; how is your wife? I would remember asking Nelson, she is Ok, he would answer. Not knowing then and never would I know subsequently what burden and sorrow this simple man of very great and strong will, was and is going through now. By attending the funeral, I am simply going through a deep motion which for me was not new and yet painful. I do not have any knowledge what such pains are, but I know that it is overwhelming.
People are born to die, but when it is young and sudden, it pushes us beyond our limits. Though addictive belief in religious experiences makes us cave in to the knowledge that no one truly dies, and that God in all his wisdom knows best; our tears, nervy emotions and the complete confusion of thoughts and actions, after the death of a loved one and all through the days and weeks leading up to the burial, all makes us human and adds to our disbelief and doubts about such succour. I felt lost at the funeral, felt pain, but what griped me most was the emptiness of the eulogies, the sermon and the songs, they simply weren’t connecting and though there were lots of shouting about how God knows best, I think, looking upon all those tear filled and worried faces that none, at that moment believed it.
The irony of the thing is that though there were lots of shouts as if convinced that Amarachi is heaven, we could hardly cover our grief’s and the veil, at this moment simply falls away, revealing our ugly inside, which though hideous, appears humanly real and true. Tears at this point help loosen the knots of overwhelming hurt. We are creatures of chance and sad that all those centuries of conditioning have yet to cure us of our attitudes towards death. Nothing is as empty, shambolic and unreal as a sermon for the funereal of a young and unexpected person… that was my thought as I sat through that ceremony.
The whole family, collectively and individually, cut diverse pictures of defeat, ache, anguish and remoteness, each lost in his or her own little world of thought and reflection, lost in limbo and acutely watching the coffin as if she might simply wake up and ask what this whole noise was all about; as I watched the faces of all gathered I also saw my soul, its internal debates and unholy worries. She lay dumb, dead and though still referred to as Amarachi, she was simply a corpse we all could not bear up to call so. The tears flowed; the confessions were made, forgiveness and prayers asked and said, but too late rather for a body coldly asking to be put away.
Nelson held on, a man who through years and months of catering for the Cancerous wife, knew that by and large she would lose the battle. He was somehow already prepared for her death, but nothing I could see prepared him for the loss. He grieved, but silently; he worried and cried neither aloud nor in public, but alone inside and such was the grief that I felt lost. He worried about the guests. Tried to put up a brave face and often got up to give his seat to an approaching visitor, all these done to put the mind away from the immediate environment where his wife, dead now lay in a coffin. People approached him and some said sorry, others simply gazed at him and silently felt as lost as he was. Death is denial; it is an aspect of living that always enforces its caprices in spite of us.
On my part, seating there with him, I thought of my life, not in any ordered manner, and also of how my journey has panned out. I am married, but I know neither the joy of child birth nor the distress of suffering with ones partner. I would die I thought, but how and for what? She simply has lived, for her daughter, her husband and a family the feels a void because she stepped out. Nobody ever fills the void created by death, but somehow we all convince ourselves that that is possible. In truth, it is not and we pretend along, for that is how else the mind tries to manage the loss.
On the whole, it was pitiful juxtaposing my life with theirs and specifically with hers, she simply lived her life and done, she sleeps as if the living was a king of interference with her deep primordial meditation. I calmed down at the thought of this. Now, I think of Death as a return to that primeval meditation; a return to a kind of hibernation, of which life and its encumbrances are only but a distraction and sojourn, until called forth again to do something else, play another role and effect some changes within the grand design of life and living.
The smiles, laughter and the flow of life returned immediately, as soon as the corpse was taken away for internment. Refreshments were passed around; struggles for it returned us to the present. We would eat, drink and start all over again as if she hasn’t been there and the long funeral service was an interruption, a waste of time, a kind of obstruction to our living. That is the aspect that worried me and pushed me out of my wits. We are simply animals; our acquisition of senses and manners only tricks us and creates an illusion of significance, which death alters; the animal in us has nothing to do with our funeral; it is one of our hideous human inventions that are supposed to simply hide our imperceptibility.
We are merely clouds, hanging loosely on the sky, now here and next second gone. She has done enough to bring me to Ntalakwu, Oboro, and this also, in all purposes, was part of her duty, which in death, she never forgot to perform. Amarachi, in life I knew little about you, in death, you revealed yourself to me and through the medium of death, to me something about myself which I cherished enough to seat now and write you this tribute. Thank you.