The thing called death- a personal recollection.
Death is scary but in the mind of a child it is incomprehensible. As a child I couldn’t process the idea of death and all its ramifications. However, it was symbolised by the solemn procession of a body in a casket being taken out for burial. We would watch the procession standing in front of our residence close to the door as if to make it easy to dash into the house just in case the dead person makes a move to harm us.
That may sound improbable now but not out of place back then. There was this unsual fear of the dead in the village such that whenever a procession was coming, we would run into the house to put on our shirts. If you were a bit distant from your home, you would stand still and put your right palm over your chest to protect your heart. There was this weird idea that a dead person could harm a child by taking his heart.
After a procession passes by, the natural ambience became somewhat somber. It would appear as if nature deliberately turned down daylight in honor of the dead. May be it was just my imagination.
Death: An unforgettable encounter.
His name was Ega, a friend of my parents. An absolute jolly good fellow who wore a perpetual smile that was as soothing as the light of a full moon.
Ega was an innovator in his own right. At the local market in Ogharefe, a bustling commercial town by the River Ethiope in Delta State, women carried their wares on their heads to and from the market on every market day. No one knew that Ega was thinking about the situation and the suffering it caused the women.
One day Ega showed up on a Market day with a wooden truck he constructed and offered to carry any woman’s wares for a token.
It was a Eureka moment and a game changer for many market women. They would load their wares on Ega’s truck and walk leisurely back home to await delivery.
One evening, as Ega was going about with his deliveries, he collapsed and died. Looking back, I believe it was a heart attack. But rumours had it that he was doing such a hard job without eating well. That was a lie and I felt horrible hearing people say that.
Bad as that was, what caused me so much ache was his burial, the first I witnessed. As shovels of sand were dumped on his casket six feet down the earth, I began think that he would suffocate and become terribly uncomfortable. I was yet to comprehend that at death, a person no longer breathes and feels nothing.
Nevertheless, there was this eeiry feeling that death had some “sanctity”, some dignity.
That was until I relocated to Lagos when I was a little older. That place was a shocker. It was common to see dead bodies on the street unattended to for days. No sanctity, no dignity.
What is going on?
Now, the entire country has become consumed by the “spirit” of bloodshed and death. Screaming headlines declare their reign of terror. We are no longer shocked by the news of death. Once in a while, we argue about the number killed on a particular day or in a particular village. Many of the dead end up in unmarked mass graves. Even in war, people are entitled to their individual space of rest. Not anymore.
Are we at war? We are not. But I wish we were. War has rules of engagement. Soldiers kill soldiers but are forbidden from killing civilians except when it can’t be helped. When soldiers get out of line, they are held accountable either by local or international institutions setup for that purpose.
But we are not at war. Yet an entire country is like a national abattoir. Armed robbers, kidnappers, ritual killers herdsmen have formed a ring of bloodshed and death. Our highways have joined the deadly crusade. There used to be a saying in my place; May you not travel the day the roads are hungry. Today, the roads are angry and hungry every day. There is no place of refuge for Nigerians. Neither at home nor on the roads.
As people flee from one set of killers on one side, another set of killers await them at the other end. Entire villages flee for their lives with no expected dates of return.
This is no longer a temporary challenge. We are getting used to the smell and taste of blood and death. If not already, it will soon become our way of life, something etched on our psyche, loved though they hurt.
Why are we sharing gruesome pictures of the dead? Why do we import picture of killings in other countries and pass them around as our own? Have we lost our minds?
If we still don’t know where we are heading, we should ask the Americans how they became the guns headquarters of the world. I hope, truly hope that we have not crossed the Rubicon. Because once we have, it is finished?
Last line: something creepy.
Recently, I cleaned up my phone contacts. There were at least two individuals who had passed on. When I got to each of them, I felt like placing a call to them just one more time. Will I hear their voices at the other end? Definitely not. But I wished that would be the case The temptation to make that call was strong and it felt spooky.
Do some relatives by any means inherit the sim card of their dead ones? Or do the sim cards pass on with their owners. If the numbers are inherited, how will the new owners answer initial calls to those lines. Thinking about this made the whole thing about death even more creepy. Death is a bad thing. To bring it upon ourselves in such a reckless manner as we currently do is a horrible thing to think about let alone experience.
Those in authority should wake up from their slumber, act fast and stop dissipating energy on irrelevant debates while precious lives are being lost every day.