5th August, 2011
Death, they say, is inevitable. It is always painful losing a loved one. I have not really experienced death in my family, but I have lost distant relations to death. I always feel it when someone I love dearly is travelling and I know he or she will be away for some time. This helps me understand a little, the way people feel at the loss of a very dear one having it at the back of their mind that itâ€™s goodbye forever.
This feeling has nothing to do with race, religion, or colour. Death is one thing nobody prays to experience, but the fact remains that we cannot avoid it; when its time, its time.
Growing up, I saw people lose their loved ones and cry because they were no more. I saw people organise funeral ceremonies with little or no money. Funeral ceremonies used to be for mourning the dead and a time for serious reflection for the living.
In those days, Igbo women attended funeral ceremonies with nothing but Nigerian wax. It was seen as an abomination for one to dress gorgeously to a burial ceremony. This is because when you dress that way, it is assumed you are happy at the demise of that person and indirectly, you are mocking the family.
I donâ€™t know much about other traditions, but I know that even the westerners wear black or dull materials to funeral ceremonies and are usually in a very sober mood. This shows the kind of pain death leaves in our hearts whenever our loved ones are taken away.
The story is totally different in this 21st century. Sometime last year, a man who lost his mother was crying during the announcement in church. Jokingly, the pastor asked people not to say just sorry, but to assist the man financially. To the surprise of everyone present, this very man agreed with the pastor when he playfully said he was crying because there was no money to bury the woman.
The above story sounds somehow foolish, but that is where we are in history. When someone dies, we are no longer faced with the pain associated with the loss but the greatest pain comes with the fact that there is no good money for the ceremony.
Most times, I extol the Islamic tradition and style of burial knowing full well that is what it should be- we came from the dust and to the dust we return. If this is the fact, why then do we spend millions of money to bury the dead when those living donâ€™t even have food to eat?
The most painful part of it all is that we donâ€™t do anything to help things while the person is alive. We heard they were in the hospital and didnâ€™t even create time to visit them. Your staff told you his mother was sick and you did nothing to help pay her bills, you didnâ€™t even give him some time off to pay her a visit. The most wicked of it all is that he applied for a loan/IOU to go and take care of his sick child and you continued with your â€œdelay strategyâ€.
Now they are bereaved and being what you are, you are doing everything possible to cover your nakedness. Your late brother lived in a house with leaking roof and he had no food to eat, but you were there in your palace and never bothered about the welfare of his family. Your church member was sick and you were too busy to pay her a visit and now she is gone.
What is the next step you are going to take? You have to renovate the house under one month and buy the best casket with gold trimmings. There must be five different caterers to feed the millions of people coming to â€œrejoiceâ€ with you. His widow has no food to eat, but she has to wait until that very day to eat well.
How about the asoebi for the funeral? I think this will make it more colourful and carnival-like. Your wife belongs to 10 social clubs while you belong to six. Your children and business associates also have their own uniform. You must plan it in such a way that when you go back to the office, your colleagues begin to respect you more.
I wish itâ€™s possible for the dead to sometimes wake up and fight their cause. The same brother you refused to help when he was alive. The same sister and mother your evil wife chased out of the house and stopped you from assisting? The same staff you refused to give IOU for his health? He is dead and gone forever; what are you going to do?
After all the carnival and partying with one million cartons of crystal wine, what is the spirit of the dead saying about you? What are his poor widow and helpless children saying about you when they lie down in their rooms?
The other aspect is this thing about asoebi for funeral ceremonies. Since when did death become a thing of joy? Since when did we start adorning ourselves in costly apparels and ornaments for the dead? Since when did we start celebrating the demise of our loved ones?
Where did this practice come from? When did we stop having tears in our eyes for the dead? We now print very expensive invitation cards for burial and buy very expensive clothes. In doing this, are we really mourning the dead? Are we really weeping and sympathising with the family of the dead?
This other one is very serious; Africans now use death for money making. We now see death as an occasion to make money. Havenâ€™t you noticed that instead of people who lost their loved ones in plane crashes mourning the dead, they are more concerned with what they have to gain from the airlines? We now have people fight themselves after burial ceremonies.
It is worse in my tradition. In Igbo land, a woman who loses her husband has lost everything. I tell people to pity Igbo widows because they go through hell. Immediately the man drops dead, his closest brother becomes his greatest enemy. This shows that while you live in wealth, someone is somewhere praying for you to die quick.
The next thing they do is to go to the widow of their late brother and ask for sex. Tradition will even tell her that she is not entitled to anything except she is ready to be married to the manâ€™s younger or elder brother. They team up with umu-ada(female relations already married) to deal with the woman.
I keep asking why a woman will allow herself to be used against a fellow woman going through pain when she knows it could be her turn tomorrow. I write this with tears in my eyes because I run an NGO for widows and I have heard a lot from them. Guys, this is not right.
That widow is in pain, she just lost someone very dear to her. His children just lost their father and they need to be loved. Donâ€™t go on taking everything away from them. Please stop making life miserable and more painful for them. Stop reminding them how much their father loved and cared for them and how he left them so early in life. Heaven will not be happy with you and even the ground you walk on will turn against you someday in the future if you go on in this evil.
Let us go back and put away this style of partying and making money from the dead. Let us use that money to feed the living. It is a different thing if the person lived long and it is just a celebration of life. It is a different thing if the person touched lives in his or her lifetime and we feel we have to honour them. If you did not take care of that man or woman while they were alive, why do you throw parties and renovate their houses when they are no more?
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