I have been thinking of death lately. And who can blame me? In April, a friend of mine (facebook friend actually) died. His girlfriend asked me specially to attend the funeral. Couldn’t say no. So there I was saying ‘Hello Joseph. Goodbye Joseph,’ it was bizarre.
Then in October, another friend, Ogo, died. This is not good. When you get old, you can expect to have people dropping off like flies all around you. But not at my age.
Now, all these deaths have caused me to be musing about death – not a favourite pastime of mine – as I find myself going from funeral to funeral with barely enough time in between to change clothes. I even caught myself reading an article, ‘How To Prepare a Loved One for Death.’ Hmmm.
I used to like funerals. I really used to. There was a time when people understood what funerals were all about: crying. Loud raucous crying. Deep, heaving Sobs. Drama. Fury. Streams of tears. Floor rolling, thigh slapping, hit-head-on-the-nearest-wall kind of caterwauling. Scatter-body, scatter-place kind of yowling. Tear cloth and your neighbour’s cloth . . . you get the picture.
That also was when people revered death. I enjoyed the wearing of black, the solemnity of the proceedings, the somnolent music that pulled at the heartstrings – hell, funeral music used to be funereal, designed to make you cry even if you didn’t feel like it. I liked the long faces, the menacing presence of the Grim Reaper, scythe held at the ready to swing at anyone who seemed too unperturbed. Those were the days!
Nowadays, funerals are no longer sacred. And you know who I blame? I blame religious people; the clergy in general, and pastors in particular. They have put a too happy face on death, reassuring people too much of eternal rest and being in ‘a better place’ and all such wonder-stuff. They have placed such an embargo on grief, equating it to a lack of belief in eternal life, and/or a lack of willingness to accept a divine pronouncement.
There are a number of reasons why people need to mourn as heartbrokenly as they can, or wish to.
First, tears are therapeutic. I don’ think I need to provide links to any articles, or scientific facts to back this up. It is as simple as it sounds. You cry, you feel better.
Second, when a person is gone, they are irretrievably gone. You need to cry for all that was, is and never was and now never will be.
To counter, or dispute this, the clergy try to force eternal life on people.
I have some problems with eternal life;
- The criteria for qualifying for eternal life are so confusing and uncertain and fraught with ambiguity, that in the end, no one is really sure who will make it, and who wouldn’t/didn’t into this eternal place(s).
- The fact that my friend and/or family member made it into eternal life and I didn’t means we are still incontrovertibly separated. No hope for a reunion. So nothing doing.
- Still going on the premise that there is an afterlife, it is the general understanding that we will be so altered that mortality would take on immortality and so the things we like now, we won’t like then. I daresay if that is the case, the guy I drink vodka with, I can hardly see us singing Hallelujah together in heaven, even if we both made it in. It’s too weird.
- There is something deeply disturbing about the fact that while we are flexing in eternal life, some people we loved on earth will be burning in some place called Hell. Will we be made to suffer amnesia too, in order to be able to relax and enjoy eternal life?
- As with the question of the many gods that people subscribe to, how about if there are many eternities and we all show up in different places. Imagine me in Heaven and my friend Sidi in Paradise and my friend Shawon in Nirvana and so on. What good is that to anyone? Or are all the eternities synonyms of each other, so we all get to collide in one big sky party (thinking mile-high club) – the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu etc, and argue forever whose god is better. Or maybe by then, all the gods would have been subsumed into one, much like Pharoah’s magicians’snakes/ rods and Moses’.
- And finally, my biggest problem with eternal life. WE REALLY DON’T KNOW. You may believe, that’s your prerogative. You may hope, and wish and argue. But truth is, you don’t know for a fact that there is an afterlife.
From the foregoing therefore, it is my opinion that when a person dies, to you, they are finished. Gone. And if this isn’t enough to cause the floodgates to burst open, then what were they worth to you?
Yet, what pastors and priests are doing now is making people feel guilty about grieving. It is unacceptable, this unnatural suppression. How can I go to two funerals of young people and all I see is a sea of dry-eyed faces, each trying to out-accept the other in “the will of God ” and eternity. It is an outrage. The music is upbeat, in fact, in one of them, the pastor made an altar call and he proclaimed thus; “I can assure you that Joseph Dubem Udolisa will be very happy that on the occasion of his funeral, some people gave their lives to Christ. In fact, today is the best day of Joseph’s life.” I wanted to slap this bastard. Pastor, NO! I knew Joseph, and believe me, he wanted to be drinking beer and making love to his girlfriend. He didn’t want to die so you can use his funeral to win members for your church or whatever.
You see what I mean? These people are making people inured to death, when death is the most final thing there is to life. That’s why it is called “paying your last respects.” You should do it and do it well, empty yourself and be done with it. Not this antiseptic, lingering grief they prescribe. As far as we know, we only got this one life.
Here’s what I want when I die;
- I don’t want people going through my stuff, you know, my infantile scribbling, amateur poetry, love letters. You can however have my clothes and such.
- I would say cremate my body after harvesting the organs, but my family would have a fit. I really don’t care. Don’t take me in a church. These people have spoilt church for me.
- If you however do take me to church, no soul winning today. I am not happy I died, don’t add salt to my injury And everybody should wear black, and I don’t mean black jeans and flimsy see-through tops. I mean sombre, proper, if possible, oversized black coats (not blazer, or suits or jacket. Coat. There is a difference).
- Please let my family and friends cry. I deserve it. Let them grieve, lose their minds, stab themselves in the knee several times with a blunt object. My friend’s funeral, right in the church, there was a screen were a slide show of her pictures was rolling. Made me mad. I will only like that if it provokes a fresh bout of crying anytime a new picture slides in.
- If you owe me money, go and give it to my family. I will haunt you.
- If I owe you money, go and tell my family to give you your money. If I borrowed your stuff, go and ask permission to ransack and get your shit back. I did not die so that you will suffer. People are always dying and holding onto my stuff with a death grip, (the latest was my flash drive and eighteen thousand Naira) I don’t like it and won’t do it to you.
- Even if I don’t really care what happens after I’m dead, I would like to be buried somewhere nice. Think about it. I can’t stand horror movies. Then I die and you make me a horror movie. It’s not fair and it’s not right.
- Finally, I would like my friends to, when they are done crying, gather, have a big party and just talk about me. I would like that, being the star of the show. I know the curtain into the inner sanctum will not be ripped in two, the skies will not thunder with thunder or light up with lightning, with not shriek with streaks of luminosity, no falling or shooting stars, no rainbows. Google will not even register a blip. No, all the probability in the universe will not gather and applaud, nature will not revert. Nothing dramatic will happen. But you my friends will cry. And then you will party. And then you will carry me around fondly like a dull ache. And know that I came and lived and loved and died and gone.
Finally before I go, people always ask why all manner of things happen to me. I cannot say that I know the answer to that, but here’s something else that happened. The last funeral I went for, first my friend fell into a grave. Yup. Stood on a slab on an old grave and the thing just broke and he fell through. Then on our way leaving the cemetery, we thought we should try out a new route. Let’s just leave it at saying, we shouldn’t have.