On a day like this 6 years ago, I received the news that my mum was no more.
I drove home crazily at midnight, hoping that I would save her life. She couldn’t be gone-she hadn’t reached that die-able age when hands get gnarled and the brain gets cold with Alzeihmers.She was a hip digital mum-always texting me some punchy Bible verse every Sunday. No, mum wasn’t gone. DENIAL
When I touched her lifeless body at the morgue, it dawned on me she was gone. She had danced in the wind and melted into the universe, becoming one with the stars. My world came crushing; my tears glands went supernova. I wanted to hold on to something and crush it. Like Samson of yore, I wanted to bring down the temple of life and go down with it-and thus join her. ANGER.
Life, why have you treated me like you once caught me sleeping with your pretty wife? What do you want in exchange for her life? God, do you care as they say in the good book? Are you going to answer these questions of my soul Lord? What can I do for you? BARGAINING.
From that moment on, grief and his twin brother sorrow embraced me like two jealous Oga wives, each fighting for a piece of me. Like a sore tooth that is not content to throb in isolation but spreads its pain to the whole head, this sorrow engulfed my whole body. I wore sadness like a dirty sackcloth, my shoulders forever falling like teardrops. DESPAIR
I come from a community that’s known for thrift. Every coin is to be saved. Every drop of water is to be conserved-including tears. A man crying in a funeral is an abomination. Not even for his mother.
Thus the burial day found me standing there stoically, holding back an El Nino of tears in my head. Anytime I turned, I could feel my head go whoosh like three quarter full calabash. I couldn’t cry-because Kikuyu men don’t cry in funerals. Culture is a tyrant.
Forget culture, a man should be allowed to mourn his mom. Why? One’s mom is one’s needs answered. A man is at home with his friends when life is good. But when the vultures of sorrow start hovering ominously over his head, he seeks refuge in his mother’s bosom. A man would like his mum to live forever, but death has it macabre plans.
It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined. The memory becomes permanent, like a government job. Long after my mom’s burial, the funeral proceedings played in my head for a long time. ‘Ash to ash, dust to dust’, the wind whispered. Anytime I looked at the grave I knew that therein, in the words of English poet Rupert Brooke, there is ‘a richer dust concealed’. Then I stopped shedding tears that she was gone, and started smiling because she had lived. I let her rest, not because I loved her less, but because I cherished her memories more. ACCEPTANCE.
Life is full of contradictions. We all want to live to ripe old age, but we detest gnarled hands and grey hair. We all want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to die. Can we cross the river without the bridge? Shakespeare reminds us that every day we rot and rot as we approach our graves. Mr. Death lurks in our shadows, waiting for that destined moment to claim our limbs and free the soul from the pestilence of the body. So we live in his constant dread, every waking day. But is death the end?
Sri Chinmoy tells us, Death is not the end. Death is the road. Life is the traveller. The soul is the guide. When the traveller is tired and exhausted, the guide instructs the traveller to take either a short or a long rest, and then again the traveler’s journey begins.
We spend a lifetime preparing for this fleeting life. Forgetting that we will be dead for an eternity. We need to learn to humor Death-because he is one side of living. We need to have a swanky image of him-not some hooded gothic scepter with a scythe in hand.
Some nerdy graphic designer kid needs to come up with a sexy symbol of death-a friendly chap in skinny jeans, a killer Mohawk and an iPad. He needs to have a swanky iPhone 6 that he uses to call guys and tell them in a foreign heavenly accent-get ready buddy, you are next.
This death guy should be on WhatsApp. Every Monday, he should add all people who are going to die that week into a group called ‘Club Eternity’. Then add them as friends on Facebook as well. On Throw Back Thursdays he should share photos of guys who left us last year. Then on Saturdays he should share photos of some heavenly parties,#HeavenBashManenoz.
Yes, Mr. Death should also be in Twitter-with hash tags that trend forever. Death should also be in Instagram, with millions of selfies.
When this happens, we will be brave enough to tell Death when he comes knocking: ’come right in D-boy. I was expecting you!’’
Buda, what’s your favorite drink again? Hell’s Flames you say?
Hio sina,but I got a quarter of Blue Moon. Here, to eternity.
Mr Death, will you listen to some music?
Can I play you Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’? ‘Samidoh? You can’t hurry death’ by the Heavenly Supremes?
Sire, you are getting tipsy now. Let’s do that last selfie. Chap! Don’t forget to share it on your wall and tag all my friends. Now, let me dance into eternity where I belong. Ciao!
This life will finally kill us. We need to learn to accept death not as an opposite of life, but as a continuation of it. To that end, I want to feel alive while I am. I will feel the earth with my bare feet and let the wind play with my hair. One day, death shall surely die, and I shall wake up eternally.
Then, like God’s prima donna that I am, my soul shall sashay into the cosmos.
Mom will be there, leading the Heavenly Mothers Union choir in the crystal stairs. Belting her heart out to the beat of golden karing’aring’a and silvern kayamba.
In loving memory of maitu-Mary Njambi Mwangi