ONE LAST GOODBYE (2)

So, these past three weeks my siblings and I (with our mother and other members of our extended family and friends) have been involved with planning, organization and implementing several meetings and programs towards bidding my late Dad a befitting farewell from the face of the earth. The activities and meetings birthed a Service of Songs in Lagos (Nigeria’s Southwest) where my late father lived the most of his adult life, a Wake Keep and Burial/Interment at his country home in the village (Dunu) in Nigeria’s Southeast where he was born and lived most of his childhood, followed by hosting of various groups within and outside of the village that had come to pay their last respects to him in the village.

We agreed on the date for the burial the same week my father died, of course with inputs from relatives, and his associates especially via calls and instant messaging. Then we fixed other programs around that date. We also set up groups to plan and handle the Lagos as well as the Village arms of the events, while one of my elder sisters and I travelled between both ends to compare papers and follow up on activities already set in motion via calls. It appeared as if there was this heavy load placed upon me not necessarily after my father died, but immediately after a date was chosen for just more than a month after he died, taking cognizance of the fact that he had always expressed a desire to be buried not so long after his demise.

As the first son, the onus was on me to see that he had a befitting exit from the face of the earth, and I must say that I became somewhat restless from the moment a date was picked. We agreed to leave his body in the morgue of the General Hospital where he died in Lagos, against the usual practice of taking the dead to mortuaries near homelands in the Eastern part of Nigeria by Igbos, which was less expensive especially if the dead wasn’t to be buried anytime soon. Usually, someone in the village would be given a stipend to pay regular visits to the morgue there to ensure that proper attention is paid to the body, unlike with the Lagos morgue where there isn’t such a need. My experience at a morgue in Nigeria’s Niger Delta when I was there some years back, where corpses were left out in the sun “to dry”, sometimes even stacked up in standing positions when there wasn’t space, such that the bodies shrunk faster and faces looked distorted and requiring heavy makeups at time of burial, discouraged us from considering the less expensive option of moving the body to the homeland soon after my father died. We wanted to have him lie in state, especially since he hadn’t been back to the homeland for close to eight years and it was important for our extended family and kinsmen to have a glimpse of his image, closest to what he was alive before burial.

It was while we were making preparations for his burial that I started noticing very strange happenings. I have never believed in Ghosts, only a few people I know claim to have had encounters with ghosts. Even in the happenings that I experienced, I never saw any image suggestive of ghosts, even though I saw my Dad last and accompanied his body to be deposited at the morgue, the evening he died, then went with an elder in our mission to identify, collect and convey the body from the morgue in Lagos to the one in the east where he was kept for two nights before the burial, and also to identify him and join to move him to our house in the village where he was buried beside his father.

MOST CORPSES ARE CONVEYED FROM LAGOS TO OTHER PARTS OF NIGERIA IN A HEARSE LIKE THIS.
MOST CORPSES ARE CONVEYED FROM LAGOS TO OTHER PARTS OF NIGERIA IN A HEARSE LIKE THIS.

Though I saw him at each of those occasions, I had no nightmares, and wasn’t haunted by his face which was quite peaceful at the time he died and remained so afterwards. However, I did notice a presence around me, most times especially in my quiet moments when alone, regardless of the time of day or night. This continued for days before the burial, like nudging me to do what I needed to do in furtherance of the preparations for the burial. Many times I will lose an exercise book I had to record plans for the day and followup on activities, only to find it just in the most conspicuous of places. I also had near accidents, where I missed been injured by the whiskers both at home and outside the home, which wouldn’t have bothered me had it been a happenstance, even a second would have meant for me a coincidence.

When I got to the village with my elder sister to organize things before the rest of the family came along, I found to my chagrin that the light bulbs in the living room went dead, soon after I put them on, and refused to come on even after I changed the bulbs. The bulbs elsewhere were interestingly unaffected. We stayed for a week there using light from the TV and phones as our source of light in the living room before rectifying all points, burnt and unburnt the following week before the burial. Other strange occurrences continued up till the week of the burial, such that even the van we brought from Lagos with our goods, for use in the village for sundry haulage of goods and errands as the need arises, which prior to that time didn’t require much prodding to start, wouldn’t start most mornings without some mechanic or electrical works, which once dragged on for hours. It was at this point that I raised the alarm to any who cared to listen as to what I have been experiencing since preparing for my father’s burial. I could only put everything on the paranormal and tried not to bother myself so much about them, figuring that if I died and I had the sense of meeting loved ones without the ability to touch or speak to them, I’d employ almost the same tactics as I had witnessed in those few days to get across to my loved ones, and therefore began to see the events thereafter in another, yet positive light.

I can only ascribe to the divine the fair weather we enjoyed, during the Service of Songs in Lagos, travelling with family, friends and crew the day after to the village (with others coming from other parts of Nigeria as well), the Wake Keep (two nights after the Service of Songs), the Burial and Funeral Ceremonies the following day, as well as the following days of hosting the various groups on condolence visits. Even though these programs were slated in the middle of the rainy season, it didn’t even drizzle, until two days after the burial, on a Sabbath when it rained cats and dogs, while we stayed indoors to observe the day. We had another dry day afterwards to continue hosting groups, and the next day following with the weather favouring us.

The evening after the burial, I was overcome by a very deep sleep, and was nodding off at the slightest opportunity. I even disputed receiving a call from a friend until I checked the call log. It was so bad that I barely managed to have a wash, after having been prevailed upon to so do, having been at work from day break, which started early with conveying my father’s body accompanied by other members of the family, from the morgue in the next town (where we deposited it two days earlier from the morgue in Lagos), and working with other members of family and friends to ensure a hitch free exercise. Though the morgue in that town came highly recommended, I think because of proximity to my village, I wasn’t surprised by their lack of facilities. Bodies were laid on beds at least, though the morning we came to pick ours, we mistakenly drove to a part of the morgue where what seemed to be several new dead bodies, were laid on the bare floor with young men and women staff of the mortuary “preparing” the naked bodies, while they talked and moved about freely over, around and about the dead like something as normal as dealing stocks at the bond market.

I was almost somnambulistic by the next evening after the burial, as it seemed I was now running on low batteries. The events of those two evenings was later related to me by friends who witnessed my shenanigans. Eventually, we wound up all funeral activities and though all those who had come from outside our village started returning back to their bases a day after the burial, we all managed to return to our destinations in peace. There are many things I learnt from all that happened, some of which I have written about (and would write about) in other blog topics, others I would rather keep with me, especially as regards death and the afterlife, including the Igbo philosophy of death, until such a time as I have gathered enough information on the subject. For now, I will leave you with the lyrics of a song by the group ANATHEMA with which I grieved in the days following my father’s death and afterwards, titled – ONE LAST GOODBYE:

How I needed you
How I grieve now you’re gone
In my dreams I see you
I awake so alone

I know you didn’t want to leave
Your heart yearned to stay
But the strength I always loved in you
Finally gave way
Somehow I knew you would leave me this way

Somehow I knew you could never.. never stay
And in the early morning light
After a silent peaceful night
You took my heart away
And I grieve

In my dreams I can see you
I can tell you how I feel
In my dreams I can hold you
And it feels so real

I still feel the pain
I still feel your love
I still feel the pain
I still feel your love

And somehow I knew you could never, never stay
And somehow I knew you would leave me
And in the early morning light
After a Silent peaceful night
You took my heart away
I wished, I wished you could have stayed

‘kovich

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