Sunday 16 November 2014

Nigeria: If we are to have deathbed goodbyes

From reality to memory
Watching films sometimes brings up episodes of life experiences that circumstances might dictate we never experience. As we grow older we begin to realise certain certainties of life where people we once saw as we were growing up have become a distant memory.
Yet for me I realise that the closest I have ever been to the death of a relation was 37 years ago, the death of a great aunt, the wife of the younger brother of my great-grandmother, we called her Iya Ijebu. I will not go into complicating that relationship.
A tribute paid
My great-grandmother and her brother sowed the seeds to the sheltered life I have lived because they decided my father should get the best education they could afford and from then on, my father became the first a long list of accountants that came from my village.
As I approach mid-century years and my father has passed 75, the memory of the people I once knew fades as the wizening of age takes its toll, the truth left unspoken is a reality that dawns for many of us.
The new communication
It was on Facebook that I learnt of the death of an aunt, just a few months ago; she was my father's second younger sister who passed on after a brief illness, the brief illness – an affliction that has shovelled too many to mention to the Great Beyond in Nigeria.
When I called my father to express my condolences, between musing and expressing the truth, he suggested I might well learn of his passing from the same medium.
The fact is, I have learnt of the passing of lovers, friends, cousins, uncles and now an aunt on Facebook, if I am spared to mercifully have my parents predecease me, it is very probable I might learn of such on Facebook.
The speed at which we approach that medium before we consult, communicate and confirm is alarming and disconcerting, but Facebook has become part of life.
Deathbed opportunity
This however conceals another reality, in more developed countries, it is very likely that generations of a family are closer rather than in far-flung places. When you read of the passing of people, they are most likely surrounded by close family who have had the opportunity to say their goodbyes before they have to plan committal.
Some of those who have already lost their parents may appreciate this more, because they never had those deathbed experiences, deathbed which could be many things from watching life slowly ebb away to the lucidity of blessing and encouragement, the deathbed wish that someone promise something.
The call is rare
Though there are others whose sudden death again robs their kin of the parting from life goodbye as grief sets in coupled with deep sorrow, it is almost impossible to celebrate that life for a long while.
This is the world today, one where for life and livelihood, because we have a motherland too messed up for words and we do not have the unlimited means to keep everyone together, we might experience that rotten situation where we were joyfully welcomed at birth, but we miss the deathbed goodbyes of those who brought us into this world and gave us the foundation for the lives we now live.
That call to the bedside, be it at the homestead, in a hospice or a hospital is not easy to make rather than to inform, the rush against time rarely is on time before the person is gone, making it sadder still.
For this chapter ending story of existence of those who matter to us the most, we must consider what change we need for our country that we do not have to read of the death of relations again on Facebook, but have the blessing of seeing our forebears pass on in our presence having lived a full life.
The other matter beyond the particular is in another blog.

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