It’s not everyday that you see a dead body. Last night, I did. His name is (or was?) Sibomana. He was crossing the road when a car hit him. Maybe, he was going to the shops to buy something for his wife and their baby. I don’t know. But he died on spot. His lifeless body, covered by a kitenge, lay by the roadside. His sandals arranged by his feet. His head had been crushed and you could see a stream blood running from under the kitenge covering his body, and onto the tarmac. The car was parked, just a few meters from where his body lay. His wife sat there, numb.
It is poignant to watch a vulnerable person like her in a such painful situation.
Sibomana died last night, and I realized how extremely fragile our lives are. I truly realized how transient life is. Every time we are potentially flirting with death. You could lead a healthy lifestyle – drinking 2l of water a day, exercising regularly, eating vegetables & fruits – just choke on your own saliva and die, leaving behind guys who smoke and eat fries daily. At any given moment, one’s life can end in any number of unexpected ways. You don’t even need to do anything risky to die. One minute you could be walking to the shops to buy groceries and next minute a car hits you and you die. Like Sibomana. Or you could be showering, slide on the slippery bathtub floor, snap your neck and die. Or you could be having lunch, choke on a bone and die. Or you could be shot to death. You just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a bullet hits you. Or you could be declared dead untimely. You be screaming but nobody hears or answers you. You can’t move. It’s dark, you’re running out of air and no one can save you. No one knows you’re there. Then your world becomes soft and foggy and everything fades to black. Nothingness. Long and empty. And you’re gone. Or even, you could think that you have superpowers, jump off a very tall building and die.
Though a common preferred way to die, is in bed (pure, perfect, uninterrupted sleep) we don’t get to choose how we die. At the very least we don’t think we will die in a gruesome, brutal way. Yet sometimes, someone is just unlucky and dies in a strange and terrifying way, like Richard. I remember vividly the night when Richard died. Earlier that day, he’d been complaining about having a headache and couldn’t see. That day he was taken to Ndera (the Psychiatric Hospital). He was admitted, was scheduled to undergo head scans the next day. Unfortunately, he died that night and shocked everyone. Death took his life, leaving behind his old grandma who was completely dependent on him. I didn’t make it to his burial but I imagined the profound sadness that enveloped his grandma during his burial. I wished I could restore his life, for his wailing grandmother.
Sibomana and Richard probably never thought they would die that day, just like you don’t think you’ll die any time before your unfinished business. But the truth is that you could.
Richard’s and Sibomana’s deaths reset an already existing reflection in my head. Why do we fail to show love and care for the people we claim to love whilst they are still alive? Like, someone lays ill in a hospital bed for months, with no caregiver, nothing to eat. Though the person would so much enjoy a visit from relatives/friends, no one shows up. But the very moment the person draws their last breath, the relatives who had not seen him/her in decades show up out of the blue, crocodile tears flowing plenty. Makes one wonder where the so-called relatives and friends were when they were very much needed. The hypocrisy is mad sickening.
I’ve witnessed where upon the death of an old man, the relatives quickly re-innovated his house, painted it, put electricity and everything, so that the funeral be held in a decent place. They be mourning and groaning inappropriately. The hypocrisy that the mourners display is shocking. One would say that maybe they were trying to make up for what they had failed to do before, but it was too late. The old man was gone. Nothing could make up for the hurt they’d caused him. Yes, we should show love and respect to the deceased, but how about we show the same love and respect whilst they are still alive? How about we come together to help before the person dies?
People matter more than anything, more than money. People matter more than the things we kill ourselves to get. People matter more than another plot you want to buy, or another house you want to purchase. We should place value on people, not on money. We should invest in people. Because when the curtains close, all these things we kill ourselves to get won’t matter if you are alone at your deathbed.
Nothing exposes the ugly face behind the mask of concern that people wear, like death and funerals. That’s why I have always hated the hypocrisy at funerals. Sometimes it feels like funerals are for displaying the mask of concern that people wear and for showing how much they’ve been able acquire in life. Well, people are entitled to honor their loved ones in ways they please… But, funerals ought to be about giving support to the relatives of the deceased and to comfort them while celebrating the life of the deceased. To acknowledge the pain that comes from the demise of a loved one and help begin the healing process.