There is no you, there is dying. First things first. There is no way to unsmell the smell of dying. If you smell yourself, you would smell a dying. May your dying be blessed. In all your dying, may there be a living for to live is to die, and to die is to live.

Everything has a name – death has a name and even nameless is a name. Name all that comes with you, name the dying, name the blessings, count them one by one. Name before counting because names and numbers are different weights and memory could be too light to carry variegated weights if you’re not deliberate. Memory can be a lazy, forgetful machine.

So name, name all the lights of the decade. Memory names the dark easier but name the lights too, name the good smells and their tidings, name the evil walls crumbled, name the new bonds, name the pure earthen joy. Name all of it.

And if you forget names easily, count too.  Name the blessings, then count them one by one, but please name before counting. The feeling is sweeter than counting good money.

Some lines from Chris Abani’s Dew: There are no names for red. As for amber, what words can be said to God? Holy the glow. Holy the O. Holy the old. Amen.

 

Interpret it as you wish. If there is anything you can’t name, any feeling you can’t describe, there is a word that tries in at least one language.  If there would be no name, there is still the ‘red’.  And as for amber, there is no shame in its glow, there is no need to hide it. If you burn, you burn. Why hide a fire when the ash would eventually be seen? Even if you think no one is trustworthy enough with the wild dance of your flames, why burn in silence? It may seem there is no one to trust but trust would always find you. When it finds you, resist the temptation of silence. Do not say you are fine when you are not.

There is no strength in dying.

Flames do not make a man; smoke does not make a woman more enduring. You should not love the taste of concealed inner fires, the acrid taste of burning, so bad that you muffle your scream. There is always a Good Samaritan restless at the sight of a bleeding neighbor or burning soul, willing to extinguish even if quite ignorant of the depths and breadths and breaths of the case.

It’s not about the depths and breadths, it’s about you. It’s about burning. Your glow is holy enough. The O is holy enough. You do not have to burn. Amen.

My father recently taught during Bible Study that dying could be peaceful. He said he wanted a peaceful death: to call my brother and me, knowingly say his last words and then ask the skillful pianist – my brother – to play a nice hymn. He would then go to sleep into paradise.

That’s how Grandma left, he reiterated. That is how Kenneth Hagin left.  Peaceful – piano or not. He described their deaths with laughter punctuating it. My grandmother, his mother, died at 96, and she called him the previous night.  “You that you are always busy to see me. Soon you will want to see me but it would be late.” She asked for special food on the morning of her death and refused to eat in the afternoon.

She knew she could not fill herself further. It was time to sleep. A soft, painless living sleep.

I have a vague memory of someone singing something like “Mama has died, where has she gone, home/ paradise/heaven something.”  Likely, it was in Yoruba.  A little child kept singing it and his brother told him to stop singing death.

Another little child, in the simple tender ways children speak said the adults were speaking too much grammar about Grandma, that he’d miss her more than them. He’d miss her sweets.

The adults sprayed money on the child that day.

At the beginning of the decade, I believed money grew on trees. It must be the fantasy stories and cartoons. Maybe the Enid Blyton. It was until I heard my parent – or some other significant adult – ask, “You can’t finish your food? Eh, you want to waste sweet food somebody is praying for? Money does not grow on trees.

At the beginning of the decade, there were conversations equally as memorable.

At the beginning of the decade

Me: why is the sky blue?

Adult: You this child! The sky is blue because it is the sky ah! It is how God created it.

Me: Who created God? And how does the sky change colour at night? Where does those Mr. Sun go? And those twinkle twinkle little stars.

The adult goes on to explain solar system and space and all but it seems gibberish to my childish mind.

 

At the end of the decade

Me: Sir, teach me again, I don’t want this physics to spoil my result.

 

At the beginning of the decade

Mum: How do you know that at your age?

Me: I don’t know, it’s just in my head.

Mum: You are very intelligent. This head is full of good things.

 

At the beginning of the decade

Me: Daddy I don’t want to get married.

Dad: Oh you want to be like Paul?  Well, we’d see!

 

At the end of the decade:

Me: I must have been observant. I must have heard marriage was not easy and wondered why food was sweeter at weddings – there were differences between aunty xyz’s yeye salty rice, mummy’s rice and party rice.  I must have wondered why it all seemed an elaborate rehearsal, why it was the perfect climate for uncle or aunty to shout when you asked for help with your shoelace. It was the wrong time to sneeze or use the toilet.

 

At the beginning of the decade:

Adult: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Me: DOCTOR! Doc-tor!

Adult: That’s very good, read your books well and don’t play with bad boys.

 

At the end of the decade:

I’m walking in a teaching hospital and a woman mistakes me for a resident doctor. I almost choke. Me, resident doctor ke!

The top or perhaps the top of the top is a tip, not the top. The top is at the bottom.

The work is in there.

In this new decade, may I survive with work. I wish I would not be an adult for the rest of my life. I wish I could be a child again, play with sand, enjoy my mother’s breast, kick the heavy football, laugh and laugh at all the cartoons and their joys.

I wonder if my parents feel I grew up too soon. I wonder how it is for life to grow inside you and then come to the earth, crying at its unfamiliarity. I wonder how it is to watch that life grow and grow  – flesh, heights, and soon, a beard.

I wonder how it is to watch a life grow old.

Isn’t it funny how when life is funny, we don’t laugh?

May funny things not happen.  May you live, may I live, may there be many lights to bewilder us, may memory gift us bright beautiful names.

May all dead things be dead and forgotten.

You know, there are no names for ‘dead.’

 

 

Categories: Nonfiction