Mazi Ejike has departed us and this is too painful to bear. So on Saturday , hopefully the rains would be resting in the clouds , gazing down, silent at his funeral and it wouldn’t forget to pay its last respect with a smooth wind. Hopefully too, the sun would not skin us dry, the village leaders would pay their respects and perhaps, hopefully, we won’t feel the enormous weight of Mazi’s absence. If he hadn’t died, ‘Saturday’ would fade unnoticed, like any other day, it will flaunt away without causing us pain and wicking long tears from our eyes, but it will come and it will leave its clinging touch in our dampened hearts.
They would bring him home in an ambulance, wailing in the distance, inch by inch, drawing closer to the family compound and Mazi’s first daughter would wield in pain and agony – Mazi’s enlarged portrait of him, and for the last time in the world, through his static eyes, he would gaze at the unmade roads from his paternal and maternal homes and like the undead, faces would stare at his picture a last time and some might ask who he is, and what killed him. At their puzzling heartfelt questions, the ambulance would slowly drive away to his home and behind, a long line of slow-moving cars would follow. We would gather about the arrived car and welcome him home. He wouldn’t utter a word to us, or approve our yearnings; he would but engrave his body behind the now-silent ambulance and just listen to our voices.
‘A minute of silence please!’ his first son Obika Ejike would echo. As mute as limbo, the noises would quench and a tear would pamper Obika’s eyes. He would enigmatically, as a man, fish for his kerchief in the folds of a pocket and mop his face off tears. We would take notice of this and wish for him that it never happened this way and then, with swollen hearts, we would curse on death. In our minds, we would gather our bleeding hearts and ready it to see it too, when our time drew close.
When one minute is elapsed, the women’s guild of St Anthony’s church would begin a funeral song. We would drown in their sorrowful voices, singing praises of a true hero, a legend, an icon, who upon all the negativities of the world, remained true to his course on this earth.
All about us, pale faces would then murmur and swing their heads. They would say, “Mazi was a good man”. Some would say, “He lived a fruitful life”. And others, his unknown enemies would contort their faces, inwardly excited at his departure. The women would sing on and our arms would wriggle about our chest and in our minds, forever, we would acclaim ‘this memory must be sketched’
At last, there singing would sojourn, following a lengthy prayer from a leader, as the sun begins to crawl out the shadows. And since we’re close confidants of the family, an extended version, we would march to the back of the black Volvo; six able bodied youths, wearing papa’s adieu polo, to carry our brother, our father, the oldest voice we once had in the family, our kinsman and when the trunk pops open, we see his golden casket. Anxiety would grip us and with strong hearts, carefully, as the crowd gathers about the long automobile, we would pullout the coffin, ‘Gently!’, Obika would warn, ‘gently please!’, he would add with fuss. We do just that not because he said thus, nor because we carried a dead body but sincerely because our kinsman has died.
‘Where is his wife?’ someone in a small group would ask. A finger would point to a flaky 60 year old woman, sobbing on her dead by a side, being consoled by two younger women. ‘Those are her daughters’, a third man in white flannel would say. And silence would gape at them because their chins would fall on their bunched fists and perhaps too, they would think: when we depart this world, would our children do so to us, by burying us in golden caskets and renovating our faded little abodes and would they in grand style, bid their eternal farewell to us? They would shake their heads and throw out saliva to the earth and say ‘Tufiakwa’.
Sure! There would be questions. The elders would ask if Mazi Ejike died in his sleep. It is the best way to die; they would say and nod to one another. In your sleep, you wouldn’t feel pain and stress, just your soul drifting away from your body and you would see the world no more, but a happier place. And the women, they would be behind the compound, hurrying about with food, packaging entertainments for the guests and they too would mourn silently in their own way because they all knew Mazi Ejike and because, when he walked this world, he felt their lives with an inerasable touch and their children would lurk about doors and peek at us as we carry Mazi into the now-white decorated parlor. The white clothed table would be his temporary resting place where his nine children, distant relatives, siblings, the entire community would emerge to see his cold wrinkled face one final time before six feet swallows him. And from his white sitting room, we would heave him on our shoulders to his open grave, where a black clothed Reverend would stand in wait. Reverend Nicodemus would, as he sees as approach the newly dug out earth ready his chaplet and his Holy Bible and he would say to us, from his deepest experience about life and about funerals and about the strange ways of death and from his wise book, he would say to us that as we all have come to this world bare, so we would leave it behind, to rest bare in oblivion. After that Saturday, we would see Mazi Ejike every day, only in the portraits he left behind for us.
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