ON MY FUNERAL DAY

THE MOURNERS came, with lots of noise and tears, crying their dry eyes out. No one stopped them. They were left to wail and weep, even though they made all that din.

And the merry-makers, theirs was even more dramatic, their lives are simple, they simply make merry. It does not matter the occasion which has brought them together. Their occupation is to sing and be happy, that is their job, their life. In large numbers they came out to lighten up the place, all three categories of them – the clowns, the eaters and the musicians – merrymaking from dawn until everyone else is gone.

And then of course my old friends, drawn out of the distant mists of childhood, reappeared with appropriately long faces. They murmured here and there about a few breaches of tradition but generally they held their peace. Rice and stew were very plenty, palm wine flowed as if the very trees wept, drowning their complaints in their throats; they left everybody alone and except for their ponderous thoughts nobody remembered their presence.

Two T.V. reporters with their camera men, a few newspaper journalists, a couple of ministers and princes, a former president, a galaxy of celebrities, a throng of socialites and a pride of leaders. Soon the whole place was turned from a place of solemn silence to something like the setting for a television talk-show. Who was going to be interviewed? The departed spirit? I chuckled; good that no-one heard me.

The few people who knew me well wondered at all the noise, all the crowd. Could I, who had so dearly nourished simplicity and quiet while still alive, have really wished my departure to trigger this breach of it? They tried to voice their discontent, but my relatives silenced them with the counter-claim that I had always said that everyone was allowed to do as they wished, and so they did not feel it right to disobey my injunction upon my departure.

Clergy of different religions dragged the aura of their history into my home and solemnly spewed prayers into the air, while everyone closed their eyes and kept on chewing their food. And the liars. They were everywhere, telling lies. The gamblers were gambling. The drunkards were drinking. And the lies the liars told were shattering to the core, for the liars had once been my friends.

But, with love, with compassion, my eyes did rest on one or two visitors in whose heart I saw pain at my departure, in whose eyes I saw the glittering pearls of true tears ever and again wiped away with a sigh. I was sad for them, I wished they could feel the touch of my hand on their shoulder, hear my voice as I whispered to them, I’m still alive.

But what can you do? Each person will react in his own wto death, the victor. Each, according to his or her nature, will bring their character to the fore upon your departure and, symphony or cacophony, there is nothing you can do about it, not anymore.

And so I did not stay there long. I had known it would be like this – who doesn’t? And I had made her promise, she who I loved, who I love, promise me, yes I had made her promise me that she would take my body away, far away. And far away, in the heart of the beautiful woods, she and the children we bore, now adults, and our closest closest friends, they stood in a circle around my body. And though they did not see me, they sensed me, sensed that I was there, standing too in the circle with them, our unbroken circle of love. Far away from the noise and noisy thoughts of the world.

One of them played a flute, and the flute was enough, and spoke the language of our hearts; and every thought they thought of me was a thought of love, and my soul was full. And my spirit sang.

And soon the body, old and tired, rested deep in the cool depth of mother earth. There was a prayer my love was praying, and that was when I heard it, the other flute, the heavenly flute, it came from far away, from high high above, gripped my heart, and I saw the way home. At that moment her eyes opened and her love held me one more time, then with a gentle whimsical sigh she let me go.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.y

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