Disclaimer; This post may be all over the place. It was written in a whole lot of places.
There are a lot of things that cross your mind when you stand by the graveside of someone you knew. It’s even weird just talking about them in the past tense, simply because the last time their lungs filled with air was yesterday, a few minutes ago, last week, last year. They’re gone, and there is literally nothing you can do about it. You know, because if there was, you would do it in a heartbeat. If the universe came up with a way to bring back people we held dear. If Thanatos gave the option to have them back, who’s to say they would still be their same selves?
But you’re there, the earth is raw and you can still spot an earthworm or two in the pile of sand next to the rectangle. You hold yourself up because everyone else is being so strong and you also have to. Strength, at this point, sounds foreign. Strength is something nonexistent in your diction. You stop yourself every few hours to ask how you have held on when everything feels like it is crumbling. Nothing matters. The sun is not too hot, the air not too humid, clouds not too grey. You can withstand anything at this point because something totally different has taken over your shell and all you’re doing is holding on to a thread as events unfold.
I saw a lot of my people in this shell. People so strong, yet so broken by the matriarch’s passing that they cease to exist in the pain. I watched them pull themselves out to delegate and move locations and eat. I saw them crack jokes and laugh in an empty-shelly way that it gets you thinking.
You know when you have a bad couple of days, and it seems nothing is ever going to go right EVER? When a few things go awry and you deal with each problem as it comes. Then a couple more things go wrong and you start wishing, start cursing, blaming everything and every cat that crosses your path. I’m not superstitious, I’m just a little stitious, and when a client cancels a call, you get a TON of corrections on work you have done before without notes, your toenail gets caught on the carpet, you have a constant nagging headache and a black cat starts following you around when you go out to buy bread only to find they don’t have brown bread, you’re going to blame the white bread you left at the shop. Or the black cat. Your pick.
I recently had a ‘when it rains it pours’ couple of days, and actually got rained on at the worst possible time. The human body, as I came to know, can do whatever it is the mind tells it to do. Maybe I am sharing too much and a lady never tells, but I have rarely been known to follow rules. I did an entire hour and a half journey with a full bladder, and the journey back with the urine knocking ever not so subtly. My mind and bladder connected and kept each other dry, even as rain dripped all over me. Yup, literally, on the worst possible time, I got drenched just when my body needed to drench a toilet.
Okay, back to more socially acceptable topics. Why is death such a hush-hush topic? Why is it that, when my great-grandma passed, there was this silent bow done in my face, as if the curtains were drawn? The woman was 99 (according to the books. Everyone kept saying she must have been older] Why was it all sorrys and no aren’t you glad to have met her? Sat with her? Watched her smile and ask myself how she bit into apples with that huge gap in her front two?
I have been writing this thing for months now, and I don’t even have the words to make it into a complete post. Am I finished as a writer? Have my words faded and I, now, an empty vessel, remain here to wallow in the emptiness of 12:14 am, with no one to call and have and be? Is this my existential crisis, and how many am I allowed before I have to say I have nothing left?
How this thing will morph into a single thought, I have no idea. I just know I need to write again, and doing it in parts is what is working now, so…
Some strange things happened as I stood by that graveside. The rain seemed to wait for just the right moment [unlike when I actually needed to be dry]. It was somber, but there was this feeling in the air, that she was there, watching, or maybe I have seen too many movies and need some reality.
They poured battery acid on her. My Kisii County people are known to find the dead quite delish, so now, when your loved one passes, you have to make sure they are really gone. The acid comes after she is lowered to the ground, to minimize any nightmares that may creep into the night. Without it, the matriarch would be excavated in the cover of darkness, right about the time I am writing this: 12:20 am. The matriarch would be eaten, and honestly, I wonder what a woman as strong as her would taste like.
Would her flesh be tender, to disregard the years she has toiled, or would it match it, blow for blow. She didn’t live quietly, that one. They kept saying she “loved life”. She was a drunk, that’s for sure, but she was a drunk who was in bed by 7 pm [unlike a lot of you]. A responsible drunk, have you heard of such a thing? Her thing was busaa, made with leftover ugali because there was frugality in her generosity. Nothing was wasted with the woman.
As I stretched my cup of busaa to the hot water guy [which, did you know busaa was topped off by hot water?] I realized what legacies this woman left behind. A mother to 9, and 8 boys, even her teeth feared her and had to stay apart. It is because she insisted, with tooth and cane [ha-ha] that her children must go to school, that I am telling stories through my fingers. Poseidon knows I couldn’t have managed to do word of mouth.
As the flour settled in my cup, and I had to look for a stick to stir [the situation called to twigs, not spoons] I listened to the stories of her thrashing my grandma and her siblings if they did not want to go to school. A woman after my own heart, even before she knew me. She needed the cane, especially with 8 boys. That’s what they said.