Death proves that most of our culture is rooted in poverty – Peju Akande

Death proves that most of our culture is rooted in poverty – Peju Akande



I went to pay a condolence call on a couple on whom death played a fast one; whose son passed recently. They are just getting by in the one-bedroom apartment they share with their three children. When I got there, the room was filled to capacity with mourners; my friend and I managed to squeeze ourselves among them so we could pay our condolences.



I expected a thoroughly tear-drenched woman; a woman who just lost her first son to the cold hands of death; a 15-year-old prodigy, I was told.



A pastor was talking and they were telling her not to cry. They told her that crying meant she had no faith in God; the one to whom all flesh returns. They told her she should accept that this untimely death was God’s will for her. But she didn’t listen to them because, you see, they would never understand her pain.



I too will never understand her pain; having never been in her situation and I pray never to. But I didn’t tell her not to cry. I wanted her to cry. I wanted her to wail and beat her breasts and cry as hard as she wanted; because she had a right to cry. I felt she must be allowed to cry freely. In fact, she must feel free to wail because a painful void had been created. Further, we all had no idea how to fill it for her, at least not just yet.



Then she demanded to know the burial site.



‘Ha, ewoo!’ A matronly woman amongst us sympathizers exclaimed loudly. ‘It is forbidden to know the burial site of one’s child,’ she said.



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That may be so, I reasoned despite the air of sadness that hung thick. But this woman, the one who was told not to cry, I figured; maybe this was what she needed to be sane again. She kept pointing to a spot in the living room. This was where the boy sat shortly before he was taken to the hospital. That was the last image of him that she had.



Seemingly in her mid-forties, this woman couldn’t believe that what she thought was a ‘small crisis,’ could lead to death. But if one is familiar with sickle cell anaemia, no crisis is ever ‘small’. Indeed, all crises can potentially lead to death. They both knew this, she and her husband.



Death proves that most of our culture is rooted in poverty - Peju Akande




But after 15 years of crises and harrowing days and nights in and out of hospitals; they had learned to stare a few crises in the face and hiss. This one was one of such…or so they thought.



The night before, he only complained about joint pains; a common ailment among those plagued with sickle cell. His mother was said to have rubbed him down with ointment to ease his pains. She administered his medications and he soon settled for a good night rest.



But by the following morning; his pains came on again, prompting his parents to decide to take him to the hospital. The father volunteered to do that. His mum, having seen him in worse conditions; didn’t think it warranted her following them down to the hospital. So she stayed back to prepare him a meal he loved.



But he didn’t even make it to the hospital. He passed on in the cab they hired, on the way to the hospital.



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At the hospital, the personnel refused to take in the boy. They declared him dead on arrival at the gate after checking. The rest of the morning was a blur. The father called a few close friends; who also happened to be members of his church to come to his aid.



They came. They took the boy off him. In his grief, he didn’t know what they had in mind. He was too shocked, too devastated to think. His friends from church had gone ahead to bury the boy. A good deed they thought to do for the father. He didn’t need to know where or how. No parent should have to bury their young. In fact, no parent should know their child’s grave site, they concluded.



Death proves that most of our culture is rooted in poverty - Peju Akande




They escorted him home to relay the news to his wife. She passed out. She woke up and passed out again.



‘Where did you bury him?’ she asked.



They wouldn’t tell her.



They let her wail a while and a few hours later, told her to stop wailing…Her son’s body hadn’t completely gone cold in the grave and they told her to stop crying for him.



This is so wrong, I thought.



As a mother, I bet she would be thinking;



‘Maybe he isn’t dead. Maybe they thought he was dead and now they’ve gone to bury him. Or maybe he is calling me to come open the ground and bring him out…He didn’t show me any sign that he wouldn’t be coming back.
‘As a mother, I should’ve known. There should be signs pointing to it. He just got up and left…and now he isn’t back, it can’t be’.


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That may just be the reason she kept mumbling; trying to arrive at some sense to this sudden passing.



But the women who surrounded her kept saying; ‘Don’t cry, it is enough, don’t cry.’…to a death that’s less than one week!




Let her cry, please!



Then I asked myself, will the crying bring the boy back?







But she would find relief.



Yes, crying is therapeutic. Men should cry when in agony. Boys should be allowed to cry when life fails them. So, she can cry for the next one week, one month. Heck, let her cry for the next six months. Her son died suddenly and she had no idea where he was buried. She can’t be told. Those who buried him thought they were doing her a favour. ‘



It’s our culture,’ they kept repeating.


ALSO READ: Our culture of silence is plain nasty by Peju Akande



But I know if she had been a rich woman; if she had the means to do things for herself, no one would tell her it was a taboo to know where her child was buried. I know several rich folks who are in this unfortunate situation. They go to their children’s grave sites to drop flowers, pray, mediate. Who is telling them it is a taboo to know their child’s grave site?




Admittedly, no parent should ever have to go through this. I just feel like if this woman was not short-changed by a culture of poverty; her tears may have ceased a lot earlier; especially if she knew how her boy was buried and where.




Again, I reiterate, no parent should ever have to bury their young. However, should this unfortunate incident happen, and the parent wishes to know; let’s put culture aside and help them find peace, even closure for their pain.

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1 Comment

  1. Emmanuel

    You did not in anyway address your title in this write up.

    No reference to the claim in the title.

    Kind of difficult clicking to read your stories again knowing its promoted on disconnected title and body.


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