Dance of the Dead


— By Sebastiane from Nigeria

My people have a saying that sleep is a kin and brother to death. As a child, I often battled with comprehending such proverbs; ‘why would anyone liken sleep to death?’ would I often say to myself. But then I saw him (again) today, and it all made perfect sense.

For a moment I wished he was truly as asleep as he looked like he was, and that he would jump up the next second to answer his name… ‘Oh Ade’ was all everyone could mutter in dripping tears and silent cries. The priest had said earlier that ‘no one should shed a tear but rather rejoice, for our brother (and friend) who had gone to meet with the lord!’ Either no one listened or they didn’t believe him!

As I looked into the coffin from a distance, behind the swamp of other friends and relatives who stood there to catch a last glimpse of him, I recalled all the wonderful times we spent together , the happy and not too happy times (No, I shouldn’t be remembering that part!).

Was he smiling or was that how his face has always been? Is he happy? If he were given a second chance, what would he have done differently? We have been friends for as long as I can remember; he was my best friend and brother. As I looked at his firmly shut eyes, a story my grand dad told me many years ago came to mind. It is a story about what happens in the spirit world after a person dies.

Grand pa said when a person dies, he goes to meet his friends and family who have died before him and they throw a big party in his honor where they eat, drink and dance, laughing as he tells them tales and all that have happened on earth and within their families after their demise.

Was he really with the lord as the preacher had told us earlier or was he engaged in the big banquet prepared to welcome him into the spirit world? Somehow, grand pa’s version stayed. I stood there imagining my lost friend happy and celebrating with all those who have died before him and are long gone, great grandparents and ancestors.

Was this true? I imagined my friend looking down at the whole of us mourning and crying. Could he be partaking in a dance of the dead right now with a calabash of palm wine in his palm and kola nut in his mouth, celebrating his passage to the other side while we all cry and mourn here?

‘I know he is happy wherever he is’, came a voice from behind. I turned to see an elderly woman smiling at me as if she could read my thoughts and hear my questions. Without looking back in the coffin, I walked out of the room. Was the woman a messenger from the other side and could she really see through me into my thoughts? It was all becoming too scary!

Oh Ade… But could he really be partaking in a dance of the dead while we mourn?




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