And She Went Away…


— By Alexandrine from Burkina Faso

It was one April evening, in two days I was going to celebrate my twentieth birthday. Night had barely fallen on my peaceful town. Sitting in the courtyard of the house, just in front of the door to my room, I was looking at the sky. A beautiful starry sky, it looked like the stars were celebrating. Without really knowing why, my thoughts had gone astray to the theme of death. I thought it was a beautiful night to die. The next moment I felt guilty, as if I had just committed a murder in thought. I quickly chased these black ideas and turned back to my little sister. She sat in front of me in an armchair leaning against the wall. Her head slightly inclined to the side, she was quiet. From the height of her 14 years, she was beautiful, my sister. I was five when she was born. I remember as if it was yesterday. Dad brought us – my brothers and I – and told us that Mom was going to come back from hospital with a little sister. I did not understand much of it. I just knew I was happy to see this sister. At the ceremony of the eighth day, the ceremony in which the baby goes out publicly, I asked my mother, “By the way, how is she called, the little sister?” “Solange,” answered my mother. Solange – this name will forever be etched in my head and in my heart…

I was watching her frail body and her peaceful face, empty of emotions. This face once so cheerful. She was the joy of life of the family, sparkling and inquisitive. Her contagious laughter resounded throughout the house. The youngest, as she was called, was the favorite of all and enjoyed all the attention. I was jealous sometimes.

Now she is only the shadow of herself. A disease whose name is unknown has taken possession of her body, and she is perishing day by day. After days spent in the hospital without much satisfaction, we returned home. Day and night I was with her. I had asked permission from the university to spend as much time as possible with her.
That night I was observing her without knowing what to say to ease her pain. Despite her apparent suffering, she never complained. She suffered in silence and when she could, she even offered us her childish smile.
That night I was observing her and unintentionally, I began to think of all the moments of happiness we spent together. Our complicity, the little disputes, the laughter, the little tricks we played to our two brothers. A battle of girls against boys…

That day, all day long, she did not want to eat. She rejected everything I brought her. Meals, medicines, everything. In the evening, to give her a little air, I helped her to sit in that chair and I sat in front of her. I was observing her when suddenly her head bowed abruptly. I rose hastily from my chair and shook her. I shouted her name several times without answers. The continuation of the events is only fog in my head. I saw my father in tears, covering the little body with a sheet, and he lifted her from the armchair to the room.

Solange was gone. Forever. It was a beautiful night to die!


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?