Chris was driving me home one Saturday evening when we saw a party. I told him that it was definitely a funeral celebration. My weird reason was that the canopies looked like tents but that was just a lucky guess. He asked whether they were celebrating life or death and to this, I replied, ‘Life of course!” He said people tend to spend so much on funerals than they would birthdays and other celebrations, ‘especially the Yorubas’, he said. I argued that the Yorubas spend on weddings and naming ceremonies but that in Edo state, planning a funeral involves heavy spending. All over Benin City, particularly along Uselu road, casket makers are in business. Every other weekend, there is always a burial celebration and it is usually very grand with children, grandchildren, and cousins to nieces of the deceased wearing uniforms, dancing and sometimes, fighting. Relatives compete for food and special canopies are assigned to special people. Sometimes major roads are blocked depending on who died.
There is something particularly dark about funerals that makes me reluctant to attend. The only funeral I have attended in my life was that of someone I did not even know. I accompanied a friend to the event. After all the ‘feferity’, it was time for the coffin to go underground. This was when women wept, relatives wanted to go with the coffin etc. It was hard to believe that this man died three months before he was buried. One would think they had gotten used to his permanent absence. I found myself crying as hymns were sung and I did not even know the dead man. This is exactly why I hate attending funerals – the tears shed (fake and real) just puts one in a sober and reflective mood. The slow songs, the black outfits, the distant thoughts and realization that we all would die someday and disappear. Disappear! It’s scary. At that instance, we make silent promises not to commit sins like we used to, we decide to ‘live right’ but it takes a few days and we are back to our old ways, occasionally remembering who died and shedding a few tears, then moving on, sometimes taking flowers to the graveside depending on how close we were to the deceased.
The scary fact is that we all will die and disappear forever. I wonder where my dead friends have gone, where my deceased family members are, where the dead friends to my friends have gone, where my dead classmates have gone. We celebrated their lives, but they are dead anyways. I’m actually writing from a grieving heart and telling myself to live, love, play, smile, write, dream, chase dreams because nothing lasts forever.