Someone died in my neighbourhood recently.
The colourful posters announcing his passage showed a man ten years away from being called a centenarian. They also showed that he had been someone’s father, uncle, brother, grandfather and great grandfather; he had been something to everyone who had known him. And as become the norm, the posters had the headliner ‘Celebration of Life’. That phrase that began to appear in the ‘90s on death notices, replacing the more depressing word ‘obituary’. And perhaps attempting to replace our grief- stricken hearts and sense of loss with new thinking, new paradigms about death. Being thankful that the deceased’s passed this way instead of mourning a life that is no more.
I totally get this. I don’t completely agree with it.
Back to my neighbourhood. I was running errands on the day the commendation service was slated to take place. I would have gone by the poster – ridden house without a passing glance but for the sound and scene in front of it that stopped me short. Instrumentalists – a trumpeter and a drummer – gave music that was upbeat, alluring and akin to that of a football supporters’ club’s sound during a match; pall bearers carrying a brown – hued coffin walked towards a waiting minivan; and a woman and a man, gaily dressed in matching olive – green attires, (most likely relatives of the deceased) brought up the rear. Besides the coffin, the pair were the cynosure of the small crowd of people who had gathered. As they followed the coffin behind, they danced and danced to the music. The woman shook all her curves and matching jewelry, every shiny bit of her accessories and attire reflecting the sun’s rays. She bent her knees and got down almost to road beneath her, while still shaking what her momma gave her. The man accompanied her with expansive hand and flanking movements. They were both smiling widely, almost laughing even, as they did so. Some would think the pair were dancing this much because they were actually GLAD the deceased was gone; I choose to think otherwise. This boogie couldn’t have lasted long but it was worth witnessing every bit of the two or three minutes’ duration. It was only after the dancing was over did the coffin find its way into the boot of the minivan and the party drove off.
I am certain I wasn’t the only onlooker who left the scene amused. Or thought that the couple indeed gave hard evidence to the poster headline of their deceased relative in actions, expressions and colour choice of aso ebi. I also couldn’t help but reflect on the last time I experienced another life being ‘celebrated’. The birth year of the deceased was 1982. Young man. In his prime. As the crowd of his mourners thronged towards his allotted graveside, you could feel their sense of loss in their matching, pitch – black T- shirts (with his face plastered on); their sorrow palpable in their corresponding dark shades, shielding their obvious grief.
Their demeanours? Let’s not go there. All the while clutching program booklets that had ‘Celebration of Life’ scrawled across.
Unless I don’t know what I saw or there’s a new definition for the word ‘Celebration’.
It is okay to mourn the death of a loved one; it’s in the human nature to do so. It is also perfectly all right to celebrate the life of a deceased loved one in whatever way we feel is right. However, while we are at it, mourning or celebrating, let’s not put others in serious doubt as to what exactly we are doing.