Every day I call my mother, and she tells me how many people have died in my village. It started with my father and I fear that, as she tells me how my uncle has grieved my father for these five years, all I pray for is that God may let him sleep like his brother. For what purpose, I ask, does he suffer?
My first thought was to write a poem on how we embrace grief without questions, and how I’ve found that it is the only thing that reminds us of our loved ones. Without it, we have no evidence. So, we rub it on our faces like people who fast and tell anyone that cares to listen attentively or halfway, through the story of how we lose to death each time. However, I can only sit and think of what name my home has taken, how the laughter keeps fading and how I no longer recognize each person’s footsteps.
I should be reading at this hour, but this news from my mother troubles me. My memory juggles with the face of my father, so I hold his passport, the only one I could take from his things, before a mirror and feel what he has left behind in me—my jaw, my eyes, my nails, my big head. My uncle bears a striking resemblance to my father, but after my father died, I lost whatever inclination there was to visit his house. My people burn whatever their dead leaves behind but, somehow, my father splashed a painting of himself on my brothers, sisters, me, and even my stepsisters. And we cannot be burned.
I, too, grieve my father, but my uncle, I fear, wants to pluck death from heaven. He tries every day and gathers evidence of his quest. He asks why he lives if his younger brother does not, why he survives the cancer that took my father. The first time he took a fall was at my father’s funeral. The second time was at his house. Another time, he went on a hunger strike so he could die. I laughed then, but not too loud. I did not show my teeth, because I feared my cousins would not understand. Some months ago, his wife died. On one news, he bit off his index finger, and another one the next time. She was buried two days ago and just before that, he left his wheelchair and broke his face. That was the last one I heard of and every time he tried death and I heard, I shouted Jesus Christ!
My mother has refused to go and see him. She says that what she sees takes a toll on her mental health, and I ask if no one sees what she does. We all wish for him what no one would say out loud. The Jesus Christ I shout is not an exclamation, it is a scream unto God. My father showed me how to love God, but when he died, I reached into his chest and sought God with every stifled cry. God was cold. God was quiet. So, instead of reading for my exams which are in a month, I am sitting in this night class, asking, wondering how to whisper, this time, into God’s ears, if a whisper can move Him to hear my uncle and grant him peace.
A friend suggested that he be taken to an Old People’s Home, but where I come from, sorrow is another way to show our loved ones where we will be buried. My uncle points to the South but my people cannot read a compass.
P.S. What I have written may disturb my cousins, but for their sake and my mother’s, let my will be done.