There’s a reason why we zoom in on their faults while they live, and their goodness when they leave. It’s not hypocrisy — it’s the way we, humans, deal with loss.
I can think of a good number of reasons why I didn’t like some of the things they did, but not a single one that would warrant their death.
I can think of ways to tell them what I’d have preferred — but in their face.
When you understand that they’ll never, ever, hear your reprimands, it sinks.
When you’ll never hear their voice again except in videos and other recordings. When the only smile you’ll see is frozen in frames and pixels.
The flood that sets the waterworks is a remarkable pointer to the best they did with the bad hand they were dealt.
How he loved his wife and daughter to the best of his abilities. How she cared for her kids and the people in her life. How much he truly loved seeing people having fun around him. The way she tried to never let her emotions get the best of her.
How much they cared for their parents and siblings.
It flows even harder when you think of all the dreams they’ll never be able to accomplish. Pulling all savings, barely weeks before, to invest in a store that was going to serve as the trampoline for little Anna and her husband.
If you pause for one second to consider that this little girl, the love of her life, may grow to remember her strong, vibrant, beautiful mother only in pictures. That her husband, the one she renewed vows with on Valentine’s day, will need to overcome his grief, too soon, just to ease little Anna into a new world where she may have to know the answer to :
‘When is Mummy coming back?’
Before I saw the pictures, she was just another dedicated youth worker.
Before I started imagining how much she must have had to transform, she was just a young lady who saw me on Facebook and reached out to chat.
Before I fathomed her knowledge of pain, her ability to come back from the brink of death and stare at life without fear, she’d fooled me with her soft-spoken voice, cautious gaze and stylish hairstyle.
We’d even started talking about her passion for cakes; maybe turning it into a business. We’d spent the previous hour looking at her work in career orientation, capacity building, and entrepreneurship. She knew by then that it was because I saw on her timeline that she was a YALI alumnus that I was here. She also knew that my interest in her exploded when I found out that she was also a science dropout, like me.
But none of her exploits meant anything when I figured out her real superpower: living with excruciating pain for more than half a year, every year.
But that doesn’t matter now. She’s gone.
The weight of distress laid on my lips in front of the mortuary. Wails, sighs, folded arms, and lost looks. In the middle of it all, I wondered why no one came to tell them to be more orderly. Or, even, to respect the dead.
But when another wave a sadness shook me from within, I understood what we all understood — the great equalizer and unifier, the salient scare we all share ever since we found out that we were mortal.
The reason why you remember exactly where you were when you got the news is because you play it so many times in your mind, looking for the flaw that would point you to the fact that you are dreaming.
It gets frozen in time and in your mind because you never succeed to find it.
We plague social media with our mutual requests for this reality to melt away. And for the first time in my life, I sit in a vacant space, with full appreciation of what it means to need a hug — the floodgates heave louder to the reel in my head.
We may not be able to get an account of death from those who go before us, but they leave us with something much more special than a description of life after death — an indelible memory and restructuring of life as we’ve known it when they were here.
We remember the precise moments that mattered. After we’ve sobered up from the unrecoverable, we may even use their own image, and lives, as a prism to view ours.
If we’d left the way they did, will we have any regrets?
Will we ever be ready to leave?
Given that death doesn’t knock, how can we always keep our affairs in order?
How can we live now, knowing this will all end?
Knowing, with the pain in our chests, now more than ever, that eventually, we will all die.
How do I get-up tomorrow and go to work?
I don’t think there are good and bad men. I think there are people who do good things and bad things. I think people who do good things are capable of doing bad things. And that those who do bad things are capable of doing good things.
I think everything boils down to perspective and is relative depending on your personal sense of values and ethics.
As globally as we may attempt to bundle to a few charters, laws, and commandments, the nuances of being human are far too intricate for us to even document ourselves.
Which is why I can’t say this man or woman was a good man or woman: they were human.
Father. Mother. Husband. Wife. Friend. Leader. Brother. Sister.
Writing this is the past tense, I can’t believe that the man who made me a cocktail just a few weeks earlier would never see the sun again. The man whose smile I see on this video I’ve been replaying all night.
That this smiling lady, with her four kids after Church service, will never hold her 4-year-old son again.
Clichés are annoying because they’re true.
They will be missed. Things will never be the same.
I don’t know how to end this. Honestly. I’ve been writing pieces of it ever since I went to the morgue in denial and had proof. I’ve rewritten it now that it’s been years.
The more pain I feel, the more I think about those they left behind.
Death doesn’t knock. Life isn’t fair. One day you’re making plans, the next day someone is writing about the plans you’d made.
What is life, if not all we have until it isn’t?
As I get older, I understand that the death of a loved one never leaves us. You never get over it.
It gets better with time, they say. But when someone defined you with love and memories, there’s no doubt that a part of you leaves when they do.
I think the human thing to do will be to keep them in your heart and live for them. Live the way they’d love for you to live and make someone else miss you like they do.
Then again, what do I really know about death?
I’m still breathing.
In the Face of Death.
The absurdity resurfaces. Of life. Of love. Of (almost) all.
They say memories flash past.
Good times… great times…
That truth flashes. Regrets too.
That “the important” things become crystal.
Clear as water.