Thursday 28 May 2015

A Toast to Moses

By Diana Gitau

It was a dark and grey afternoon. The clouds were heavy and the rains threatened to fall at any time. It was quiet. No children playing. No laughter. Nothing. There was a stillness in the air that weighed down on everyone. 

I walked past a freshly dug grave. The flowers were still there, standing alone,  the only living things in the area. Truphena Maria, daughter, mother and friend.  The headstone had no other details. I liked knowing the dates of birth and death so that I could calculate the age at which the person died. I thought of the children as angels, the young adults as the people whose lives were cut short and the old peoplewell, its about time I guess. When someone dies at the age of 80 they have already lived their whole life; what else is there to see after 80?

I left Truphena behind as I walked towards the funeral. More graves lined the way and the eerie silence gave the place a ghostly feel. There is such finality around cemeteries, it is the last stop. This realization made my feet heavier as I approached the graveside where the mourners had congregated.

The priest stood by the grave, exhorting the living to make their lives right in preparation for the next life. I didnt like what he was saying. A person was about to be buried, it was their funeral, so how about focusing on them and quit preaching to the living? The choir sang a hymn about the world not being our home. Someone really should come up with more appropriate dirges. A farewell of some sort, for instance, the James Blunt song goodbye my lover, good bye my friend. Now that would make a good dirge.

Then the coffin was lowered and reality sank in. Someone screamed. No, I think it was more of a howl, the kind of cry that a wolf makes in the middle of the night. It was the widow; people rushed to her and held her. Her cries were soulful, they sounded like they came from deep inside her belly. There was a little boy sitting next to her, staring blankly at the coffin, deaf to the cries of the woman.

I heard the thud of the soil hitting the coffin and watched as the grave filled up. I imaged him lying there, beneath the soil, permanently separated from the living. Moses Oyier - that is what the obituaries had called him. People walked around the grave, heads bowed down, placing wreaths on the mound of soil. Someone started another mournful dirge, utaacha mali yako uende She sang in Kiswahili. I hate that dirge. Who exactly is it meant for? Is it a mockery to the dead to remind them of what they left behind?

I thought of Moses once again; I still remember him lying on the side of the road taking his last breath. His eyes looked up at me blankly and I watched the light fade from his eyes as he stopped moving. I stood there and watched him die and then I got back into my car and drove away. My mind was clear. I had sobered up the moment I heard the thud and saw Moses on my windscreen. There was nobody else on the road and Ill never know how long he spent lying there before he was discovered. 

It was a beautiful funeral and I hoped Moses liked it wherever he was. I walked back to my car and drove to a nearby pub. I was going to raise a glass to Moses; the man who died by the roadside on a starless, pitch black night and was buried on a grey afternoon.

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