I believe in life and death; I believe that when people die, they somehow have a link or connection to the living. I am a Christian, I take my faith seriously but something has happened in my family and I am asking serious questions, questions nobody seems to have answers for.
Ok, a few years back, my mother passed on, she was 85 years old at that time. She passed on, after the so called “brief illness.” We didn’t bury her immediately because we didn’t have the money for all of the necessary burial plans and ceremonies…plus I come from a fairly large family. Everyone wanted to be in a position to be ready for mama’s burial.
But mama, before her death, had told us not to leave her in the mortuary, she had told us to bury her immediately.
At the time she passed on, we didn’t have the means to have a proper burial ceremony; we weren’t necessarily planning to block the streets because of the burial but you know, we wanted something fitting for mama.
First sign of trouble was when we took her to the mortuary and they needed to embalm her, you know they use a needle to infuse the embalmment solution…their needles were just breaking…they called us from the funeral home that our mother was breaking their needles. I told them they had to embalm her o, because we had no where else to put her.
Eventually, they said my mother’s body began to swell, you know, it got swollen to such a point they couldn’t put any needle in her…the woman was a very stubborn woman while alive! I dont know how they managed to do it, but they succeeded at last in embalming her, o!
Why did we not heed her instructions?
Being the first child, the first son, I made all the necessary preparations, I called a family meeting, telling them mama’s instructions but I was overruled. We come from a fairly large family with two sets of children because mama married two husbands. Ehen, my own father died, then she remarried and had other children plus my own immediate siblings…so you understand? We are quite plenty, 9 sets of family trees….
Our mother was a strict woman, troublesome woman, too
Ok, let me continue, I have two daughters, my elder daughter was 13 years at that time; she and mama weren’t friends. Mama always felt we were too easy on her and so she pushed her to do more. My daughters had reading and writing challenges but my second daughter more than made up for her sister’s challenges, that one is razor sharp, was promoted twice on two occasions…I am trying to get you to see a bit of my family background.
My first daughter and my mother were not particularly friendly but my second daughter and mama were like two peas in a pod.
Now, when mama was alive, my elder daughter like I said before, would you know, just not be happy when we announced we were going to see my mother. and when mama visited, my daughter made herself scarce. I just put it down to children being who they were. I never probed it. I knew my mother loved my daughter, no questioning that. I didn’t think my daughter and my mother must necessarily bond. Even my wife was often angry with our daughter and would scold her to behave whenever we were with mama.
Ok, so when mama died, I made this huge photo portrait and framed it and kept it in our house, hoping to use it to dress her coffin for the wake keeping…you know how it is done, don’t you? And yes, to display before interment…yeah.
So, because burial date was still a few weeks ahead, I kept the framed photo in my guest room. It had been there for maybe, a few days, I am not sure now, anyway, when my elder daughter saw it, she went looking for something in that room. I heard her scream and rushed out, she said, “Mama…mama…mmamm…mama is not dead, mama is not dead…mama is, is… she is in the guest room.”
Ok, I should add here that my daughter stammers, so it was doubly difficult for her to say what she had to say. But we eventually understood her agitations…or so we thought.
Of course we all knew mama was dead but that large sized framed photo must have been what she was referring to. So we scoffed and continued with what we were doing.
But my daughter kept saying, “Mama…mama is in the room…she does not like what you are doing…mama is there…in the room…in the room, mama is sitting up, mama is in the room…”
She was shaking like a leaf, repeating herself over and over again.
What I thought was a silly joke became something serious.
I was like, “Haha, what nonsense are you saying or you’ve began to see visions?”
She just began to cry, you know the kind of cry, that comes from deep sorrow…haba. What is going on here?
So I walked her back to the room, I was getting angry at her reactions. Yes she was never fond of my mum but this one of scaring everyone into believing my mother was still alive was beginning to upset me and everyone in particular. And what’s the meaning of the tears?
I marched her into the room, there was my mother’s portrait was and there was no mama sitting on the bed…but my daughter kept seeing mama on the bed…she kept pointing, kept telling us mama was unhappy…
Unhappy about what? About who? I couldn’t be asking her all of these questions because she was just emotionally scattered as in, she was very upset. You know, crying, sniveling, in fact, talking nonsense.
Could she be seeing mama’s ghost? Could the fact that mama even died have terrified her? I didn’t have the answers then but my daughter was deeply troubled and traumatized by it. So I turned the framed photo to the wall. You know, just to help her manage the trauma because I felt it must be trauma, my wife too was in tatters at that time because it was obvious our daughter was going through something serious.
That night, we got no sleep. My daughter was disturbed, she kept hearing mama cough, sneeze, murmur in the guest room.
The following morning, I had my mother’s photo taken away from my house but that didn’t improve my daughter’s condition…she became progressively worse. We thought we could manage her distress…but she would suddenly breakdown into agonizing sobs, would say things about my mum, that I didn’t even know about…I swear, I was totally lost. It was after about three or four days that a friend came and told me I needed to take my daughter for psychiatric evaluation!
I said, “What?”
Not until then did we begin to know peace. I chose not to go seeking people to read meanings into what happened at our house not because I wanted to ignore what could be but once you start delving into people seeing the future for you or telling you about the metaphysical, you can get lost!
The doctor said it’s “trauma”…I don’t doubt it but I know there is more to it…my girl was admitted for a few weeks and released. Mama burial was done, my wife and I didn’t fully participate like we had planned to. Not because we think mama harmed our daughter, we know mama loved her but something happened that we have no answers to.
Months later, my daughter became calm you know but has never truly been the same. Never the same again.
I have wondered, was mama so angry she made her own grandchild psychotic? My mother would never do that! yes, she wanted to be buried quickly but my daughter isn’t responsible for that. So holding my mother responsible isn’t something I want to consider, the dead also protect their own…somehow.
However, what truly happened will continue to baffle me; my mother’s passing will always be linked to my daughter being an outpatient at yabaleft.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)