My great- grandfather died a few years ago, he was believed to be about 100 plus years old; that would put his birth between 1910 to 1915.
The man truly wanted to die ages ago but death just refused to call on him
The story I got told about Baaami, that’s what we called him, was that he was the last child of about nine children that were born and died shortly after birth. You know, a long line of abiku children.
They would be born and then die from one form of sickness or the other and they would be reborn over and over again. So to stop this cycle, his parents called the strongest babalawos and employed the strongest deities to help them secure a child, who would live long enough to ensure their family lineage didn’t just die.
My great-grandpa, had a huge scar on his stomach; it stretched across his entire stomach. I was told he was given the mark as a baby, so that the world would recognize him as an abiku when he came back to earth again. The mark was meant to shame him to stay on earth and not die…
Now all of these markings that our people did on abiku children in those days were not just ordinary markings like I said before; they were done with plenty of native wisdom, incantations, spiritual things went into it and covenants with deities too. All of these meant Baami didn’t die!
Not from plagues, sickness, accidents, whatever…the man survived it all.
There was a time, as I was told, that there was some sickness killing children in the village my great-grandpa lived in and he was a toddler then. Almost all the children in the village died but Baami survived. The few children that didn’t die were quickly taken away from the village, that’s perhaps why they survived. I’m thinking maybe it was an outbreak of measles at that time.
In another incident, I was told, when he was a young man; a teenager, I think, he was said to be in a bolekaja, those passenger vehicles of old, going from Ibadan to Oshogbo, the vehicle had an accident and he was the lone survivor.
There was also a fire incident that nobody expected anyone in the burning house to emerge from alive but my great-grandpa, came out almost unscathed, yes he suffered minor burns but that was all…several others died, as I heard.
There are so many incidences that my grandfather and later my father told me about Baami that we all marveled at, sometimes even wishing we had that strong jazz to keep us alive…we changed our minds when he began to long for death; when he began to lose loved ones much younger than him but death would not come.
Yes, Baami was a man who had outlived everyone including two sons he bore, his wife, his friends, everyone he could relate to…
He began to wish for death but death just kept sidestepping him.
Baami stopped doing things for himself when he turned 89 years old, at that time he had lost his sight and a bit of his hearing, too. Of course with his wife gone and his first two children dead as well…he had five of them, my grandad was his last, Baami lost the will to live.
My dad, who is his grandson, decided to find a nanny that would just care for him; Baami was a stubborn man, several nannies left because he wouldn’t do as he was told. You know, they would tell him not to eat certain foods late in the evening, but he would demand for such foods, I mean, like pounded yam, he would demand for it late at night and if not given, would refuse any other meal until he was given what he asked for.
Anyway, years passed and Baami was still standing when his grandchildren began to die; one died at 47, another at just 4o. The thing is, even when nobody told him about the passing of these two, he knew. He would cry for days and ask that he be taken instead of first his children, his wife and now his grandchildren.
When he turned around 100; he could not move himself; we had to be sunning him; as in the nanny would bring his bed out in the sun so he could get dry, you know, otherwise, he had begun to rot, even while alive!
He lost his mind, he couldn’t see or hear anyone at that point in time and well, much as we all prayed for death for him, we couldn’t possibly put a pillow over his head…he wanted death but nobody had the guts to take a life that God had given so we lingered in this cycle of sunning Baami for the next 5years. Which was very tasking to the nannies.
The man was neither alive no fully dead; he ate nothing but pap and all things liquid. So his was not a life at all, it was an existence that was a pain to everyone, including himself.
You know there were days the nannies would forget to sun him or maybe they were just tired and by the time they took him out, he was riddled with bedsores…the man suffered.
There were days when I went to the village with my dad to see him, I would be sure that by the next visit, he would be dead…no, the man would still be breathing but that’s all, just breathing and not living.
See, we all knew it was as a result of what was done for him when he was a child; at some point one of my father’s brothers said he went to ‘find out’ about Baami, he was told to pull down a gourd or something from a tree, he was told that was where Baami’ life was hung, so long as that gourd remained on the tree, Baami would still be ‘alive.’
Our family members searched everywhere for this so called tree with a gourd but couldn’t find it; they asked Baami if he knew about it but he was deaf and blind and communication was difficult. It was either he didn’t know what they were talking about or didn’t even understand them. He groaned for death but nothing happened until one day when he just stopped breathing…he was finally dead.
He wasn’t buried immediately because we had heard that in death, he looked younger, fresher like 30 to 40 years had been shaved off him. So every one of us wanted to see him…I went with my dad two days after Baami’s death, he hadn’t become swollen, he was looking like he was just sleeping.
He was buried shortly afterwards.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on tres stories)