Dear Doctimus Prime,
“E jere enu, E jere ana, kponatara m Peter nwam.”
At this point, the congregation was in stitches. You could hardly tell from their muffled laughter that they were at a wake keep service. Father James had used a story to explain the inevitable nature of death. He told the story of a boy who had gone to serve his uncle and learn a trade in Lagos. For four years, no word had reached his mother. Nothing was told her about his well being or how he was faring. His mother had sent words by mouth through fellow villagers who visited Lagos. Still, it was no good. So his mom got reeeeeallllllyyy worried. She sent for Mike. Mike was supposedly the brightest student in the village (I wonder why no one notices such a person until they have a need for him). She wanted Mike to take down her words in the form of a letter for her son. That was when she said, “Tell my brother Hyginius, “E jere enu, E jere ana, kponatara m Peter nwam.”
Mike was confused. He barely had grip of the pen. He turned over the words in his mind, wondering how best to translate the words in English. Finally, he attempts a translation: “Go up, Come down, bring Peter home!” The poor woman had used an untranslatable proverb to communicate the urgency of her plea to see her son.
The death of a loved one is sometimes a reminder of the seriousness of life and the inevitability of death. Father James reminded us that we have homes to return to but the one who is dead has nowhere to go; for him there is no hurry (I understood then the reason for the murmuring when we first arrived). Those who are gathered to mourn, are there to ‘escort’ the dead to the ‘border’ to bid him farewell until they all are reunited.
I understood that death is not something to run away from. Death is as the Hausas will say a cloth which we all must wear (‘rigan mutua na kowa ne!’). The sooner we plan for our own death, the better and wiser we become. This immediately brings a verse to my mind from the most popular book in the world: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (Psalm 90:12).