“No mother and daughter talk today. You know there is lot of work to do before dusk.” Father will always caution once we arrive at the farm. He will pat my back and say “Get rest when you are tired but don’t sleep else the crops will sleep too.” A myth that when you sleep at the farm, the crops will not yield well. Father will carefully walk through the crops to join Taagaa and Kaara, my brothers, who always leave for the farm even before I awake from sleep. As soon as father is out of sight, I will begin the ‘mother and daughter talk’. Mother will tell me everything I need to know as a girl growing up. She will teach me prayers and songs. The conversation always end with my promises to take her to America when I ‘grow up.’ Towards mid-day, mother and I will carry food to where my father and brothers are to have lunch. It is always a memorable moment eating beans with cassava flour from the same clay bowl as mother kept refilling the bowl till we all get satisfied.
“Yelsieli, let’s go and eat.” Kaara, my immediate elder brother said as he pulled me along. It was at this moment it dawned on me that I was just having flashback. Today, I was alone with my brothers at the farm. Mother and father were absent. The usual gay mood that surrounds our lunch time was missing. As a placed a morsel of beans in my mouth, tears dribbled freely from my eyes through my cheeks and settled on my chest. “Yelsieli, please eat the food, you haven’t eaten since morning. Baaba and N ma will not be happy to see you like this.” Eventhough he tried to act manly, Taagaa, my eldest brother could not stop the tears that forced their way to his thighs. Seeing this, Kaara also joined in the weeping. Taagaa consoled himself himself before consoling Kaara and I. We ate the food with baby tears dropping intermittently.
This was always the situation at the farm following the tragic death of our parents, “Baaba” and “N ma” as we call them. Back at home, the sight of the grave that was being prepared to house both bodies of our parents was enough to refuel the hurt within us. The grave became my home, I sat by it anytime we returned from the farm, with my tears dropping inside it endlessly. This continued till the day of the funeral.
As the approaching cars blew thier horns, my heart ached like the pain Mary felt when Jesus was pierced in the side. My heart ached when I saw the black coffins placed side by side in an old Nissan Pick Up. My heart ached the more when when I heard mourners asking my dead parents why they left so soon. My heart ached the more when I heard the xylophone players glorifying my parents. My heart tore apart when I saw my brothers embraced the coffins as if they could carry them away. I shouted at the top of my voice “N ma, N baaba, talk to me.” This time there was no response. Mother and father will always respond to my least call, but this time, they ignored my call. I felt life has ended for me. I saw no reason to live anymore. I could cry no more. I became unconscious. The table on which the coffins rested became my resting place too. I rested my body in between the space that separated the coffins with each of my hand caressing each coffin. I was on a world of my own, dead to every sound around me. The only noise I could hear was the cry of my brothers and the sound of my heart beat.
It was time for the family to read our tribute. We didn’t have separate tributes where children will read thiers, grandchildren will have thiers, cousins, in-laws, brother’s, and even sometimes Ex’s (smile a little). We incorporated everything into a single tribute. As the last child of my parents, my siblings nominated me to read the tribute on the family’s behalf. Kaara stood to my left ready to take over should I allow weeping overshadow the reading.
We didn’t produce a booklet tribute. Not because we didn’t have enough to say about our parents, but bringing back all those memories will only refuel the pain we felt. Besides my family wasn’t financially sound especially at that moment when funeral preparations were underway to decorate a booklet tribute. I took the sheets of paper on the pulpit and stood in front of the pulpit to read. Opportunity comes but once, I seized the opportunity to speak out the pain in my heart. I deviated from the norm of tribute reading. I bowed my head, gently folded the paper and placed it in my back pocket since I was in a black trouser. I could see the confusion on everyone’s face when I raised my head. I turned to my siblings, nieces, nephews and sister-in-laws that stood behind me a gave a faux smile.
“Thousands of tributes have been read since the beginning of human race. The manufactured types that speaks of great things of the deceased that leave you to wonder why such good and ‘perfect’ people should die. But these tributes have never brought back the deceased back to life, and ours would not be an exception. I am therefore deviating from the norm, not because what I’m about to to say will bring back my parents to live but because it will save the living from embracing unnecessary ugly premature death like my parents.” I said pointing to the coffins in front of me.
“These two coffins carry the bodies of parents. Should God miraculously ask me to identify my mother in those coffins so that they may come back to life, I will helplessly watch them die again. Have you people wondered why the coffins have not been opened? It is not because they’re rotting as I have heard some ‘okro mouths’ broadcasting about. It is because the sight may bless you with days of sleepless nights. Those bodies are destroyed beyond recognition. Only God knows even if these bodies are my parents.” Streams of tears gushed out from my tears as I rushed to embrace the coffins but my brother was quick to hold me back. I stood still for a while and continued
“My parents would have been alive today if not for the greed of some people. There is enough resources to construct standard roads but what do we see? Roads as narrow as the anus of a housefly are being constructed. Roads that two grown he sheep will lock horns when they meet are those that are constructed in towns meant to be used by long vehicles and trailers. Instead of even dividing these roads to avoid vehicular crashes, they are left so raw to the mercy of poor users. What wrong will it do to invest the poor man’s hard earned money which you take in the form of taxes to save their lives. The spirits of lives claimed by road accidents are wailing, make wider our roads, dualize our major roads, save innocent souls. If the road was wide enough, the vehicles would not have ran into each other. If the road was dualized, each vehicle would have been in it’s lane and my parents would not have been mashed like kenkey.”
My parents would have still been alive today but for the recklessness of the driver. Since when has over speeding become the hallmark of a good driving? Why Mr driver, should you carry passengers in a vehicle that is not road worthy? Why should you drive when tired or drunk? Are you also greedy and selfish like those I have already spoken about? No, remember your life is also at risk. Know that your passengers are not your money making machines, they are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons, friends, live partners, name the rest. We expect their return when they leave home, why should you, out of your carelessness and recklessness, deny them their return home? If our roads are not good enough to prevent accidents, don’t be agents donating unsolicited blood to mother earth. If these drivers were responsible in their work, we would not have gathered here today. Mr driver, anytime you want to over speed, remember, accidents bring tears, safety bring cheers.” I knew tensions were rising but I could feel my speech as I call it was going down but I had to end because plenty doesn’t mean results. But before I end, I needed to refresh their minds on my main message so I continued.
“How long are we going to allow road accidents claim promising lives. Children are rendered orphans, parents become childless, boyfriends lose their girlfriends, entire families are wiped out, dreams are shattered and the future becomes bleak for some people because of road accidents. It’s about time everyone acted responsibly. Dualize our roads and save our parents. Widen our roads and save our children. Drive responsibly and save our friends. We may not entirely curb road accidents, but we can save many more lives.”
I turned to look at my family and saw that they were all in tears. Everyone went dead silent as if we were in an exam hall. I could not talk further because the tears I had been suppressing all along had to gush out. Kaara walked to me, embraced me and said, “Baaba and N ma will be happy for this act of yours.” I was about to thank them for listening when I saw the coffin bearers matching towards the coffins. I knew this was the last time having my parents. Everyone broke into tears. Even though Taagaa tried to stop me, I found myself at the grave site and helplessly watched both parents lowered into the same grave starting with my father. I watched them lay side by side and all that came from my mouth was “I will miss you both”
Death is inevitable and every death is painful. But to die an unprepared death through road accident is heartbreaking and no death can be compared to it.