Comfort where there is none

Home Away from Home with Abi Adeboyejo 

Email: Twitter: @abihafh

HAFH2It is usually with a heavy heart that one mentions the passing of a loved one. We’ve all lost a loved one and we all know how painful it is to come to terms with the loss. Isn’t it adding insult to injury to then accuse those closest to the deceased of all sorts at this time?

What do I mean? When people die of because of illness, there is usually medical evidence to show the cause. When a person dies as a result of an accident there is usually proof of the injuries that caused the death. When a person of say 90 years of age dies, then we know that is nature saying that the body is too old to function properly. Many of us will agree that these are likely causes of death. Why is it then that any death must be attributable to the evil machinations of someone else?

It is ridiculous to see an obituary announcing the passing of an 85-year-old woman claiming that ‘the wicked have done their worst’. No one will live for ever, so surely the older a person is when they die; the more obvious it is that they have passed because of old age. The only ‘wicked’ people may be the children, family and friends if they did not look after the elderly person while they were alive, but are happy to spend hundreds and thousands of naira on obituary announcements and lavish burial ceremonies.

Our culture allows us to throw blame around carelessly like a person trying to kill a mosquito with a piece of cloth. Like the mosquito-hunter, the people who make such accusations are usually unsuccessful. All they cause is confusion, bitterness and even more grief to the accused person. Likely culprits are usually spouses. If a woman dies, her family are likely to turn accusing fingers at her husband. Never mind that the woman might have been ill or killed in an accident on the road. Her husband’s alleged motives could be the woman’s money, even though she was a housewife for 20 years and never done a day’s work in that time. He could be accused of getting rid of his wife so as to marry a younger wife. If the husband is rich, then it is a foregone conclusion that he used his wife’s life for a money ritual and is likely to kill again, if care is not taken.

Widows face a much more harrowing experience and are firstly accused of being witches, money grabbers and sluts. The actual cause of a man’s death is irrelevant, as long as he had a wife. The woman is accused of killing her husband and the alleged motives range from the usual to the outrageous. Some families don’t even bother with suggesting motives. The grieving widow has to endure the mock sympathy of relatives while they visit on a daily basis to make a mental inventory of valuables and property of the deceased, with an eye to ensuring that such valuables and property are shared among them. Because we are a patrilineal society, the deceased’s family believe they have a right to his property because only men can inherit property.

When the deceased is a man business partners are usually regarded as suspects, much in the same way as widows. If the deceased is an elderly woman, she would most likely have been killed by her daughter(s) in-law or a jealous neighbour or her ‘junior’ wife if her husband had more than one wife. If the deceased was a young woman, then she must have been killed by the wife of the person she was having an affair with. No one stops to think it might have been caused by a congenital illness. If the deceased was a young man his death must have been caused by jealous colleagues at work or a rival for the affections of a lady. His parents may also be accused of having used their son for money rituals or to appease a dangerous evil spirit that gave them children when they were young.

In all of the accusations and condemnations that people tend to throw around when there has been bereavement, not many people stop to consider the feelings of the people who have lost a loved one. It is bad enough for a man to have to contemplate life without his dearest wife, the mother of his children and his lover, without having to prove to a bunch of greedy relatives that he had no hand in her death. A lot of people are sceptical as to the existence of the concept of ‘love’ such as we see in western movies, but it does exist in many Nigerian marriages and families, with the same intensity and constancy as in films and romance novels. People do feel shattered and incomplete when their spouses die. And very few people resort to killing their spouses as a way of getting money. Surely rational judgement will show that if you kill the breadwinner the money will run out?

Even though many cruel traditional practices that are aimed at absolving a person of complicity in the death of their spouse are no longer enforced, some still exist and frankly, do no good to anyone, especially the grieving spouse.

Of course there are cases where people do kill others including their spouses. The police (and God) should be left to deal with the accused as required. Besides, their guilty conscience will hunt them for the rest of their lives and beyond.

Isn’t it time to let the living get on with the business of mourning their loss and grieving for lost love? The deceased has (hopefully!) gone to a better place, one which we all aspire to reach in ripe old age. Let’s accept that God will comfort the genuinely grieving and revenge on any murderer or liar. Let’s comfort and not blame. Judge not, lest you be judged.