The most fertile ground on earth is expected to be the graveyard.
Not because of the decomposing dead bodies of yester-years that dotted the assemblage, but because it is universally acceptable as most fertile place for ideas and unrealised dreams to transform our world for the better; a place to question human existence, a solemn place to deeply ponder about man’s inhumanity to humanity.
It is also a reflective spot where you deeply re-think about the long hand of death, that bestial hydra-headed monster as a necessity that would come one day and claim somebody somewhere, either through unresolved assassinations, sickness, ‘spiritual attacks’ from unseen forces, accidents or natural disasters.
I am neither a grave-digger nor a trained undertaker by profession but once lived next door to an East London Cemetery/Cremation Centre for over 15months.
On several occasions, while coming from work few minutes after midnight, gazing through the graveyard with thousands of tombstones, both marked and unmarked; an unexplained panic often gripped my entire body and my heart beat would increase rapidly that should one those ‘restless’ dead soul challenged my movement at such unholy hours, what would be my resolve.
I would gladly exchange words with the ‘dead-alive’ fellow, and muster enough courage to ask him/her about the situations of great beyond and eventually asked him/her the cause of the trip to the ‘homeland of the spirits’.
Few years ago when a good friend told me how his 16year old British-born Nigerian son died quietly in his sleep without signs of serious ailment in London and how he also supervised the burial arrangement of the son against African culture and tradition, I was petrified beyond words as tears navigated down my ‘not-too-robust ‘cheeks.
Some years back in London, when a frustrated ‘possessed’ man that recently relocated from Nigeria to London murdered his elder brother’s wife in cold blood, such painful but avoidable death was traced to ‘unseen forces’ that manipulated the ‘demented killer’ to stab the defenceless lady to death more than 20 times, but sad enough, the ‘beast in human skin’ eventually committed suicide to escape worldly justice.
While the born-again Christian lady was accorded a decent funeral service, the killer that parcelled her hurriedly to the ‘land of no return’ was cremated; burnt in flames and an unconfirmed source stated that his ashes were shipped back to his fatherland.
Death is a necessary end as asserted by the Master playwright, William Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon in England; “Every soul shall inevitably taste the bitter pills of death one day”.
Shakespeare even cursed and cast spell on whoever tries to move his bones from his original burial ground, a graveyard belonging to the church that christened him ‘William’.
There is one evergreen trip to a London graveyard that continue to remain indelible in my mind, as I tried to delete the scene from my memory, it becomes too difficult and I just wish to share the drama with my readers and friends with no intention of causing further offence to those involved. Death will surely kill good people but cannot kill their good deeds.
A prominent Nigerian Muslim woman in her 70s died in her sleep of ‘natural cause inside her London home and Nigerian (Muslim)community in London therefore planned to give her a befitting burial in a country she was living for over 35years.
There were publicity everywhere in London to announce the sudden death of this generous, friendly and religious woman and I got wind of the event through a leaflet and decided to abandon my ‘daily bread’ to witness the occasion.
The woman was a devoted Muslim as testified by several Islamic clerics that organised the funeral services in her honour.
I attended the Islamic prayer session (Janazah) at the popular South London mosque and was sandwiched between some of his grandchildren whom I believed were no longer Muslims by their attitude and conduct displayed while the prayer was going on.
I politely cautioned one of them to remove his well-polished shoes and he demanded for the reasons in a synchronised British English accent.
As I did not wish to create scene inside the mosque and not in the mood to upset fellow mourners, I allowed the proverbial ‘sleeping dog’ to lie in peace.
The well-designed horse-driven wooden casket was draped with a green cloth that bored an Arabic inscription which reads: Bismilah Rahman Raheem, Inna Lilahi Wa ina ilehii Rajiuna. (Translated as in the name God, the Most Merciful, the most Beneficent, We all come from you and we shall return to you).
I managed to touch the casket to bid the wonderful woman final goodbye.
The long convoy of mourners passed through the deceased woman’s apartment for the last time from the South London mosque with tears and unstoppable wailings from mourners and family friends.
I strongly held back my tears since I cannot weep more than the bereaved or be more Catholic than the Pope.
I was lucky to be among the first set of mourners to arrive at the ‘high-security’ high-walled graveyard in Southwest London; while still awaiting the arrival of the casket, one instinct informed me to carefully navigate round my environment.
As I journeyed through the large expanse of land used as ‘final resting place’ for the dead, my wandering eyes caught the message on a 4-year old boy’s ‘double-decker’ grave decorated with toys which reads : ‘Gone too soon, but you’re always in our minds forever.
We hope you’re in a better place right now. Lots of Love from Dad and Mum’. I thought that was the only child of the couple and he was painfully missed.
I moved further down as if counting the tombstones and saw several tombstones with Nigerian names, quickly realised what a fellow Nigerian man (ex-Ambulance driver) that I met few years ago inside London Underground train telling me it is far cheaper to be buried abroad than to be cargoed home in a wooden box.
Death shall capture all mortals but when and how nobody can discern.
There is a popular adage in Pidgin English which says. wetin dead body see inside grave, na death cause am’.
My feet were badly aching due to my long ‘walk about’ the graveyard where I communicated with my inner-self and soul searched on my personal efforts to demand for a better society for fellow human beings by any means necessary before Death will drag me to grave.
As I looked in front of me, I saw mourners dressed in both Blacks and multi-coloured clothing surging towards a rectangular-shaped dug-up hole expected to be the final ‘bedroom’ of this devoted Muslim woman.
I struggled with my stressed body and dialogued with my strained legs in order not to miss the ‘graveside event’. I mistakenly hit my right leg on a tombstone in my movement, and I assumed that I never disturbed the ‘eternal rest’ of the owner.
Five strong men carried the casket to the graveside for interment, ready to be lowered into six-feet deep below the earth after several prayers from Muslim Preachers/Imams.
The woman’s grave was created next to her first late husband since her second husband was still alive as at the time of her burial.
Suddenly, a ‘thirty-something looking’ fair-skinned lady believed to be one of the woman’s daughters emerged from behind to stop the interment and we are all shocked by her action.
The lady however asserted that no burial must be done until the arrival of her two brothers still on their way to the graveyard.
‘Please don’t bury my Mom until my brothers pay their last respect, please!’
The leading Muslim preacher pretended not to understand her urgent demand but some of the mourners alerted him to wait a bit to accommodate the two brothers being expected.
All eyes were at every direction to witness the arrival of these two brothers with assumptions that they were so busy with ‘daily bread’ to the extent that they could not attend the prayer session at South London mosque, not to talk of arriving early for the graveside event.
Next few minutes turned to be a big shock and disbelieve; A London Metropolitan police van parked at the entrance leading to the graveyard and helicopter was also hovering over our heads (for protection?), a short-lived thought flashed through my agitating whether I was at the right place at the wrong time of the day.
Before anybody could count one to five, two uniformed men from Her Majesty Prison(HMP) escorted two hand-cuffed young men to the graveside to pay their last respect; one of the young men was weeping uncontrollably while the taller one was even proud to display his hand-cuffs as a ‘badge of honour’.
The scene was beyond imagination for those privileged to be at the graveside, a notable Muslim leader made a U-turn and escaped from the graveside on seeing this pathetic event.
He was nowhere to be found when called upon to pray for the late woman. Some of their friends went to hug them despite being shackled by the hands.
The mood at the graveside changed from sympathy to empathy for the dead woman and questions started to generate about the lifestyle of the two young men that eventually led to prisons.
Was the departed woman concealing the stories of his ‘troublesome sons’ away from public scrutiny until callous Death finally exposed those secrets?
Charity, they say begins at home, this woman was reputed as a community leader and generous to many organisations but what efforts were made to reform her two grown-up sons from early stage?
What events could have led two sons of a respected woman to be docked behind bars; miscarriage of justice-maybe or were they unlucky enough to be captured at the wrong place at the wrong time?
Were they convicted and jailed for armed robbery, rape, drug-related offences, assaults, murder, manslaughter, paedophilia/child molestation, fraud/Internet scams or any crime under the sun?
Was the departed woman ‘suffering in silence’ by not telling her Nigerian Muslim Community friends to assist in reforming his two sons?
Was the woman’s generosity to several organisations a testimony to appease God to forgive her of her failure for adequate parental care for her British-born kids?
Where is their father or any family members to mentor those young men?
Were the two men suffering from ADHD(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) from an early stage which eventually transformed them to ‘unbreakable’ young adults?
The departed woman could not explain those riddles to those milling round her grave. It was too late for her, and now death has wrecked the worse havoc,checkmating her; many people will die with secrets, ideas and aspirations which will often produce several conspiracy theories and assumptions.
This woman’s case was no exemptions. Pity!.