Memories of you are etched in stone, like your admonitions and your dreams for your children. Today, you die again, and the freshness of it all shames the eternities that these long days and nights conjure.

A brief phone call from your last born, my brother, who cuddled you at the back of the car moments before on the feverish rush for the hospital, and the tone is set for the heart splitting news that would crash our world like a pack of cards. Unfettered wailing is the answer I get from my call back, and the message is clear: Baba is gone! The white shroud drapes the body of our patriarch, and the journey to the morgue is only a second away! I crush the silence in anguished gasps, and the black pall is all I see…

It’s all playing back again, Baba – the unreeling tapestry, and the kaleidoscope of meanings.

Long meetings into long and fetid nights; unending journeys and detours; convolutions of untiring dread as we beat quiet tremors on the road to a plain never visited for 29 years… This is the plain of my birth and your birth – our root, my beginnings, the plain where, like you, I was first washed in grains of sand and powdered with the dust after my first birth cry – the reward for my mother’s groans in parturition unsilenced by the irrevocable resilience of the cooing birth attendant, and your prayerful watchfulness unbroken by the distance of several towns away…

The house still stands, manned by a now near-maniacal, reprisal-harassed, bemused, usurping denizen and a temperate young uncle. It still stands on a plain I knew as a child -stolid and defiant, a part of it in ruins… The pear tree, its wings cropped, gives a loyal, amputated salute to the unseen stranger, and the pond where the ducks used to frolic with the snorting pigs is now but an imagination. An eerie silence pervades the plain that would soon echo the bad news we have brought…

How can a land be so full of men whose every gaze portends evil? Men without ears. Men who do not grow weary from drink. Men who have lost their teeth even when old age is still thousands of miles away. Broken men and haunted women who see in your coming an answer to the previous succulent, and now peeving, promises made by thieving politicians and lying technocrats. I see children with balloon bellies rich with kwashiorkor, and lean-framed youths with hungry eyes, evaporated stamina and famished hopes. I see women with babies strapped to their backs, and several children more in tow, their height belying the fact that they were only just a few months apart…

We will have our way; we will not be beaten by the wily ways of wizened illiterate relatives we cannot even recognize, relatives who never looked up our father when he was alive, but now claim to know him better than we the children and charged you an arm and a leg just to give our patriarch the Christian burial he deserves… We will not give our arm or our leg, but the leg and the arm of a cow we shall give. We shall expiate your greed with resolves of steel rolled on conveyor belts bearing mounds of pounded yam, egusi soup and cow leg and gallons of palm wine and cans and bottles of drink…May you give your arm and your leg to unknown spirits in your frolic!

We broke not our vow. These mounds of earth are the visible chapters of our sojourn, the final testaments. And so you lie today victorious six feet beneath the ground, your dreams unbroken, your promises fulfilled, your joy boundless, your hopes high, your face wreathed in your trade mark smiles that could melt the stoniest of hearts. These are the plinths of our joy, the bastion of our resilience, the monoliths of our own victory.

You will not die a second time…

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