‘When Death Comes’
“When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms”.
by Alagi Yorro Jallow.
Fatoumatta: Death’s ultimate weapon is mockery; it undermines the ‘wise’ and shames him who thinks he knows how best to tame finality. Dying is nothing; choosing the right time to die, if we can, means a whole lot. American poet Mary Oliver sees death as “the fascinating snake under the leaves, sliding and sliding.” John Green, author of ‘The Fault in our Stars,’ says every death comes “in the middle of a sentence.” Whatever the means, what is certain is that no one, really, is ready for the grave; we always have one more thing to say, another short (or long) step to take. A philosopher said birth and death are the bookends of our lives. Death itself is a confounding reality – a solid wall that we all hit as the very end of our future. It is also, paradoxically, the doorway through which we must all pass to a place called eternity. It is a destination we are born to reach. For some, the journey is an involuntary race; it is a leisurely stroll for some others. In the end, we all arrive. However, at what age we breast that tape, no one alive guesses that correctly. For a generation, the end of life came midway between every generation on this plane. We will all return home.
American novelist Ernest Hemingway tells us to know that every man’s life ends the same way. He adds that only the details of how he lived and how he died distinguish one man from another. Seventeenth-century Anglo-Welsh royalist poet Katherine Philips, in her’ Epitaph,’ also ponders life and its (lack of) meaning: “What on Earth deserves our trust? / Youth and beauty both are dust.”
Fatoumatta: Death is not a big deal. Perhaps it is to the grieving ones left behind, but not to the deceased. “They are at a better place” is a cliché statement, but it is true. They have gone back to where they are fundamentally themselves, unbound by the limitedness of human nature. They are at a place where they can see what we cannot see, where they know what we do not know. They have gone back to a magnificent dimension where they feel no hate, no judgment, no guilt, and they look upon us with unconditional love. They carry no grudges. Any resentment they bore in their heart was immediately erased when they passed away because they went to a place where animosity cannot exist. Even if you killed them, they do not hate you, and they will not haunt you in your sleep. It is your mind, your conscience, that haunts you.
When you think of them as the person you knew when they were alive, you would both be right and wrong. Right because you indeed knew them like that, and wrong because they are not that person anymore. They are not even a person. The person you fondly remember was just a garment, a costume for their character on stage, a mask for their part in the masquerade, which they took off as soon as their role in it was over. That person is no longer the child you knew, or the granny that took care of you, or the friend you loved. They are no longer the criminal that was shot or the terrorist that killed hundreds, or the good-for-nothing addict who died from a drug overdose. Now they are far more superior, unattached to the illusory identities they took up on stage. Now they are without face or form. They transcend the echoes of time and space unrestricted by the physical boundaries of flesh – you would not know where they begin and where they end. They are just an ageless being that existed before the beginning of time and will continue existing after all has been completed. They move like the strongest winds, yet you will barely feel them. They shine like the brightest suns, yet you will hardly see them. Here, they cannot be defined. They cannot be compressed. They are nothing, and they are everything.
Fatoumatta: Death is not a big deal. It may be devastating for the ones left behind, but it is not for the one who has gone. They are not dead; they have just gone back to their original self. They have not stopped existing. They are still here but not as human beings with human attributes. They can hear you when you think of them. They respond subtly in interesting, mysterious ways – symbols, songs, dreams, numbers, ideas, patterns, ‘coincidences,’ other people. If you were truly connected with them, they become potent energy at your disposal, an angel you know personally whom you can turn to when you have questions and get answers from a higher perspective. When crestfallen because they are not there with you, you can mention them silently and feelingly inside your heart as if they are in there and ask them to give you comfort. They will, and they will make you feel like they never really left.
“Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”