When I’m Gone

Life is fleeting. Today I wake up, and on my WhatsApp group I see Sylli has posted something concerning Senzo Meyiwa. Or rather, that he is dead. I am like ‘how now?’ Well, that’s just how things are. The other day Senzo was bossing it in the Orlando Pirates goal as they (or shall I say, we) ran out 4-1 winners against Ajax Cape Town. The next day? Gone. Gone, never to come back. Too sad, too devastating. He was just getting to his peak as a goalkeeper, captaining both club and country, but thanks to a hit man’s bullet, we’ll never know just how great he could have become. Thoughts go out to his family, his nation and each of the distraught fellow Pirates fans. One Sea Robber is down, but we’re too many. They can’t take us all out. The Ghost lives on.

Of late I have been thinking a lot about death. About my death to be precise. And yeah, I am fully aware that it may be a taboo in some quarters to think or as they would put it, to invoke the name of death. Well, so what? Don’t we all get to meet our Maker at some point? I don’t want to imagine that thinking about it attracts it to come sooner than intended. Then again, there will be some who upon reading this, and then by coincidence I happen to die soon after, will conclude that I had a premonition about my death. You just don’t know how thrilled (in the after world) I would be if you all peddled such sentiment, ha! Who wouldn’t like to be credited with foreseeing their own death? If you ask me, that’s the ultimate praise one could ever get. But you know, I kid. I have seen no vision of my would-be impending demise. I’m still very much alive…albeit today I woke up feverish.

How would I like to die? In combat in the heat of the battle? In a mangled wreckage of one these ill-fated public service vehicles? Burnt beyond recognition in a fire that any serious arsonist would be proud of? Fall from the top tier of a stadium out of the delirium that only a last minute goal by your favourite team can provide? Or in my deathbed, clutching at my wife’s hands while pitifully staring at my kids gathered around? So much to choose from aye? It doesn’t matter though. At least I don’t think it should matter how you leave this earth. Though I tend to hear that so and so died a dignified, peaceful death. Well, they ain’t gonna live to savour all that peace and dignity, or are they?

My main concern with my death is how my people will mark it, how they will send me to finally meet both my grandfathers. Yeah, I never saw them, or at least I don’t have those memories. And I have missed them in some way. How will they bury me? Wait, will I want to be buried or be cremated? The jury is still out on that one, with time I’ll come to a decision. For now let’s go with the burial thing.

I’ve always envied our Muslim brothers for one thing. They bury their dead pretty soon, with minimal fuss. Why would you want to keep my decomposing body lying about in a fridge or a bed or floor or whatever for a week or two? It’s embarrassing even for the dead body. I mean, my dead self be like, ‘are we there yet?’ Even Christ was buried within three hours of his death. I’d love that, for me. But if you have to wait two weeks till I’m interred, it’s just annoying. If maybe there was a chance that death offered some grace period within which resurrection was possible, maybe I would understand, but it doesn’t. So we’ve cleared that up, yes? Bury me soonest possible, ok? The longer the period between death and burial, the greater and more stressful the grief. And you know me, I care about my people. I don’t want them to be worn out by their grief.

During Nelson Mandela’s burial last December, the organizers apologized for not honouring the ancestors’ wishes of burying someone as eminent as Madiba at noon, when the sun is at its lowest. I admire that kind of tradition, and as a result, please if you’ll be organizing my burial, uphold it. Ensure I’m in my grave at the latest, 1215h – a quarter an hour allowance because people don’t keep time at such social gatherings. Why though? I mean, I not exactly going to be ‘eminent’, right? Just do it because I said so, damn it! Don’t I get my last wishes granted, you whinny human beings? Not everybody in attendance will mourn me, but at least let the sun with all its glory be ‘downcast’ when I leave for the last time. Of course, my final farewell will be presided over by a Catholic priest. Staunch in death as in life, you know. That moment when you lower me into the grave, that poignant moment when it really dawns even to me that I’m well and truly gone, grant me this one wish. Sing the Kiswahili hymn for Holy Communion, ‘Anayekula Mwili Wangu’. It’s probably the song that when I sing at holy mass I feel closest to divinity. I feel at peace, albeit in a sombre way. I’d love to feel that way as I hit six feet under.

It is not easy, and it probably never will, but I would want to embrace my death. In as much as like everybody else I don’t want to die, I don’t want to fear it. My worry is that in the last sixty seconds of my life, would I be able to say with a straight face?:

I was here. I lived, I loved. I was here. I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be. I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here. I want to say I lived each day, until I died and know that I meant something in somebody’s life. The hearts I’ve touched will be proof that I leave, that I made a difference and this world will see”

Some words, huh? Well I wouldn’t want to take the credit. Ok, I’d want to heh! Anyway that was all Beyonce. Yes, I’m quoting Beyonce, not your usual post, this one. For now though, I still got to make a difference in this world. Let me try, before y’all get to sing thus at my gravesite: ‘Yesu wangu nakuomba, nishibishe na mwilio, nayo damu yako ninywe japo sistahili mimi.’