To dust

As I celebrate one dormant year and a second active year of blogging, I would like to dedicate this to all men (women inclusive.) Everyone that has been with me through this–my hobby, career or whatever. Thank you all–too numerous to mention at the moment but without doubt you all know yourselves (Blog followers and commentors, Toyosi, Livelytwist, Ian, Alan, Christian, Dunni, Boro, Sola, Dare, the whole body of Musedmind Writers, Assumpta, Ife. etc, learned colleagues, family etc.)


Most especially to a friend  whose life and death, reminds me of one thing–the mortality of Man and the essence of a Creator.



The acrid smell of death pumps my blood. I find that my neck hurts and my fists are clenched. Small round colors dance before my eyes. Its feels like a day from my childhood. The lantern ignites the room with an eccentric type of light. The night is singing a violent song coupled with the wind’s usual off-key tune. A mosquito buzzing in my ear, makes it an unlikely trio. They sing, they sing to mourn death.

I find that I have gritted my teeth and I’m trying not to breathe even though the odor is as pungent as if it is I who stinks–or better still, like I am carrying a skunk in my two palms.

A short wail pierces the air and for but a second interrupts the winds tune. But the wind, not later than a second, carries on with its song normally, taking its place in my hearing organs. A spy with my eye at the darkness of the night, reveals in the bluish orange clouds, the possibility of a downpour. I swallow hard.

I move towards the frail body. It reminds me of the skeleton I’d had to study when in Junior Secondary school. I dreaded the Integrated science class–just as much as I dread this moment.

I crack my knuckles. The body whimpers. I move closer, I notice the skinny hand is holding tightly to the curtain, pressing and holding it tightly the way one did, a stress ball. Veins glisten. My eyes fill up with sickening tears. I turn to examine the face. Though he is practically nude, there is absolutely no attempt to protect dignified body parts. No strength to protect shame.

His face is like a mask. Blank and without emotion. His eyeballs are sunk in their sockets and there is a look of distance in each eye. I want to scream at death, at it’s mocking laughter but I whimper, alongside the old man.

The old woman comes out full and wide unlike her spouse. Lines of worry adorn her face. She is beautiful nevertheless. A graceful woman and mother. The African mother. She can tell that his time is near–it is the only reason  she is so nervous and jittery. She settles with a thud beside him. She cradles him and nests his head on her breast. She forces two spoonfuls of custard into his mouth and that’s all he is willing to take. He doesn’t say a word. He just mumbles incoherently.

He seems to be, in this ninety-ninth year of his life, a baby, more than an old man–more than a grandfather or a great-grandfather. He seems a baby ready to cry, wanting to be cradled and touched–and in that moment, I am reminded of the mortality of man.

In my head, thoughts breeze in like the wind and I’m taken to a time in which I didn’t exist. I am taken to the moment he was born. Then my mind is abstractly moved from the joy of bringing a child into the world to the words of a minister, miles away on the same day, in front of a cemetery. He chants ‘from dust we come to dust we return,’ a nostalgic tune being hummed away on the harmonica.They’re dressed in black mourning the death of a loved one. They are white and it makes a lot of sense since its the colonial era. They mourn quietly. Nevertheless, they mourn. Miles away, a woman celebrates the birth of her baby–whom would some day die.

Then I am brought back to the present where this man is about to die, a simpler process but a sad one. I feel queasy.

Its all about living well the subconscious tells me.

The woman starts to sing and tell a story. She talks about their love. She talks about their life together. She talks about being happy. She talks about fulfillment. Then she smiles briefly and kisses his head. In that moment, the strangest thing happens. The mentally and physically unstable aged man, smiles back, his eyes fluttering open with so much energy and gusto, it could have been my imagination and in that same moment, his eyes shut and the wind and night stop their harmonies. There is no movement and silence prevails.

I stare at the lantern as it glows, feeling every bit uneasy. Then I watch as the woman stands, stretches the man on the bed carefully, moves towards the wardrobe, brings out a white cloth and covers every inch of him. Then she goes to the corridor of their home and screams out loud, leaving me confused for only a second. ‘Baba is gone’ she says.

And I am then woken up to reality.

The reality of my earlier trance. Be them some white folks or them black folks. Be them the rich and powerful or the poor and weak. Be it the ministers of God and the sinner on weed. Be it the child who has one too many dreams or the man whose mistakes are numerous.

Dust we are and to dust we shall return…

7 thoughts on “To dust

  1. An interesting look at death. The contrast between the wife, full and wide, and the frail body of the spouse lingers in my mind as does the tenderness with which she may have cradled him and nested his head on her breast.

    It’s all about living well . . . true.

  2. Line 6 of Paragraph 7 has an error — “it is the only reason is so nervous and jittery”

    Other than that, a lovely piece.

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