In my culture, when someone dies we celebrate them. We throw a party despite our grief, we dance, we feed guests, we drink, we share stories and we comfort each other. Now, this “party” depends largely on how young or old the deceased was. A 90 year old grandfather will get a party that lasts for days, while a 20 year old child could be buried with the simplest rites. We are not stupid obviously, there’s no cause to celebrate a life cut short.
Exactly four months ago, I lost a beloved Aunt to cancer. You ever have that relative whose death did not even seem like a remote possibility? That one person that you never even gave a thought to their mortality, because pfeh, how could they die? They simply can’t. Well, my Aunt did. My Aunt died at 51 and my family was shaken to its core. We still are. Sometimes, we still don’t quite comprehend it.
As is our custom, we threw my Aunt a party. She wasn’t old enough to be considered “ozu olili” – a celebratory death, but she was great enough. Her party lasted three days. It was both uplifting and heartbreaking to hear and see how many lives she touched in her short stay on earth. I was humbled and swelling with pride all at the same time. Part of the custom is also to sew “akwa uju”- a modern version of sackcloth to mourn the deceased in. This was mine – a plain tunic with oversized pockets, she also gave me the bracelet I’m wearing.
Technically, one is not supposed to wear it again after the funeral, but today I styled it up and put some makeup on in her honour. She loved that about me. She loved how I could turn drab things into magic. She loved how I always did her makeup and gave her style tips. She loved how I loved to dream big dreams. She loved how I was fiercely passionate about anything I believed in. She loved me even when I wasn’t deserving of it, and I loved her fiercely in return. I will miss her everyday. I look forward to the day that I will remember her without tears and without this gaping hole in my chest…
Until then, I will continue to find solace in knowing that as sucky as her loss is, I gained an angel in heaven. And I know for a fact, that this particular angel loves me.