I have attended a couple of funerals. Most being of people I do not know. The number of times I interacted with them, all summed up, ought to be less than 24 hours. Each time I sit on a church’s pew or under a tent, I watch intently as the family and friends of the deceased read their tributes. Some crying and others trying not to. Reading of tributes is the most emotional and saddest session of a funeral — second to the lowering in the grave. As they read, I’m thinking, whatever they (family and friends) are telling us, most people being strangers, did they ever tell the deceased what they thought about them when they were alive?
Did your father know that you thought of him to be hardworking and outspoken? How grateful you are for the sacrifices your mother made? How your husband was selfless and generous? How you admired the way your wife took great care of you and your children? How obedient and chap chap your son was? Did your brother ever know how grateful you are for the many times he came through for you? How your sister was strict and motherly? Did your friend know how they made you feel alive and happier just by their company?
‘If there is a man with silver on his hair and gold in his heart, it is Guka’. This is an excerpt from a tribute I wrote in honour of Guka five years ago. If I was to die today, I would want such a tribute to be read during my funeral. It was everything I thought he was. Regrettably, I never told him — not even a single word from the tribute — in person who I thought he was.
Henceforth, I vowed not to write a tribute to a loved one unless I had told them who I thought they were live live — an extraordinary human being living in an ordinary world. Because why feed the living words that the dead should have eaten when they were alive na mahûne pa!?
Last year, I lost Cucu. And when I was asked to write her a tribute, I said no. Because why should I read a tribute in front of an audience, words I should have told her when she was alive? What good will it do to the audience? They will just be feeling sorry for me and by the time they will be eating githeri, it will be like I never made them cry — at least.
I was discussing this tribute matter with a friend and he said, “It is not easy. Telling someone what you think of them when they are alive, is not easy.” You do not have to tell them by mouth, “you can choose to write.” I said.
Save yourself from a guilty conscience when standing on that altar at eleven or midday. Because a friend once wrote me — we live so many times and die once.
Featured image courtesy of Pinterest.