At Emmanuel’s father’s grave, Janet stood. She had brought with her a flower bouquet to make the dead happy. A cursory look around revealed to her that the grave before which she stood had been neglected for quite a long time. The other graves had fresh flowers on them and were not overgrown with grass. For a moment, she wanted to walk away. She felt guilty for having come to the grave only because she needed the help of the one who lay dead inside it.
While she pondered how much the grave had been neglected, and how she might proceed with the request for which she had come, a stocky man with a bowed out leg, approached her. The man was seemingly in his mid-fifties. He had bristly beard and looked unkempt. With difficulty, he staggered on his feet, bouncing up and down as his legs were unequal in length. “Good day madam. Does the grave belong to your family?” he asked, making much effort to smile. “Yes, it does,” replied Janet. “The dead can be pacified; they can be shown love. I have often wondered what heinous life the person in this grave committed in his lifetime that his relatives have thought it wise to neglect him.
I know he is a man because I have often seen him sitting on his grave at nights looking forlorn and his eye filled with tears…”“Have you?” Janet asked, her voice filled with fear and trepidation. The man was happy to gain her attention. “Yes, I have. For more than eighteen years I have worked here. By now some of the dead here know me and I know them…” he paused. “So you know the man in this grave then?” asked Janet. “No, I don’t. He prefers to keep his distance and is always in tears. My guess is that he died suddenly. He did not die a good death.” “You might be right. I am his daughter in-law. I have seen enough lately to know he might not have died a good death…” “Don’t worry; however he died, he can be pacified.
You can have me weed his grave, bring perfumed flowers for his grave and you can read him words of love. Look at this…” He dug into his b—-t pocket and dragged out a rumpled piece of paper.“…this is a poem for the dead. It was written by a celebrated Ghana witch doctor…” the man continued. Janet shrank back at the mention of witch doctor. “…do not fear, you will not be harmed. This poem in my hand, works wonders with the dead. I will do all I mentioned just for a token. I am afraid to go home to my wife and children tonight,” the man concluded, almost pleading. “Why are you afraid to go home, sir?” “I can’t not bear to watch my wife and children go to bed yet another night without food.
The government doesn’t care about those who watch the dead anymore. My wife who often helped me out with the responsibilities at home had her shop destroyed in the name of city beautification. As I speak, hunger and lack have made my home their camp. For three months now, I have not been paid my salary…”Janet raised her hand and hushed the man. She could not bear to listen anymore to the man’s gory tale about his lack. She rummaged in her purse and removed a wad of one thousand naira notes and gave it to the man. “You must go home to night! Make sure your wife and children get something to eat please,” Janet said.The man went down on his knees to thank her, but she hurriedly pulled him to his feet.
“Don’t do that please! All I need from you right now, is to weed this grave and place the perfumed flowers you mentioned on it.” “I will be most glad to do that madam. Please, come over here and sit down,” he said, motioning Janet to a wooden seat under a mango tree some distance away. “Don’t call me madam, you are old enough to be my father. My name is Janet,” she cautioned. “Okay, madam, I will not call you madam again.” Janet had to chuckle at his reply in spite of herself. “Can I ask you a question sir?” Janet asked. “Yes madam, you can.” “I am afraid the man in that grave, took something from me…not exactly from me, though, but from my husband. Do you think if I pacify him he would return it?”
The man made effort to rest on his one good leg, raising his frame like an orator about to address the Greek parliament in old times, he began, “You see, madam, the loss in death has for ages been misconstrued. Those who suffer the real loss in death are not the living. Though the living cry the loudest, it is the dead who suffer the real loss. They are the ones who can’t taste good wine ever again or wear new clothe fashion. They are the ones who can’t spend time with their wives, husbands or loved ones. They see us giggle and laugh, but they sit quiet in loneliness. They see us use modern technology, but they only wonder what the use is like to us…”
he paused and searched Janet’s eyes. Janet clearly could not make out where he was headed with his lecture about the loss of the dead. He saw that, and so made his last point which drove home his meaning. “…the dead would be glad for anything you do to let them know they are remembered. I have often heard them wailing by night over the torture of their loneliness, particularly the lost souls amongst them.”“So your point is that my father in-law will be glad to return what he took?” Janet asked with an edge of impatience to her voice. “Yes, he will be glad to. After all, he has finally got someone’s attention.” “I like this!” Janet echoed, completely surprised she said that.
For the next twenty minutes she sat under that mango tree and waited for the man to clean the grave and drop the perfumed flowers so she could read her dead father in-law the poem which would make him glad. A few times she tried Emmanuel’s phone number but he did not pick up. She was worried about his attitude, but hoped all that would change for the better by the time she persuaded her father in-law to return what he supposedly took.