The Truth of the Matter: Morticians, Mothering Sunday and Burial in Igbo Land

The Truth of the Matter: Morticians, Mothering Sunday and Burial in Igbo Land

Sunday, April 18, 2021 11:11 am


Fred Chukwulobe and his late mother

By Fred Chukwulobe

As I step up preparations towards my late mother’s interment scheduled for June 4, 2021, I’d like to share my experience thus far. I understand that those who have passed through this route will appreciate what I’m saying, but for those who have not, you may find it funny or intriguing.

When you lose a loved one, you get consoled and you get ready to fete those who consoled you. It is called burial ceremonies. If you don’t have the funds, borrow. If you can’t borrow, sell properties. You also should get ready for those who will make life miserable for you by asking you to pay all manner of dues, which you and your siblings owe and which your late mother also owed. I have had a bitter taste of it. It is as if they have been waiting for you and for your person to die. No pity. Just plain meaness. One insisted he will not give me the figures on phone unless I come to his house. He insulted the life out of me for daring to challenge him. For such people, that you lost a loved one is not their business. They must do their job and they’re usually those who left the cities and returned to the villages after failing in their businesses. (No pun, please). It is as if you’re responsible for their failure, if you see it that way.

You begin by renovating your house, if you have one or build from the scratch if you’re loaded, so that when your friends come they’d see you’re “living well”. It does not matter if your dead relation lived in dirty, dilapidated house. Your concern now is to show off and not be exposed to ridicule. For me, it won’t happen. My mother lived in a clean, well maintained house.

I still recall my visit to the mortuary and my encounter with morticians. I will return in a week’s time to be sure my mother’s body is still intact. I am curious after Ichie Francis Obiekezie (Ichie Akwudolueze) told me a scary story of a family whose dead relative’s body was misplaced by morticians and the burial had to be aborted at the last minute. Scary!

Although I gave the morticians “something” after my last visit, I want to go and give them another “something” to motivate them and ensure that such stories that touch are not told.

Watching my late mother’s body on bare floor because in our clime mourtuaries are still crude, as our health care system generally, I watched her hands. In the few minutes I spent crying, I recalled my mother using those hands to flog me; to flog sense into me for my stubbornness. I looked at her lips, now closed and still, and remembered she used them to call me “anuofia”, “ekwensu”, “ewu”, etc. She didn’t mean them. She wanted me to be a better person. And she succeeded. At that moment, I wished she could open them and ask me, “anuofia, what are you doing here”? Unfortunately, it is too late.

I watched her tall legs, which she used in chasing me about when I erred. I imagined how she was able to catch me in those days and gave me six strokes to get sense into this my big head. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Well, not anymore. If you flog children of these days, you’d either go to jail or you’re called old school. How many parents still use the cane? We now buy big android phones to show we belong.

After watching her body and having these thoughts, I found out the only thing I could do at that moment was cry. And crying I did, not until the mortician told me to “find us something. You can see we are busy”. He managed to say to me, “ndo”, with his hands outstretched to collect the “something”. I squeezed a couple of naira notes into his hands and he disappeared to continue with what he does best.

I stood for a while as he meandered through bodies, looked at some bodies that littered everywhere and took a look at that one that was very big…

I shall return to the mortuary. I like doing so. It sobers me. It reminds me that all mortals will pass through it if you’re lucky. Some were kidnapped and their bodies never found. Others were buried in shallow graves by criminal elements and law enforcement agents who specialise in extra judicial murders. So, count yourself lucky if morticians deal with you dead.

The truth of the matter is that one thing is certain in life: death. Together with truth and change, it is constant.

Today is Mothering Sunday. I miss my mother. Posthumously, I can’t even wish her Happy Mothers Day. The heart is still grieving. But life must go on until it stops.

Happy Mothering Sunday to all Ndi Nne. Ndi Nne Mama!

-Fred Chukwulobe is a journalist and public relations consultant.

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