Be Open
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Be Open

A moment with the dead, please.

Photo by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash

I woke up today with a yearning. I wanted to go home. I’ve been living abroad for what sometimes feels way too long. For quite some time, I’ve had this tugging in my heart. The strings of my heart are being pulled like a parent beckoning their children: come now, it’s time to come home. But today’s yearning is of a different sort.

Today is also, all-soul’s day (November 2nd). In my Christian tradition, it’s a day we take to remember our deceased loved ones in a special way. We are encouraged to pray for their soul response. I’ve always tried my best to observe this practice, making sure to remember all the relative and friends we’ve had to say goodbye to over time as well as saying a prayer for the forgotten souls. Today is different though. It’s the first time my father is part of the dearly departed and I wasn’t sure I how I would handle it.

So, you see, this morning’s yearning was not merely a call to come home. It was a deep desire to be there, not only home but where he had been laid to rest. I longed to be at my dad’s grave, to talk to him, to sit with him in that comfortable silence we used to share when it was past midnight. This all-soul’s day, I also wanted to do something I never thought I would ever want to do. I wanted to pour some luxurious red oil and his favorite whisky upon his grave, on his head. It’s a ritual we do for our deceased loved one and I did not always see the importance of it. I should mention that pouring red oil and salt are the ritual, Whisky is my personal note because that was one of my dad’s favorite drinks.

Life is funny that way. For a long time, because of how I held my faith, I wouldn’t let myself entertain the thought of repeating the rituals my father had with his deceased father. Most of the times, I looked down on it with veiled contempt, wrapped in a poor understanding of my faith and mostly my culture and its traditions. I did not grasp the depth of this ritual and how important it was for him and others practicing it. I thought praying for the deceased soul was more than enough, but it is not. At least not for me especially if it’s simply part of a routine or obligation. It doesn’t cut it.

We have many saying in my tribe pertaining to the fact that death is merely a door ushering people into a new realm and thus the connection we had with our loved ones does not stop once they cross-over. I believe I am at this point in my life where I feel the need to connect with my dad, through the ritual he had with his own deceased parents. I now know deeply in my heart how important and how much peace it brought him to perform those rituals.

Kampala Kasubi Tombs by notphilatall

On this all-soul’s day I would pay a great lot to have the sole of my feet touch the ground where my dad has been buried, to sit on that three-legged stool strategically placed close to where his head is resting. I would give a great deal to light some fire in our ancestor’s home (where him, and our family elders before him are buried), to make sure the place is warm and simply bask into the comforting silence of his presence. I would tell him of my grief, ask him for advice on how to navigate this new normal and when I will be tired, I would sleep on the single bed on the other side of the room.

Me being this far away is the reason I can’t. Having to go through this grieving season from afar has been, still is a great pain. It’s led me to wonder more than usual about some of my life decision like living oceans apart from my family. Lately I’ve been asking myself was it worth it? I always knew that at some point I would go back. But is it time? Am I blinded by my pain and the general fatigue I’ve been having for a while? Am I ready? Those are questions I’m yet to answer.

Those are questions I would have discussed with my dad. Things I would have love to tell him if I were in that ancestor home. I often grew impatient when we went to our village, and he would spend hours into that small house. I remember asking him once, why going there so often? He had look at me, his face exuding peace and had told me, one day you will know.

Now I know and I wish I did not have to know it this soon.



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