Adakole remembered how people used to say that sick people usually got well just before they died, because they must appear in heaven where they were headed very healthy or was it because they would need the agility to be able to make the heavenward journey?
At that moment he could not cry. The full meaning of what happened had not registered in his mind. The full import of those changes that his mother's death would bring into his life would only come in later days, when she would be missed where her presence and personality had always been strong and special.
Quietly he arranged her and pulled the cloth over her face as if to forever banish that eerie solemnity that now rested undisturbed thereupon. Then he went out and locked the door behind him. He was heading for the house of the clan's head. The head of the clan was the first to know when any birth or death occurred in the clan. He was the custodian of the family traditions and he always knew what to do.
“She must be buried immediately,”
the wizened, bald-headed, beardy man said calmly, not breaking his gaze from the floor.
“No, old one, my mother was a devout Christian during her life, she deserves a befitting burial, not one that is rushed up like this, and for that we need time – time to put proper plans in place, time to arrange for the church to come and honour her with a Christian wake-keep service, time for her fellow women choir members to sing for her a farewell song, time to…”
“My son, time is a luxury to Alekwu. She would have to be buried this morning before the sun comes overhead,”
he sounded very gentle but also very emphatic.
“Alekwu? Old one, but Alekwu and my mother, what is the connection now? No; for long my mother has accepted Christ Jesus into her life and has never had dealings with the sort of Alekwu. No, in this case, Alekwu has no stake.”
The old man patted Adakole on the shoulder,
“Young man, tradition is tradition. It is clear that you know so much less than you think you know. Didn't she ever tell you?”
“Of course, I don't expect her to have. Typical. But no matter how much of Christianity they profess, they also know that allegiance to Alekwu is neither negotiable nor can it be compromised.”
“You are saying my mother was involved? But what would be the proof of that?”
“You are looking for the proof? Well, fair and simple enough. Now go back home and look for it, check the left leg, toes to thigh, you will see it.”
“What would I see?”
“Go quickly, do not delay; whatever you see, return to tell me. Make it fast, because Alekwu has no luxury of time.”
He had been sitting upon the floor, behind the firmly closed door for a length of time, crying when the preacher, on his daily house-to-house morning visitation, arrived. One look at the boy and the preacher could tell that the supplication for that morning would no longer be for healing.
Adakole blubbered, rising and flinging himself upon the man for support, drowning in the sweet smell of his cologne.
The preacher held him tight, doubling up upon him till his chin rested on his shoulder.
“Cry not my boy,” he said,
the usual reassurances and certainty were in his words.
“This earthly loss is but a gain to Heaven. Rejoice for she has been delivered from all worldly pains and anguish and received into eternal rest in the bosom of Christ, where she shall hunger no more and never thirst anymore, for God has wiped away every tear from her eyes,”
the priest spoke of the end about which he was sure but hardly had he finished saying so than the door swung open and the other priests, three in tow, white shawls draped and flung upon their shoulders, stepped out of the room. Behind them, two strong, young men raised the crimson-robed corpse shoulder high upon a bamboo plank.
“It is time, my boy.”
the leader of the group intoned and beckoned.
And for the first time in the space of time since she had died, Adakole really began to weep. It seemed his legs had suddenly surrendered their power to support; he just buckled at the knees and went down. Was it the consolation that his mother would be buried according to the Christian rites that had held back his tears and made him strong?
Previous Posts in the Series – ALEKWU
ALEKWU Prologue – Adakole, His Brother and Their Sick Mother
ALEKWU 1 – Adakole’s Mother Asked for Periwinkles Pepper Soup
ALEKWU 2 – Adakole’s Mother is Dead or Alive