The Lambent Sound
had attended a formal burial ceremony in a South African church. Of course I had to. My good friend, a prominent elderly South African black author had lost one of his daughters who had succumbed to serious illness. My plan was to go straight to his house whilst the funeral procession made its way to the graveyard.
But my friend came to me outside the church and said in his direct manner: "Enter the car; we’ll go to the graveyard together. I’ll drive." I thought there would be other people inside his car, but this was not so. We made our way to the burial ground some 15 minutes away.
"You know this graveyard of course," he said. I nodded gravely. It was not an admission one would be enamoured to go into details over. He parked the car, whilst the hordes – in many other vehicles – arrived at the graveyard.
"This way, Bolaji," my friend, the writer said. "Follow me." We made our way past a plethora of graves arranged lineally. He went on, as we arrived near a sizeable heap of sand near an open grave..."Just stand beside me. It’s not easy, but all the arrangements have been made over the week, and this is the finale..." I admired his extraordinary fortitude and usual painstaking eye for detail. Why? It was his daughter being buried!
As we positioned ourselves near the pertinent grave, the lambent, melancholy, sombre music reached a peak against the backdrop of a litany of priests making speeches and praying. It was haunting, piercing music and I felt the tears coming to my eyes.
Yet the patriarch himself, the bereaved father (my writer friend) stood strong beside me on the left as the final rites of his daughter’s burial intensified. He gave me a small bottle of cold water which I did not touch; just placed in my lower jacket pocket. I looked at the nearby tent and those close to the bereaved were there, many of them crying
The other surviving sister of the deceased– daughter of my friend, the writer - broke down temporarily and cried, together with her own young daughter. What it was to lose a sibling; a sister! And my mind uncontrollably went to when I lost my own brother who died so prematurely too! And I could no longer contain myself, and the tears flowed. The melancholy music augmented my grief and I felt a bit embarrassed crying in public. But I could hardly help it, and nobody was concerned about me anyway.
Oh, my own brother, Omotayo! Barrister at Law, humanist, and intellectual! What a blow to hear that he had died after a brief illness years ago too! How right the likes of Shakespeare were to refer to life as: "Out! Out brief candle..."
But now the rest of the burial rites were taking place here in South Africa...the coffin being lowered, the frenetic, comprehensive sounds of spades and shovels as sundry people poured sand onto the coffin.
Flowers! Tombstone unveiled, a few other short speeches. Earth to earth; dust to dust...lambent music...threnody...
from South Africa