Giving back to parents: Health Vs. Funeral

Funeral is an important ritual in Nigeria – it is our way of honouring the dead. Our funeral ceremony can be elaborate as is also a way of catching up with families given people from far and wide come to pay their last respect to the beloved family member.

When I was growing up, I learnt that funeral is mandatory in a quiet way that everyone feels the sense of obligation not just for the burial but ceremony that involves shedding of  ‘blood’ usually cow’s.

The reasoning leading up to death becomes irrelevant in most of these cases.

Aisan laa wo, enikan kii w’oku – We treat disease not death.

This Yoruba proverb is an emphasis on the fact that traditionally family do make great efforts to look after the sick.

Something has been lost along the line somewhere that we no longer care as much as we used to. Today, family and friends would volunteer to lend money for all that you ever wanted so as to have the biggest party in town after the passing of a family member but very few are willing to financially help when it comes to getting proper diagnosis of illness let alone hospital bill for the same person.

A few years ago, a cousin called from the local teaching hospital mortuary to say he was on his way to taking his mother for the final burial and in preparation for the ceremony the next day – he was excited that  he’s able to afford ambulance with siren (emphasis on the latter) so everyone in town knows the day his mother was buried.

I was excited for him.

Then he said his mother can now rest in peace with no pain. “Rest in peace, she would but no doubt looking down now shedding bloody tears on you.” I added.

Everything is a curse in Yorubaland, cousin flipped and thought I was cursing. I apologised but told him his mother was one of the strongest women I have ever met, raised 3 boys and 3 girls with father who passed on when the last child was only in his teen.

All of the children had at least primary school education and those who didn’t went for apprentice of one form or the other.

When I was young, Mama was taken from her village to live with the children in town. All was well initially as plenty of grandchildren around – common practice to take parents away from the village in my area especially if they were alone as a way of helping.

A lady who was used to running about found herself with little to do. She coped well going for lots of church activities and markets – selling a few items to keep body and mind healthy.

Not so far from this time, Mama developed diabetes. I didn’t know anything about diabetes at the time but there was a talk of polyuria, as Mama urinated more frequently than it’s normal for her. We had a trusted local doctor who prescribed some medication – Mama got better – a bit.

We have gotten better with getting proper diagnosis when one is sick however, there is a lack of understanding of the length it takes to heal properly from any illness and reality of what might be lifetime treatment especially for diabetes patients.

The house that once filled with grandchildren are now replaced with tenants, three grown children moved away to their own homes with their family, all living in the same town within 3 mile radius to Mama.

Prior to her death she hasn’t been to church for about a year – that is a big deal for Christian woman, she was too weak and yet more prayers and not hospital visit.


“She was younger than my first child!” My father said of Mama Toyin. Mama Toyin is 52, but got married very early as my father and his mates liked to joke about how young Mama Toyin was when she married Baba Toyin. “Was she sick?” I asked my father. “Yes, for a while now”,  “Same thing that killed Mama Eleja?” I asked – untreated high blood pressure and complications from diabetes.

“When is the funeral?” Next month, they were deliberating on the number of maalu (cows) now, Samuel, the eldest son has a good job in Abuja.

Enjoy, daddy. Say hello to Moomi.

Categories: Africa, Health, Nigeria, Women

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. Thank you as usual, you have remarkable timing! A Gem and a Jewel!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Our Chinese funerals especially for 3 generation families can be as long as a week. The festivity of it as in celebrating the life of the loved one is or can be extravagant. 5 course dinner for visitors attending the wake. Mahjong tables for the familes attending to wake. It is sad when we say the white haired sends away the black haired. This means untimely demise of young ones.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Whao, that’s interesting, seems very similar to Nigeria custom then… Can be fun catching up with family, but sad when death that could have been avoided is extravagantly celebrated, well in our case.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, my condolences to your family. To further share, I have come to a point that if one departs, then their mission on earth is served and God or a superior being has recalled. I tend to feel that life on earth is a journey of suffering. Once it ends for me, I will be glad. I have not died and returned to Earth but would like to think that there is a better spiritual world out there 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You don’t do this very often – in fact you never had until now – you made me cry, real tears and feel sad. memories of my mother dying is not something I call forth often, and usually after drinking several martinis, sans olive, and very little vermouth. She had both life insurance and burial/funereal insurance plus health insurance, being bitter I remember thinking when told of her ‘home-going’ (it’s what black folk down south call dying/death) why? What good is her death to me? Stupid wS my middle name, but I really had no idea of what to do, even drinking wasn’t an option, so I just sort of walked off, living in England at the time, I walked the river Avon for like ever until she poke to me and told me she was at peace and to get on with it, people were counting on me to be a better person than this idiot walking along the riverbank and so was she. Mother death is a bitch, father death no big deal (it is I know, but being a father I prefer it not to be: at least not for another 55 years) stopping now, before I destroy that illusion you have of me as that big black strong American man! Peace be unto you, my young African sister

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting, Home-going – liked that. In Yoruba we say ‘Mama ti lo s’ile’ – Mother has gone home.

      I am sorry, I made you cry.

      And you are not any less Big Black Strong American Man. Life is what it is and sometimes we have to go through our own experiences to learn.

      If it’s any consolation, I am, well as you can perhaps tell not an angel. My mother when I was about 16 said she hoped I will never be the only one beside her on death bed – she was sick and I wasn’t very nice – at the time she thought she was doing all she can to raise me, I had so many questions I wanted to ask but no one wanted to listen was my defence.
      I am grateful that somehow my parents and I are blessed with a second chance.

      Now, something to make you smile – Happy VD!. Now I await to read how celebrating the day has changed.

      Liked by 1 person

Please leave comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: