On Death, Dying, and Things that Happen Around That

Of all the blogs I could have possibly planned out this year, this was totes not on my radar at all. But here we are.

Conversation between me and Carys (7 years old):

C: Where are we going?

Me (E): We’re going to plant a tree for Bernie?

C: Why?

E: (unsure…) For people to remember her by… Sometimes people do that when someone special to them dies.

C: But we don’t do that for everyone…

E: I know, but Bernie was super special to lots of people here and I think that that shows how special she was here to lots of people…

C: looks at me, then turns to brownspace and starts talking about picking up trash and how they should build a football pitch for people in the neighborhood

Shoutout to Carys for keeping me on my toes and always challenging me with her questions. But yeah, she was totally right, we don’t always plant trees for people when they die. Funerals and memorials and things we do for people (or maybe more for ourselves??) in their passing varies across a wide spectrum of both culture and expense. The funeral INDUSTRY is a multi billion dollar one. But for every person that gets soon-to-be beautiful plum trees planted in their memory, a horse-drawn carriage down Saracen, a bench, a plaque, a wake thrown, or all the other things we do to mark people’s death there are people whose death is but a blip in time. Like I said, wide spectrum.

I don’t do death. Well not really that I don’t, more I’ve never had to. I only ever met one of my grandparents, once. Most of the funerals and people passing around me in my life so far haven’t been people I’ve had super close connections with. And in all honesty, death makes me extremely uncomfortable.

On Wednesday 28th of December I woke up to the news that one of my favorite people had passed away. Though we didn’t grow up together, and our connections can’t be easily mapped out on our family tree, Desiree was my cousin and on my Top 10 List of favorite people.

Our dads grew up close to each other in Nigeria and obviously moved to the States at varying points to raise their families. We met for the 1st time as they passed through our home in Maryland on their way to spend summer (’05 maybe) with their dad in NY, and to be honest we never really got the opportunity to get to each other past that day. Fast forward almost a decade and a few moves later, both of our families are now in Texas by chance, and we’re older so Facebook is a thing. Texas is large af so, though in the same state they were like 6 hours away. We got back in touch as university started to roll out for us. Desiree and her other half, Destiny, have become a fixture in the Eni house over the past few years, and truly it’s been a blessing. We’re all children of the diaspora, who are caught somewhere between our upbringing in the West and our love of our Nigerian culture and heritage. It’s actually really cool how our generation has created this space of extremely cool existence for ourselves. This is something we all talked about quite often during our increasingly frequent get-togethers.

When I found out about Desiree, it was probably like 4am in the States, so I was extremely pissed off that no one was answering my phone calls. I cried like most of that day (S/O to my YAV sisters and Irene and James). It made the week and definitely the start to a new year seem sadder and slower. But, I think it was the weekend of Desiree’s memorial service, I was laying in my bed in a seasonably grumpy mood. I just knew that, I was done being sad about missing THIS. Desiree did life extremely well. I knew she’d be pissed at me for being a big ol’ sour puss during this year. She was so excited that I was coming to Scotland to work for the church.

During my time here in Scotland, I’ve had the blessing of being able to celebrate the lives of folks that have been very important to the lives of people here. In October one of the people really important in one of the groups I work with every week passed away unexpectedly. Chris was volunteer extraordinaire for Just Like Us and I enjoyed his voice being one of the 1st when I walked into the church on a Wednesday morning, moving around pots and pans, listening to the news on the radio. He was loud, and passionate about social justice and rights for the most disadvantaged Scots (I loved talking to him about Margret Thatcher and the politics of my country). His passing hit my Just Like Us family really hard. His funeral was “absolutely mobbed man,” and in the lead up to it, it was wonderful to hear stories of his life, memories, both fond and difficult by people whose life he touched and was a part of.

Bernie, the subject of my conversation with Carys, was someone that I didn’t get to meet. She left Milton before I got here, but it’s been very clear to me that her impact on this place, among the people that I’m getting to know during my year was tremendous. She was the manager at the sheltered housing complex in Milton, but more than that, she was a friend and confidant to so many here. Yesterday, there was a wee service in Milton followed by a the planting of 3 plum trees at Taransay Court, where she lived and worked.

Getting to mourn the lives of those who have been important to the lives of the people who I’m growing to call family here in Milton, has made being away from my own family as I come to terms with and mourn the life of my cousin Desiree so much more comfortable. I was really angry that I couldn’t go home for her services. Like totes not a thing that I get to be angry about, I knew what I was in for when I came to Scotland for the year, but still a thing.

Desiree is a #twin2 (LIKE ME!!) so our connection will be forever written in the stars of twindom. So thanks to Milton and this year, for unexpected gifts and, for the space to begin to learn how to mourn those whom we love, especially when we can’t be there (physically)

No playlist, cuz I literally can’t even, but here’s a song that I think captures the essence of what the spin around the dancefloor of life is like. This song was sung at Chris’s funeral by Iain Morrison. It was stunning and wonderful.

 

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