Two years ago today, we buried my grandma. On the eve of her burial, our small house in Sagamu was filled to the brim with people, neighbours, family, friends, sympathizers, and strangers.
I am reminded of the age-old practice of the Igbos, how they build mansions in the village and do not mind living in small houses in Lagos. In sharp contrast to the Yorubas who build their sprawling mansions in Lagos and view the village homes as a temporary abode. Only to be visited for a few days in December/January and hurriedly polished up when their children want to get married and they invite their in-laws over for an introduction or engagement ceremony.
The backyard was filled with women cooking. The older ones sat on plastic chairs under a canopy and screamed out instructions to the younger ones. Hierarchy is one thing the Yorubas hold dear to their hearts.
The smell of jollof rice moved my cousin to retell a joke about the taste of burial jollof. Something along the lines of Jollof being sweeter when it is for the burial of an older person, one where there is a shirt imprinted with “Adieu mama or Adieu papa” and mama or papa lived till the ripe old age of 80 or 90. Laughter filled the air and for a brief moment, we forgot we were there to mourn a loss.
Forgot that the family matriarch was gone.
Multiple unrecognizable faces, yet they were quick to embrace me and loudly render my lineage praise. One woman in particular, pulled me so close to her bust that the smell of talcum powder and sweat invaded my nostrils; it was the longest 5 seconds of my life. There was another man, whose face or name I cannot remember but his laughter has stuck with me to this day. He had dry croaky laughter originating from the depth of his throat and sprouting through his mouth, expanding his eyes, ears, and nostrils. His entire body shook as he laughed, bringing to mind the image of a small generator. The type that spits out thick black smoke and is so loud, you can hear it from two streets away.
As is typical in Sagamu, the burial was held on the street. The entire stretch of it was filled with people. Cousins and extended family members numbering in the hundreds, the result of our polygamous forefathers bare before our eyes.
My mother and uncle shed a tear or two, but none of the grandchildren cry, perhaps it is because we already had our fair share of mourning long before she finally passed.
This wasn’t how I had envisioned grief. In my mind I had thought it would shake us all, our bodies stifled and tired from an inability to breathe, but this was different. We mourned softly, gently, slowly.
The ceremony was interrupted by an angry storm. It is April after all, the clouds have been gathering for some time now.
My siblings and I left Sagamu a day after the burial, and as the driver sped onto Expressway junction I realized that I missed Lagos. The bitter-sweet chaos that it possesses, the coziness of my room, the comfort of my bed and teddy bears. I am anxious to return home, ironically though, this is home.