At Emmanuel’s father’s grave, Janet stood. She had brought with her a flower bouquet to make the dead happy. A cursory look around revealed to her that the grave before which she stood had been neglected for quite a long time. The other graves had fresh flowers on them and were not overgrown with grass. For a moment, she wanted to walk away. She felt guilty for having come to the grave only because she needed the help of the one who lay dead inside it.
While she pondered how much the grave had been neglected, and how she might proceed with the request for which she had come, a stocky man with a bowed out leg, approached her. The man was seemingly in his mid-fifties. He had bristly beard and looked unkempt. With difficulty, he staggered on his feet, bouncing up and down as his legs were unequal in length. “Good day madam. Does the grave belong to your family?” he asked, making much effort to smile. “Yes, it does,” replied Janet. “The dead can be pacified; they can be shown love. I have often wondered what heinous life the person in this grave committed in his lifetime that his relatives have thought it wise to neglect him. I know he is a man because I have often seen him sitting on his grave at nights looking forlorn and his eye filled with tears…”
“Have you?” Janet asked, her voice filled with fear and trepidation. The man was happy to gain her attention. “Yes, I have. For more than eighteen years I have worked here. By now some of the dead here know me and I know them…” he paused. “So you know the man in this grave then?” asked Janet. “No, I don’t. He prefers to keep his distance and is always in tears. My guess is that he died suddenly. He did not die a good death.” “You might be right. I am his daughter in-law. I have seen enough lately to know he might not have died a good death…” “Don’t worry; however he died, he can be pacified. You can have me weed his grave, bring perfumed flowers for his grave and you can read him words of love. Look at this…” He dug into his b—-t pocket and dragged out a rumpled piece of paper.
“…this is a poem for the dead. It was written by a celebrated Ghana witch doctor…” the man continued. Janet shrank back at the mention of witch doctor. “…do not fear, you will not be harmed. This poem in my hand, works wonders with the dead. I will do all I mentioned just for a token. I am afraid to go home to my wife and children tonight,” the man concluded, almost pleading. “Why are you afraid to go home, sir?” “I can’t not bear to watch my wife and children go to bed yet another night without food. The government doesn’t care about those who watch the dead anymore. My wife who often helped me out with the responsibilities at home had her shop destroyed in the name of city beautification. As I speak, hunger and lack have made my home their camp. For three months now, I have not been paid my salary…”
Janet raised her hand and hushed the man. She could not bear to listen anymore to the man’s gory tale about his lack. She rummaged in her purse and removed a wad of one thousand naira notes and gave it to the man. “You must go home to night! Make sure your wife and children get something to eat please,” Janet said.
The man went down on his knees to thank her, but she hurriedly pulled him to his feet. “Don’t do that please! All I need from you right now, is to weed this grave and place the perfumed flowers you mentioned on it.” “I will be most glad to do that madam. Please, come over here and sit down,” he said, motioning Janet to a wooden seat under a mango tree some distance away. “Don’t call me madam, you are old enough to be my father. My name is Janet,” she cautioned. “Okay, madam, I will not call you madam again.” Janet had to chuckle at his reply in spite of herself. “Can I ask you a question sir?” Janet asked. “Yes madam, you can.” “I am afraid the man in that grave, took something from me…not exactly from me, though, but from my husband. Do you think if I pacify him he would return it?”
If you could notice in this episode, Janet consulted the dead to find solutions to their predicament. Do you really think what she is doing is the best option for her at this moment i.e. to appease her father-in-law to return her husband’s strength?