My student life at Daystar University, I remember Mrs. Rebecca Ng’an’ga as one of the most influential lecturers I will live to treasure. In my first year, she probably gave us the most memorable assignments I have ever done all through my school life. In not so many words, she once said that being born is a chance, but death is definite. It will happen one day, one time.
“Friends, (that’s how she will refer to us in class) picture that you have lived your life and now it is time to say goodbye to this world. Structure your last day on earth, the people attending your burial, the sight of your burial and how the whole service will be conducted. Think of the good things people will say about you. (It’s one of the most assured times that good things will be said about anyone). Your assignment is to draft your own eulogy. Fast track your life and imagine how it will be until you are dead,” she instructed.
We gathered our minds and after a week we were submitting our personal tributes. We included our husband’s name, most of us quoting our ‘then’ boyfriends who in a way we assumed had died before us. To make it even interesting, most of my male classmates predicted to have died before their wives. Strange! We were happy quoting the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren we were living behind.
A week later she brought back our assignments with a lot of disappointment on her face. “Friends, what a pity? Why did many of you die of very acute diseases? Cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, accidents and so on? Why did many of you want to die at a very young age? There is peace at the graveyard, yes, but don’t be in such a rush to follow it there, enjoy that peace in your life now.” She said.
Many of us don’t even want to imagine of the place where our bodies shall finally lie. But, if we knew that we will have our bodies laid by the graveyard that looks like the one by the church in Mandal in Norway, my heart will be at peace. Your guess is as good as mine, many of us will be looking forward to having a great send-off, when our time on earth finally comes to an end.
Langata Cemetery, Nairobi
Just last month while in Kenya, I visited Langata Cemetery in Nairobi to lay flowers on Sarah Kabiru’s grave, my departed friend, finally I had a chance to see the cemetery at a close range. Many a times I saw it while on Langata road and all I could see were wooden crosses while the area looked kinda bushy. At a close sight, some of the graves looked well taken care of, especially the recent ones but others looked abandoned and forgotten.
Last weekend a concert trip to Mandal, saw us through a graveyard by the church in Mandal. My boss and colleague NRK’s Sigbjørn Nedland told me about it and though it was more of a family concert, he said I could attend, if I wanted to. Without much plan for the weekend, I took up the offer. “We will pass by the cemetery by the church in Mandal; I need to check out the grave to my parents-in-law.” He said.
15 minutes later we were at Mandal, first stop by the graveyard. Beautiful scenery it was. The cemetery is not marked or fenced off. All green, with all different grave stones in different colors and shapes. Birds singing, made the ambiance complete. “The cemetery is the richest place in the world. There lies prominent people, young people with great dreams unaccomplished.” A quote from one of the books I read sometimes back. Last Winter I attended a burial in Norway and the graveyard looked so different from what I was seeing this time round. I took a walk just trying to imagine if only the dead would wake up and see how pretty is the place where their bodies lay.
I checked out the grave to Sigbjørn parents-in-law and noticed that it had two names engraved on it. “It is very common to have couples buried in the same grave. Even at times we have a family grave. In Norway you can have a burial site for 90 years before you start paying for it.” He said as he pruned the flowers by his in-laws grave. Now that gives a solution to Kenya’s cemeteries that have been reported to be full, say for example the Langata Cemetery. Instead of burying family members in different graves hence occupying more space, it will be a good idea to have a family grave. So the first one to go definitely goes many inches deeper as the rest follow on top of each other.
The same will mean a stop of having too many graves at people’s homestead which can be a bit scary at times. I remember visiting a given family in Kenya and right by the homestead, there lay 5 graves.
Apart from the beautiful gravestones, some looked quite stunning, especially the area reserved for deceased babies. I saw these pretty stones with baby images, some with baby photos engraved on them. I thought, “Oh, how creative.” Others had bulb stands, I was informed that at times candles and bulbs will be lit to commemorate special days of the calendar. “This place is managed by the municipality therefore, there are people working here to ensure it remains well taken care of all year round.” Said Sigbjørn.
I am informed that I could also find websites with information on almost all cemeteries in Norway. I realize people use them to locate the graves of their loved ones. “I found both my grandfather and my grandmother’s graves. They even have pictures of my grandfather’s gravestone! My grandmother died at a young age and my grandfather re-married, so they are in separate graves in Sandnes, Norway. It’s nice to have them recorded in this website.” Wrote Gus.
An example of the same can be found by clicking on this link. http://www.disnorge.no/gravminner/index.php?language=engelsk. Being born is a chance, death is certain. Therefore, knowing that you lie at a peaceful environment and even knowing that your loved ones give you the best treatment many years after you are gone, makes it more intriguing.
Hope I will live long enough to try to give the best to the graves of those who go before me and probably receive the same from those I leave behind after I am gone.
Have a pleasant week ahead!!