Wilfred Okiche: When mourning is beautiful [NEW VOICES]

by Wilfred Okiche

Death is a sad affair.

But mourning can be a beautiful thing.

This part of the world, there is a strong belief that burying of the dead should be a communal effort involving loved ones, friends and family.

No matter how private the life, one must never be allowed to mourn alone. The heavens forbid it. Thus when one is bereaved, the full force of the relatives left behind circles in. To help pick up the pieces.

For the people of Unubi, a small village in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra state, burying their dead is something they take seriously. Very seriously.

The funeral arrangements starts with the town’s union wake keep, a colourful ceremony that usually begins with a church style ceremony: prayers, readings, hymns, more prayers, thanksgiving.

But on this day, the women of the kindred decided to start earlier. To pay respects to the husband of their leader and comrade in arms.

wilfred- burial

Moving hymns, choruses, and a special dance where the daughter of the deceased clutches a photograph of her father and dances round the hall, all the while extolling the virtues of her late father. For someone who had never really considered such an undertaking, this daughter performed creditably.

pic-2- wilfred- burial

Then the Christian service. After the opening prayers, the catechist stepped forward, thrusting an Igbo Bible forwards. Two of the children,- the eldest preferably,- would be required to take the readings. In Igbo. No compromises.

Palms sweaty, heart thumping, feet on fire, this son stepped forward to do his best.

But not before a quick practice session. At times like this, best to stick together.

pic-3-wilfred- burial

The sermons, the admonitions, the condolences, and many hours later, and it was time for the women to honour the dead. It must have rained women that day. They came out from all parts of Lagos, and Ogun states. Mum was once their chairlady after all. 9 uninterrupted years a leader.

pic-5-Wilfred-burialOne of the highlights was watching dad’s age grades, men and women above 70, stepping out to do the dance, in honour of their fallen colleague. Enough to make for watery eyes. But on this day, no one was about mourning. It was instead, a celebration. Of good times, of happier times and of a life well lived.


Before long, it was daughter’s duty time once again. Daddy lived a long life and his only daughter was expected to celebrate his life. In dance. And song.


Death is a sad, sad affair. But mourning can be beautiful. And bitter. And sweet. All at once.


pic-8-wilfred-burialHow can he not rest in peace?

Chief Ferdinand Okiche (Umeugonwanne) October 19, 1941- August 13 2016.


Photo Credit: Hycinth Iyereosa

Medic. Writer. Reader. Critic. Occasional ruffler of feathers. Works in a health centre in Lagos but manages to find the time to pursue other interests. His writing has appeared on various print and online platforms. He has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and appears on the culture tv show, Africana Literati. He tweets @drwill20

Catch previous publications of NEW VOICES by Arit, Adetoye, Adeboro, Lekan, Taiwo, Ezinne, Oreoluwa, AderonkeOmar, Ayodotun, Bolade,Edwin, and Ifeoluwa.

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