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Dignity to the dead is a right

I hate writing about death. It is not that I am afraid of death, nah, far from it. I just donít like negativity and death happens to be top of that list.

I used to hear this a lot, that, until you lose someone very close to you then you will never know how painful death is. I experienced this a few months back and up to now I am still not ready to talk about it, all I can do is confirm that it is exactly how people described it. It is a real nightmare. There is no easy way to say this, but some people can be so cold, insensitive and plain dumb at times. I am not a traditionalist; I can’t claim to have ever worn makgabe or danced in any traditional dance troupe. Well, I once tried but didn’t make the cut. Too light, clumsy and too tall and skinny are just some of the excuses I was given at the time. Primary school teachers then had no tact and hey, I grew up in an era where children were to be seen and not heard. I could not argue.

For the benefit of a few lucky people who have never experienced death of a close family member, the one thing you never forget about death, even after many years is how the news reached you; where you were at and what you were doing at the time. You just never forget that and just like any other traumatic experience, often times you find yourself replaying the moment repeatedly in your head like you could undo it. It sticks to your mind.

Finding out about the death of a loved one on the streets to me, is the worst thing ever. If the death was sudden and horrific it is even bad. I still recall the day my grandfather passed on in the early nineties. I was still at school at the time but the memories are still fresh in my mind. I still replay the incident in my head, even to this day. One minute we were watching ‘Lesilo’ around 8pm in the family lounge, the next minute there was a knock on our door, there stood an ashen looking hospital nurse and a man. They had come to break the bad news, which was that my grandfather had been fatally wounded in a motor accident early that evening. When my mother started screaming I assumed

it was my father, because he was also away at the time. Back in the days, that is how bad news were ‘broken’. If a person died at a hospital, an ambulance would be dispatched to their home to break the news. Other times it was the policemen. To this day I uneasy around hospital and police cars I know I am not the only one.

A friend found out about the death of his parent via social media a few months ago. There had been a horrific accident somewhere along the busy but narrow dangerous roads of this country. Two vehicles, we are told, had collided and four people had not made it. Among the deceased was his parent. Narrating the story at his family home during the funeral, he told of how he learnt of his parent’s demise in the worst form ever, on facebook. To this day he is haunted by the pictures of the accident, pictures he saw on social media. You see when a family member dies, you look for answers in your head, you think of their last moments and you pray that at least they did not suffer when death came, that they died when they were at least unconscious. Knowing that they didn’t suffer a lot is great comfort.  Death never makes sense, especially untimely death. 

Sadly, there was a repeat of this last week, a repeat which understandably evoked a fierce debate on several media platforms. A horrific accident again, a young promising life lost. The big question was and still is; should such news be shared on social media immediately, and what logic, if ever there was, is behind this sharing? I don’t know of anyone, even a single person who would find amusement in seeing their loved ones on whatever platform, lying there, with their guts all over the place.

Dignity to the dead is something that cannot be compromised with. Period. Even in a war, any civilized society ensures that the enemy soldier is given the burial as per his/her traditions and customs. When this dignity can be maintained at the time of war, shouldn’t it be a given to a person at any other time? Dignity to the dead should be a right. Isn’t it?

Tumy on Monday



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