Till death do you Part…

I wanted to make sure I blogged about this topic because, although scary, depressing and rather morbid, I think it is important that we reflect on death. Individually, we must think of it, as it is part of life, part of nature. And as a family, we must choose to discuss it in order to relieve the pain that will undeniably follow upon such its occurrence. But I mainly wanted to use this blogging opportunity to make peace with my recent experience and find solace in its truth. Sadly, my father-in-law passed away this April, Mr. Mitik Beyene. After a stroke 8 years ago, his health had slowly declined throughout the years and unfortunately claimed his life, too short. His family was around him and with him throughout the last days of his suffering and thus the death came as a sense of peace in his relief rather than a shock.

The whole ordeal got me thinking of my own life, and the lives of the people I loved. What have I been taking for granted? What have I not achieved yet? What have I not said and done yet? Who have I disappointed and not asked for forgiveness yet? Whom have I not forgiven yet? How about spiritually, was I prepared to actually think of it happening to me, or happening to anyone I love? Why am I afraid of death to begin with? Why have I never talked about it or taken the time to understand it? And of course, how, if in any way, has AWiB provided an aspect of it for me to reflect upon?

Life is short, we all know this, but unfortunately we tend to be reminded of it only when death and funerals are upon us. I have always had a hard time around death in this country because the funerals are very intense, in that people grief to their fullest compared to how we see westerners’ grieve modestly in Hollywood movies. I have not yet lost someone so close that it has shaken me to my deepest core, dismantling my reality, but as is life, I know I eventually will. And as I see my husband fighting sadness and facing reality after loosing his father, I am forced to contemplate the reality of death, in all its senses.

So you already know I had to do some research on the different ways different cultures handle death, carry out funeral ceremonies and how the spiritual aspect is experienced. In Kenya for example, people ask to be buried in intricately designed coffins, symbolizing their wishes or their lived life, such as expensive cars, planes, favorite animals etc. An interesting funeral ceremony is in Louisiana, where they throw jazz parades celebrating the deceased’s life. Another, although hard to swallow funeral tradition, but nonetheless interesting, is how some Mongolians and Tibetans handle their deceased. Placing the body on a mountain top open to all of nature’s elements, they carry out what they call “sky burials”; believing it unnecessary to attach to the body, as we are spirits and must return to the earth through its elements. 

I think it’s important to note here that it should be a person’s choice and right to believe whichever way they see fit when it comes to death and reflections on life after.  Personally though, I was once moved by a movie I saw that depicted death and the funeral ceremony in such a beautiful manner. In the movie, ‘Thor’, a science fiction/fantasy movie, the main actor’s mother dies and is dressed in beautiful clothing and laid on a bed of straw with flower ornaments circling her, to be lit on fire as per their tradition. What happens next has resonated within me ever since; the body is pushed into the ocean and once it reaches the horizon, it bursts into flames, with thousands of flickering lights all exploding into the night’s black canvas, consequently filling the sky with sparkling stars. So this blog is dedicated to my father-in-law, Mitik and to your wife, Selam, of forty-two years, your four wonderful children, Nani, Muni, Medhi and my Yetu and your five grandchildren, Yohanna, Selam, Kidus, Greet, and my little Mitik. I’d like to think that at night through the glittering stars and that during the day hidden under the sun’s rays you are smiling and looking down on all of us, knowing you truly lived in happiness and are content with all you achieved in your life.

I remember an AWiB’s Saturday roundtable discussion entitled “Purposeful Action”, where we discussed the purpose of our existence, identifying our talents and reflecting on whether we were living a purposeful life. The hardest part was the final hour in which, after reflecting all afternoon on each of our lives, we were asked to write out our obituaries, imagine that! I challenge you my fellow AWiBers to do the same, isti. My little brother, Hirouy, introduced me to Jim Rohn who said it’s not how long you have lived but rather, how you have lived that truly matters. And so I part you with this, life is not promised tomorrow so make sure you live life today. Say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, and enjoy the beauty of life and all those around you. Make time for your friends and family and most importantly, to your wonderful self. Pat yourself on the back for all that you have achieved so far, aspire in hopes to achieve even more and aim to love, love, love, and love some more, till death do you part.