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Corpse Removal: A Case Of Misplaced Attention 

By Nfamewih Aseh — Accompanying a neighbouring family recently to the hospital for corpse removal, I was taken over the moon by the high level of attention that family had paid to their dead relative whose ‘cadavre’ lay in the mortuary waiting to be taken to its final resting place. It was a scene that could be likened only to an occasion reserved for the reception of a top level dignitary.

I witnessed an event where people honoured their dead with pomp and tambourine as though they were praying that someone should die so they can display wealth. As a matter of fact, the hospital mortuary ground was brought to life by people who were waiting to receive a ‘cadavre’.
Amongst other things were TV cameras on standby, men and women beautifully dressed in aesthetic black attire, the deafening noise of motor bikes in the tickly hands of riders who were visibly preparing for a display across the town in the company of the ‘cadavre’, a brass band on hand to cheer up onlookers, probably to downplay mourning and/ or weeping.

Immediately the mortuary attendant flung open the mortuary door and the lifeless body was being carried to the ambulance that was waiting, a passing calm swept through the mortuary ground, but for the eruption of a woman who could not stand the sight of her own brother who had been snatched by death at a green age of less than 30 years, being taken away in a lifeless state. She was rather insulted by a spectator; “Madame, stop disgracing yourself. These days, only poor people weep for the loss of a relative because they cannot afford the cost of organising a befitting burial”.

Although she was taken aback by such an abusive language on her day of distress, nothing on earth could cause her heart to elude the sting of death, which we all agree is sharp and painful to the bereaved.  She just had to pretend but kept snivelling without a sound until the corpse left the hospital premises. It was another thing altogether when the ‘cadavre’ left the hospital premises.

The long convoy escorting the corpse seized the main boulevard that meanders across the town. The sight was that of a full exhibition show of motor bikes on display, going along with the hooting and sirens. In wonderment, a by-stander sought to know if it was President Biya who was heading for the Nsimalen International Airport to make a trip abroad. He learnt that it was a corpse that was being escorted. In disbelief, the by-stander shot an additional question to ascertain if truly all of that was just for a corpse.

The scene at home was a different story for another day. Upon arrival at the abode of the diseased, those who were on the corpse removal train, so to speak, were startled by the magnitude of food and drink – a banquet – that was set for a lifeless guest of honour who was displayed for viewing/admiration. It was the kind of food and drink party that is most likely to keep itchy throats praying that more deaths should occur in the neighbourhood. Before everyone else could say what fanatical guzzlers were already gobbling their third bottle of beer.

The food and drink party lasted till dawn and was interspersed by dancing sprees and spicy ‘pepper soup’ that was served intermittently to keep the ‘guests’ awake to ensure that it was truly a wake-keeping night. Although the episode just narrated may seem to be peculiar to that family, it reflects what corpse removal and wake-keeping events have become in our society today. T

he attention paid to the dead nowadays as exemplified by corpse removal and wake-keeping occasions is an indication of a people who have totally turned their attention away from God’s purpose for their lives and are going their own way, a society gone astray. Honouring the dead or glorifying death as though God’s plan for man on earth has changed is, in fact, an indication of people who are perishing. Yet, God’s original purpose for us to live and enjoy life has not changed.

God still, very much, wants that we should live and find enjoyment in living, reason why he sent his only Son to come down to Earth to give us that higher quality of life that we need to find real meaning in life and live it to the full – possibly living forever. Death is God’s enemy, and so, honouring death is partnering with the devil against God whose purpose for us is to live and find meaning in living; reason why Jesus Christ wept very bitterly at the death of his friend, Lazarus, and promised to teach death a lesson. 

While Christians are optimistically waiting for Jesus Christ to get rid of the sting of death from amongst us and wipe away tears from every eye as he promised, the law of attraction in psychology teaches us that what people have inclined their minds to is what they obliviously pay attention to and what people obliviously pay attention to is what they attract to themselves. We have paid undue attention to the wrong things and we are getting the wrong results. No doubt, death is saying “here I am”.

All over the national territory the demand for bigger mortuaries is on the increase. The point is this; people who have the resilient will to live and to find meaning in living according to God’s purpose for their lives celebrate life, celebrate people in love and not in death. People cannot honour death and expect to have life, talk less of having it abundantly.

It is not surprising that the contrast of the picture painted above is telling of a people who have down-played life in preference to ‘paying only the last respect’. In fact, the scene described above stands in stark contrast to that of women who bring forth life and sneak out of hospital ignored, while we welcome home the dead with pride and pomp.

First published in The Post print edition no 01502

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