By Rohey Samba
I loathe to say that in life, our greatest adversaries are not the people we barely know. Some of them are our trusted friends including our own kith and kin. We shall be raised to the mountain tops and cast aside to the valleys’ troughs by their actions, inactions and their words. As far as your friends are concerned, keep in mind the observation by Benjamin Franklin: Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.
The lesson I learnt from the death of Big Solo was a huge revelation to my ever questioning mind. Simply stated, it was that we have just one shot at life, and that, we must make that shot worthwhile. Or should I say, worth our while.
Every night before I went to bed thereafter, I would lose myself in concentration on the paperback biographies I borrowed from the Accra National Library. (For I find real life stories far more interesting than fiction ever is). One day, as I was reading about Winston Churchill, the great British Statement, I came across his powerful words: ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.’
The observation so clearly and simply stated ricocheted heavily on my mind at that moment in time. Invariably, the import of the words made me to ponder over the motives of Big Solo’s relatives. I recalled the treatment they had meted on his corpse and it sent my mind into overdrive. I must confess that that night I did not sleep a wink till my alarm clock rang off to presage the time for Fajr Salat.
Did they hate him inadvertently because he was above them by virtue of his education and his latter accomplishments in life? Was that the reason why they treated his death in that mortifying manner?
The way his relatives rejected his body and refused for the funeral rites to be performed at the land of his birth, to me, was a horrific portrayal that transcended base cruelty. It entered into the realm of wickedness, stemming from the human hunger for retribution, namely, ‘do me and I do you back, even if it takes a hundred years to get back at you.’
From an outsider’s perspective, perhaps from someone unaccustomed to the motivations of the schadenfreude who derives joy from other people’s misfortunes, this was happenstance, unplanned and removed; a jeremiad that aroused the much-touted reprisal at the weakest stage of man, when he could neither defend himself nor even begin to speak for himself. Because he was dead.
But I beg to differ. It is often said that the tongue of the termagant is the measure of her hurting. Yet no hurting can match the pain of disappointment concealed. Big Solo’s relatives had every right to be disappointed because of their high expectations of him. It is always the case with progenies from a poor family. Everyone’s hopes lies on the accomplished one. But he is one man. He is only all man. He could not possibly fulfill the expectations of the entire clan even if he were Superman.
Thus the occurrence to me, was far from uninvolved, unplanned happenchance. To my mind, it was well orchestrated from the onset. It was connived from the marketplace of ignorance, prepared in the kitchen of the ill-informed and cooked in the pot of inhumanity. For what is humanity removed from empathy and kindness, but a sack of bones hanging onto life by a tainted soul.
In effect, how dare they disrespect Big Solo’s corpse that way? I kept repeating in mind that night. Who the heck owned the piece of earth he was meant to be entombed in? He was as entitled as any other person, including wayfarers, to be buried within. That was his unequivocal right as a son of that soil. Why did they rob him off his birth right at the weakest state of man? If it was intended to humiliate him, how does humiliation affect a corpse? like really?
Then, I was reminded by the Wolof statement, Ihnyane du gayraym, doff du gayraym. ‘Jealous persons and mad men don’t appreciate.’ Were they jealous, I mean his relatives? Or were they simply mad? If they were neither of the two, then to what end did it serve to reprimand a dead body? What moral or religious lessons were there to learn or derive from their actions/deeds? Apart from a revelation of their own wickedness of course!
All together, we grow from different directions in life.
We sieve through our experiences, starting out as utterly experiential. Everybody has the liberty to make mistakes and recover from them as long as they are alive. If we had all concentrated on our own mistakes and sought to address them individually, the world would be a much better place to live in for everyone of us. But instead of forgiving him when it was easiest to do so because he was dead, his relatives typically exposed their prurient hunger for revenge.
He had wronged them when he was alive and sailing by not sending enough of his remittances back home and thereby killed his mother from his neglect became the lethal armament used against him over the course of many years. As rivers forge canyons, they particularized and perpetuated their anger and misplaced hatred thus, awaiting that fateful Saturday in June, to pay back their pound of flesh.
Knowing the heart of a mother towards her son, I am certain that his mum, if she had lived long enough, would have gladly embraced her child back in the end.
She would have sorted through the confusion to relearn that her son truly loved her and wanted what was best for them all. She would have found the wherewithal to forgive his blunder and embraced him back into her loving arms. For the heart of a mum knows the most important values in the emotional realm of the human experience is to forgive and provide support to her child when he/she errs. His mum would not have parlayed in her wildest imagination the trajectory of her son’s life. For what kind of mother would wish her son such a life and death? Ultimately, a mother’s affection is set by God, blossoming in her heart that not even neglect can wither away!
Out of spite, his death was treated in a humiliating way, but they could not erase the good deeds he had done over the years. The memories of his steadfastness, his hard work, his self-control and his intelligence lived on at the Nautical College in Ghana, where he served until he passed away. He was steadfast, because he never lost faith in his Lord. He was hard working for he never rested on his laurels. When all seemed lost, he went back to his Alma Mata, Nautical College, to pass on his skill, experience and knowledge to the preceding generation of maritime personnel in order to put bread on his family’s table.
He had self-control for any other person afflicted as he was, could have contemplated murder or suicide or both. In fact, how many of us could have survived the tribulation of losing millions to the person we trust the most, and then continue to be married to them long after. But above all else, Big Solo was intelligent. That was an indisputable fact as was attested to by his colleagues and students, such as myself, who had experienced his instruction.
Meanwhile, that evil deed done by Big Solo’s relatives is not attributed to any one race, religion or ethnicity. In effect, it is the detestable part of the human nature that borders on inhumanity. It is our attitudes to be judgmental and to mete out justice in our own terms. Those actions are not dissimilar to the act by the callous religious head we have in our midst, who refuses to lead the funeral prayer of a ‘wayward person’ because he claims inability to attest to his religious leanings even though the dead was affiliated to the very religion he leads. It is the same for refusing to pray for someone who committed suicide based on religious beliefs etc.
To me, normal persons do not commit suicide. The root cause of the suicide if not determined should not be the basis for treating a corpse like an animal of prey. Exacting human interpretation of the Word of God, is not only illusive, it is uninformed. Why not bring God’s Rahman and Raheem to bear? Ultimately, finding the means to be empathetic and be kind to each other shall guide us to the Truth of God’s Word. Otherwise we will be compelled to lean towards cynism? To precipitate into a gnawing mistrust for one another that will certainly eat us all up one day?
In the fullness of time, I believe Big Solo’s relatives would come to the conclusion that God raised him above them, that he did his best even if it was not good enough for them, that he was just human not superman, and that he never intended for them to feel neglected by him and count it an injury. In so far as it is the past, I do not foresee them making any restitution but, at least, acknowledging their faults, perhaps at the throes of their deaths, would be the price to pay for their cruel, heartless and inhumane behaviours……Beats, Behind My Back and Heart Songs.