I know how mama looks at the basket she used to carry food to her sister in hospital. She’s too strong for tears but I know it has taken time to heal up those wounds. There’s the leso too, the one that auntie used while in hospital before she passed on. Mama cannot get herself to use those items and so she keeps them in the lowermost drawer of the chest cabinet. Sometimes we bump into them as we source for storage space and many times I do not know what to say when the topic comes up. Sometimes it’s never easy to talk about someone who has passed on with the bereaved. You don’t know what the right thing to say is and sometimes well meant words can get be misunderstood.

I’m not sure there are many things that hurt like losing a loved one. Knowing that you’ll never see a person again, at least not in this lifetime, even when there are constant reminders of them is not easy. I want to write about my little joys but many times I do not find it right to celebrate. See, it’s not all rosy growing up. I remember one of my greatest fears as a kid was that I would have to attend funerals of people I knew so well and in retrospect, I totally understand my apprehension. Funerals are never easy even when everyone seems strong. It’s one of the few times when it’s ok to put on a show; pretend you’re fine for a while but when all is done the vacuum returns. Sometimes it’s the deceased’s bed or their clothes or even family photos that make it so obvious that someone is missing. With time we learn to live with an extra seat on the dining table although our brains hold memories and reminders that never really fade.

Equally painful is when our loved ones just go missing and we never see them again. We make announcements and look for them in hospitals and later mortuaries but we never find them. We never hear about them and if we do, it is false leads that usually aim to extort money from us. Years go by and though the world may not share our opinions, we still believe that they will walk up to us one day. We believe that it’s not really over until it actually is; until we can ascertain that there’s no pulse on their necks or their wrists. We move on eventually but we never really write them off because they are family. We keep hoping that nature grants us a chance to at least bury them if we will not have the pleasure of finding them alive.

I cringe every time I hear the announcements of a lost child in church or see related posters on the streets. Many times the children have not started school so they only have scanty knowledge of English or Swahili and they may not fluently speak their mother-tongue. The kids may not even know the names of their parent and it may not be easy to retrace their way home if they live in densely populated estates. Usually I hope that the child just got adventurous and went to play in unfamiliar territory and that a Good Samaritan will help them get back home. The bigger problem is that we cannot rule out kidnap or rape or murder until we find the child and these vices majorly cause anxiety amongst the parents. Would parents be a little less apprehensive if good-neighbourliness is upheld by all?

I cannot tell which is easier to deal with between death and having a loved one go missing. At least there is hope that a missing person will be found as opposed to when they are dead but we never get closure until we find them or bury them. Talking about someone who has passed on or gone missing with the bereaved is not any easier. We may not know what the right thing to say is and sometimes statements can be misunderstood. Death is one of those things we don’t want to talk about because it never really gets any easier to lose a loved one however old we get. Maybe we are stronger or God gives us more grace to overcome but it certainly doesn’t get easier.