Dear Diary

I don’t talk to dead people

Bombarded. That’s a big word. Big and heavy on the tongue. Just like the weight of it on your spirit. Being bombarded is harder to bear than being overwhelmed. The overwhelming feeling is like a tight embrace. One that you can sidestep and avoid completely.

Bombardment on the other hand, is like being hit by a convoy of long distance buses, either one after the other or all at once – whatever feels worst. That’s how I felt on Tuesday last week when an elder was praying to his ancestors. He may as well have been chatting to his mates, he was that old. As he prayed, he made these beckoning signs with his hands as if he was calling something out of the super and into the natural.

His eyes were misty as the densest fog, as if he had lived a thousand lifetimes, dancing with demons and sparring with Satan himself. Or maybe he just had cataracts. His fingers were knotted at the knuckles, like the branches of an ancient baobab tree. As he gestured with as much gusto as a man of his advanced years could muster, his bony frame was hunched, as if calcified by the ravages of time.

A colourful cloak hung loosely from his fragile shoulders, making him appear meek. But there was something about his stance, diminutive though it was, that spoke power. It was is if there was a force of energy rushing up and down his spine, upholding him in his hour of prayer. I was transfixed by this man, as he spoke to his ancestors in a tribal tongue. Even though I couldn’t understand the words, I knew that by their mere utterance, something had shifted.

As they lodged themselves in my mind, a vague feeling of dis-ease wafted in and lingered. Mentally, I regurgitated, trying to sidestep the prayer and avoid it completely. But I had been bombarded. All I could do was pick myself up and dust the ancestors off.

I’m not big on talking to dead people. Dead is dead. As in devoid of life. Say there were two dead people in a morgue. One was a John Doe and the other was an Ancestor. Could you tell the difference? Not likely. One dead man (or woman) is no different than the next. So it freaks me out when people talk to dead elders. Or freakier still, pray to dead elders. If they were so powerful, they wouldn’t be dead. And if they are truly dead, gone and unresponsive, then who are these people praying to? As if we didn’t know.