Final breath


Sometime last year in July I attended the funeral of a 19 year old girl who had died in a car accident. Her mother was a who’s-who in Nairobi’s legal-political world. I sat at the back of the church, moved by her life fully lived, and weighing carefully my own existence. That was until politician after politician paraded the platform to sing their own praises and oil the wheels of their political machines. I kept thinking, ‘why weren’t more of her friends, the very people who spent meaningful moments with her, invited to speak?’, at which point I lifted out of my chair and stomped out in a lone protest. All this got me contemplating my own funeral arrangements. I rushed home in a furor; these are my final words.

When my lungs gasp for final air,

Lay me gently in that cold, cozy casket.

Make it frill-free,

But do what’s necessary and good, especially bright, healthy flowers,

Purple and mustard yellow, and dusty rose and all manner of orchid, iris and hydrangea.

Tell them not to swath themselves in black;

They can wear their grief on the sleeves of their hearts.

Don’t let the preacher or politician gab needlessly,

Let my family and friends preach their truth.

Have a corner – a tent, a room, … something, for guests to stab coloured pieces of paper onto a wall, with thoughts of how they’d hold life differently if they had the gift of a full fortnight to take an early rest.

This one, I’m serious about.

When my lungs gasp for final air,

Tell my family and friends to sniffle and weep. Don’t tell them to be strong.

Yes, sun and morning will seep into the shadows and mourning, flowers will yet bloom again because roses are red and violets are violet, and God is out of control.

But don’t you shove it down their throats.

Tell them they don’t have to veneer their sadness with “celebrations of life”,

Tears are gloss enough and refreshing, sometimes.

When my lungs gasp for final air,

Tell them that I’m sorry I didn’t love better.

Tell them that the pain of walking away cut deeper than the agony of loving.

Tell them that school and work and church and food and clothes and art and cars and football kill nilly-willingly – when the heart sleeps and souls slumber unloved.

Tell them I’d make more small-and-frequent-and-nothing-catastrophically-world-changing deposits if I had another, last chance.

Tell them that nothing, in fact, is small.

When my lungs gasp for final air,

Tell them that there’s room at the table for all of us; there’s more than enough bread to go around.

So don’t thunder your elbows. I won’t steal your heat. The oven’s high at 250, and a little yeast goes a long way!

We can rise – and fall – together.

And then, tell them that I hope they all die their own little deaths that day, and wake

With more life in their lungs and bones to

Grasp at another final breath.

Inspired? Bemused? Confused? Unmoved? Thought-provoked? Still picking your jaw off the floor? Couldn’t care less? Leave a Reply (below). Share your thoughts, experiences, tell your story, your genius idea, rant your guts out, drop a link or video, paint this rooftop red. No, seriously… leave your stamp! Unleash your inner sage! I invite you. 🙂

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