Trip past the graveyard – Boipelo Maetla

Explain death to little children, lest it kills them when they are older and they mourn without intent, never really letting the dead ones go, wishing them birthdays long after they have passed, keeping even the minutest of memories alive. Explication means when they look at deceased people’s pictures, they will not cringe, but be strong enough to reminisce about them without falling apart. We are born, and we die, and the space in between is mercy, this we should teaching little children to cherish it, and not to fear it.

Some epiphanies arrive long after we’ve been vacuumed by experience. When we were 13, father got a better job, and we were forbidden from parading our bodies past the graveyard shortcut to school. We did not, at all, find it sadistic that the trip to school led past the graveyard. It was like having free access to an underworld. Father insisted that a car with other children in it will fetch me at his gate every morning and drop me there in the afternoon. This was met by much protest, not only from me, but from mother and the graveyard-adventure team. But I do not think that mother knew that we used the graveyard route, in her mind we were little obedient children who used the route that she and dad took when they were in school, the route where they probably must have met, and fell in love.

Our love for the graveyard was not love per se, it was broadening our horizons, imagining and making up family trees. Funny how our graveyard adventures were more fulfilling than school itself. “To the far east this week, right buddies?” Sam suggests. We took turns to decide which part of the graveyard we would barricade with our unsolicited visits. This week, to the east we went. Learning how to pronounce different surnames on tombstones and make up identities for those whose families could not afford tombstones as yet.

You see the graveyard taught us more about friendship and life itself more than our parents were willing to explain. Did you know that Ma’Masondo is survived by 5 children and not 3, as we have come to be told? We wondered where the other children were, if these graves with the same surnames finally made peace and live in harmony in heaven, harmony which conflict over the family house denied them on Earth.

We of course outgrew our cult-like pass-time. We outgrew most things not because we became less ignorant, but ironically our sense of autonomy fades as we get older, we worry about being called witches, about being mocked about things that enrich us, maybe not in the most conventional of ways.

The irony of the graveyard is that I visited strangers more than I do now my deceased parents.

Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo


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