The other day I was in the middle of a conversation and I said “when I die, I would want Still A Mum to stay solid, running and growing many years after I am gone”. I was in a group of seven people and immediately I said that I saw four of them gasp, one of them audibly. As soon as shock left her eyes she said, “Don’t talk like that, you’re not going to die soon”. I immediately asked her how she knew and she opened her mouth then realized she didn’t have a good answer. The conversation went into why we don’t talk about death, burial rituals of various communities and even how to prepare for death. Throughout the conversation, three people spoke while the rest shifted in uncomfortable silence.
Why does talking about death make people so uncomfortable? To be fair, I used to be like that too. Then I started to hung around people who had real conversations about life without hiding from facts. And slowly but surely they rubbed off on me. I began to really think and have tough conversations, I started to face conflicts instead of hiding from them. And I began to think about death in a healthy manner. I say healthy manner here to mean not being unrealistically afraid about death but also not desiring death in the way that comes from depression and loss of hope. It is OK to be afraid of the eventuality of death. It is OK to worry about how and when we will go. But at the same time that fear should not consume us. In fact, a healthy way to look at death is to know it’s coming – and there’s nothing you can do to stop it – but there’s a lot you can do to prepare for it.
We talk about death with my husband. Sometimes we tell each other “please don’t die” as our way of showing love. It’s weird I know. But we do. Sometimes we joke about how fast to remarry at which point I tell him I will come back to haunt the house if he remarries too fast 🙂 Sometimes we laugh about how relatives would react if one of us wanted to be cremated. Yeah. We are really weird. Anyway, ever since we got a baby though, we have spoken about death more seriously. We recently started discussing what would happen if one of us died. What if both of us died – what would we want to happen to our son? These questions have led us to some research. I am current reading on writing a will as well as how guardianship for children works. Speaking of which, if you are an expert on this please explain a bit how this works in the comments section and I will reach out to you.
The other day on Twitter there was a discussion about burial practices of communities that was extremely refreshing. People were complaining about how we burden the bereaved family by making them feed us for days on end as they prepare to bury their loved one. I found the discussion balanced – people were looking at old practices and asking what we should drop and what we should keep. Does burying people soon after they die (sometimes hours after death) mean we didn’t care about them? Is it fair to keep the dead so long before burying them – meanwhile we eat all the food available in the bereaved family’s home and even slaughter animals for feasts oblivious to the fact that those left behind in that family need those things to sustain their lives? What about expensive burials? Why do we feel burying someone in a pricey coffin is a show of love? What is the line between sending someone off with dignity and wasting money? What exactly is a descent send off? Are the expensive burial rites really for the dead or for us? Are we showing love or do we want to feel good about ourselves? Is it necessary to do all these fundraisers for burials especially when there is no hospital bill to pay for?
I know these are many questions but we really should ask them. We should look inwardly and really honestly answer these questions individually then as a family decide what we want for ourselves. We need to remove the irrational fear that if we talk about or prepare for death then we are going to die. The Bible is full of conversations about death – it is an eventuality for all of us. As we work on our walk with God and think about the afterlife, we should also plan on what will happen to those we leave behind. Let’s not be afraid to write wills – you don’t have to have lots of money and property to bequeath.
A will is simply your desires of some things you’d like done after your death. Think about who would look after your kids and talk about it with your family. Think about burial expenses – get a burial cover. There are many – shop for one and pick what suits you. The first time I saw a burial cover being advertised was by Umash funeral home. Then a few insurance firms came up doing the same thing. At first, to me it looked like something “the rich” did. But then over the last few months as I was doing research on the Minet cover for TSC teachers I stumbled upon their “Last Expense Benefit” which is a benefit payable to the next of kin upon the demise of the principal member to help with funeral arrangements. It is payable within 48hrs and via Mobile Money Transfer – The benefit is KShs. 100,000 across all job groups.
What other covers are out there that are pocket friendly and give reasonable benefits? Let me know in the comments section. In the meantime, let’s openly talk about death – not from a place of fear but a healthy preparation of the future.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.