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Pure Heart

My Decoration Day Stories

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As I have often said, in this writing business that we find ourselves, especially the kind of writing we do, it is difficult to stay on one topic continuously for a long time as we would like to. The reason is that too many interesting scenarios to write about occur all the time.

I was thinking about bringing Part 2 of “The Release of Charles Taylor” today, but stories emerging from the first of two consecutive holidays could not permit me; therefore, I crave your indulgence to allow me to write something about the day – yes, the day.

Liberians gear up every year to commemorate the day for various reasons – to solemnly remember their late loved ones, to merry-make, to generate extra income, to steal, to re-unionize, etc. It occurs on the second Wednesday of each year. It is known as Decoration Day, which, like All Saints’ Day in the western world, is the day on which Liberians remember their dead. This year’s Decoration Day was two days ago, March 14, 2012.

There’s a story – narrated only to me in a dream – that Adam and Eve visited Abel’s grave once a day for about three years. They also warned their other children not to fetch food in the terrain where Abel was buried.  Adam and his wife believed that such an act would disturb Abel’s spirit and could cause misfortune in their lives. So, respecting and fearing the dead is an age-old tradition that has no borders.

Around 9: am, one of our reporters on the field, Nathaniel Daygbor, called and said, “Big Brother, I am at the Center Street Cemetery. There are some interesting happenings here that you would like to write about.”

“Sure, Pekin. What are some of them?” I enquired curiously.

Most of the stories are connected with the usual things that occur on every Decoration Day. Permit me, therefore, to share a few of the stories/thoughts with you.

Inequality in the Graveyard
Is there a place where all human beings are equally equal? Many believe and have said that there is no difference between the rich and the poor, or the strong and the weak, in the cemetery. I disagree. Inequality between the haves and the have-nots is even manifested in the graveyards, as indicated by the kind of casket or tomb a dead person is placed in or the kind of clothing used on them. My people, inequality is visible in the cemeteries. It is visible at the Center Street Cemetery, at the Congo Town Cemetery, at the Duport Road Cemetery, and at many other cemeteries. Inequality is all over the place.

Missing Graves
A lot of people went to clean their relatives’ graves. But, guess what! They stayed at the cemeteries for the longest, checking here and there, without locating the graves. Some went back home with their materials, while others sold or gave the materials to other people lacking them.

Mistaken Graves
In a few instances, some people went to the cemeteries, took out their decorating materials and confidently began to paint the tombs they were convinced were their relatives’ tombs, only to discover later that they had selected and painted the wrong graves. In some instances, the mistake was discovered by another member of the same family. In other instances, the mistake was pointed out by a different family who believed that the painted tomb was their relative’s.

Paid-for Crying
This one was really strange. In a few instances, some young boys went around – from one grave to the other – indicating that if they were paid, they would cry for somebody’s dead relative if that person was unable to cry.

“LD250 to cry for your mother or father, LD200 to cry for your child, LD150 to cry for your brother or sister and LD100 to cry for all other relatives,” remarked a boy at one of the cemeteries.

“These guys must be crazy. Why would they think that a family would pay someone else to cry for their dead, but beloved, relative?” asked a well-dressed man.

“Don’t say that, brother” responded another man. “A lady just paid someone LD100 to cry for her late stepmother.”

I will stop here for now, folks. But just before allowing my poor fingers to rest from the tension caused by the computer keyboard, I have two questions that I would like you to answer.

Question #1: Assume that your beloved mother has just died. While planning what to do, a research organization comes and asks you to sell your mother’s dead body to them for $500,000. They explain that they will cut your mother into pieces during the research. Will you agree or not? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Question #2: Assume that you are a poor person. Your dear mother has just died. A rich man comes and tells you that he wants to give your dead mother one hundred lashes for $100,000. Remember that he is not taking the body away. He only wants to flog it unmercifully. Will you agree, or not? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Seriously, my people, aren’t these points to ponder?

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