Life And Death
Updated: May 16
A Homage To My Uncle
The last standing uncle on my father's side died very recently, which puts my siblings and I at the top of the tree. He was a man I loved very much and what follows is a tribute to him. R.I.P Uncle.
I stood there watching my Uncle die. Life, fighting for its life.
The morphine would try to fool his life into thinking that all was well, but you could see that life knew that its strength was ebbing away and death was getting stronger by the minute. Soon, the curtains would close, the light would fade, and the void would welcome my Uncle back into the world of spirits and pure light.
When Uncle finally came back to England from Jamaica and visited the doctors, they took a look at him, looked at each other in silence, shook their head and walked away, prescribing painkillers and knowing it was just… too…late.
We all sat and stood around his bed, too many of us for the small space, unknowingly and unwittingly annoying the other patients, so late into the night.
We were all there, putting every ounce of our energies into begging him to fight and not give in. To lock the door and refuse to let death in. Uncle could not let us know whether he heard or even understood us, but I suspect that knowing him, deep down he would have smiled in an ironical way at how little we knew. For by now he was “journeying”. His travel back to the long side of eternity had begun, and he must have known that we were still trying to cling onto something that could never be.
His son looked at his beloved dad and cried, trying to figure out what was in the best interest of the most significant man there has ever been in his life. Finally, he knew. He could not see his father in so much pain and ask him to stay here another second, to cry out another primordial grunt as the agony gripped him once again. He had to let him go and be pain-free. His son cried and smiled at the same time, and Uncle understood.
At exactly the same time 6000 miles away, Uncle’s other son felt a tremor, a dark cloud gathering in his universe. It only lasted a second, but he knew exactly what had happened.
Uncle found himself deep inside the depths of his own soul, where hope and peace resides, he went over to greet them both, and they welcomed him. He smiled to himself, exhaled all the earthly air left in his body and was at last at peace.
He died at 7.00am on Monday the 6th of August, 2018 in Ward 17 of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, way out in the countryside of a distant land he had grown to love.
Meanwhile in “The Lounge Of Hope” all his ancestors were gathering to meet him. They had created the “Lounge”, the place of transition between this world and the next, right on the raft stand by the riverbank of the Rio Grande River at Berrydale in Portland, Jamaica, where the mighty river is at its calmest. It was 7.00am on that Monday morning; the sun was getting into its stride, preparing for the day ahead.
Uncle Dudley was the first to appear, dressed in the colours of the Akan, Ashanti, Maroons and all the ancestors who lived before the Maafa, the Atlantic slave trade when Anansi the spider god ruled and told great tales of our people of the past and those to come.
Dudley was the boatman, and he steered the gigantic raft to the side of the river and waited. Charleston smiled and spoke to Nag and Sadie. Sadie pushed Mama in the ribs and squeezed Lynn and their mum Nellie’s hand. Nellie whispered something into her husband Jeb’s ear, then laughed with her mother Teachie as they all eagerly waited the new arrival.
Teachie went over to her mum, who was born into slavery and said something to her. She nodded her head as if she finally understood who they were all waiting for. Teachie’s father, the white man from Scotland, turned his head and looked back into infinity at all the ancestors who had come to greet the new arrival.
Finally, Ken materialised, and as the hospital robe, he was wearing changed itself into the Akan colours floor-length gown, he smiled. It was a smile of joy, a smile of homecoming.
Dudley welcomed him onto the raft, and all his siblings hugged him until he sat down. He then pecked his mother Nellie on the cheek, hugged Jeb his father, who had died when he was so young, and his grandmother Teachie. She introduced him to all who died before he became Ken. When the introductions were complete, Dudley took the big oar and pushed it into the silt, clay and sand at the bottom of the river, and the raft slowly moved off.
There was feasting, dancing and merriment as the raft went past all the landmarks until finally St. Margarets Bay appeared and it just kept going until the horizon of the Caribbean Sea came and went and the raft slowly got smaller and smaller, until it disappeared from view and was no more.
And you know, although we miss him, Uncle Ken is in a good home.