Giving back to parents: Health Vs. Funeral

Funeral is an important ritual in Nigeria – it is our way of honouring the dead. Our funeral ceremony can be elaborate as is also a way of catching up with families given people from far and wide come to pay their last respect to the beloved family member.

When I was growing up, I learnt that funeral is mandatory in a quiet way that everyone feels the sense of obligation not just for the burial but ceremony that involves shedding of  ‘blood’ usually cow’s.

The reasoning leading up to death becomes irrelevant in most of these cases.

Aisan laa wo, enikan kii w’oku – We treat disease not death.

This Yoruba proverb is an emphasis on the fact that traditionally family do make great efforts to look after the sick.

Something has been lost along the line somewhere that we no longer care as much as we used to. Today, family and friends would volunteer to lend money for all that you ever wanted so as to have the biggest party in town after the passing of a family member but very few are willing to financially help when it comes to getting proper diagnosis of illness let alone hospital bill for the same person.

A few years ago, a cousin called from the local teaching hospital mortuary to say he was on his way to taking his mother for the final burial and in preparation for the ceremony the next day – he was excited that  he’s able to afford ambulance with siren (emphasis on the latter) so everyone in town knows the day his mother was buried.

I was excited for him.

Then he said his mother can now rest in peace with no pain. “Rest in peace, she would but no doubt looking down now shedding bloody tears on you.” I added.

Everything is a curse in Yorubaland, cousin flipped and thought I was cursing. I apologised but told him his mother was one of the strongest women I have ever met, raised 3 boys and 3 girls with father who passed on when the last child was only in his teen.

All of the children had at least primary school education and those who didn’t went for apprentice of one form or the other.

When I was young, Mama was taken from her village to live with the children in town. All was well initially as plenty of grandchildren around – common practice to take parents away from the village in my area especially if they were alone as a way of helping.

A lady who was used to running about found herself with little to do. She coped well going for lots of church activities and markets – selling a few items to keep body and mind healthy.

Not so far from this time, Mama developed diabetes. I didn’t know anything about diabetes at the time but there was a talk of polyuria, as Mama urinated more frequently than it’s normal for her. We had a trusted local doctor who prescribed some medication – Mama got better – a bit.

We have gotten better with getting proper diagnosis when one is sick however, there is a lack of understanding of the length it takes to heal properly from any illness and reality of what might be lifetime treatment especially for diabetes patients.

The house that once filled with grandchildren are now replaced with tenants, three grown children moved away to their own homes with their family, all living in the same town within 3 mile radius to Mama.

Prior to her death she hasn’t been to church for about a year – that is a big deal for Christian woman, she was too weak and yet more prayers and not hospital visit.


“She was younger than my first child!” My father said of Mama Toyin. Mama Toyin is 52, but got married very early as my father and his mates liked to joke about how young Mama Toyin was when she married Baba Toyin. “Was she sick?” I asked my father. “Yes, for a while now”,  “Same thing that killed Mama Eleja?” I asked – untreated high blood pressure and complications from diabetes.

“When is the funeral?” Next month, they were deliberating on the number of maalu (cows) now, Samuel, the eldest son has a good job in Abuja.

Enjoy, daddy. Say hello to Moomi.