Recently, I’ve been privy to two close bloggers’ grief. One lost her father, the other her grandfather. The pain they are experiencing is beyond what words could ever express and my heart goes to them.
Thoughts of death always make me go into introspection. I can’t help but examine my own feelings regarding the deaths of my parents. Which are pretty non-existent when I am in survival mode, which is to say, my every day mode.
When my mother died, I didn’t cry. I even wondered at some point why I didn’t feel like crying when everyone else was but I just couldn’t. The answer -at the time, was very simple*. I was glad for my mother. I was glad that she was not going to suffer anymore. There was even the possibility that she had gone to a better place where she could be happy. But even if one takes the approach that there is nothing after death, that was still good news. If there is nothing, there is no suffering, so I was relieved and happy for her.
Needless to say everybody thought it weird I was so composed. I am pretty sure more than a few thought I was a bad daughter for not showing the appropriate mourning signs. A year later, I was really sad because I lost a trinket that I treasured and that brought tears to my eyes. One of my uncles saw me and said to me: “You didn’t cry when your mother died and you cry because of that stupid thing?” How can one explain the nature of one’s trauma when one is merely 15 and doesn’t really have a grasp on one’s own psyche?
When 8 years later my father too died, I didn’t cry either. I only had the feelings of relief for him. He was a tortured man and that is no way to live.
Happiness and relief. That is all I felt when both my parents died. That is a concept quite difficult to understand, unless you are an African slave in the times of American slavery. And by American, I mean the continent. I much dislike the appropriation of the name but a certain American country.
But everywhere the European brought slaves from Africa, for said slaves, funerals were a time to celebrate, not to mourn, given that it was the only way to escape slavery.
I was very influenced by the Colombian Palenques. A Palenque was a walled village founded by escaped slaves (Cimarrones) where they could live free of the Spaniard yoke.
As a child, I learned the traditional songs and dances of the palenqueros. Not surprisingly some of them revolved around dying which was the same as freedom.
I remember learning about this in history class, oh I don’t know, in third or fourth grade and thinking, well, I like this concept. Singing and dancing, being happy celebrating the life of the deceased instead of crying, and being terribly sad for losing them. Little did I know at the time how helpful this concept would be later on.
Some 30 years later, I still can’t be sad for my parents’ deaths. I am sad, angry and many other things for their lives, but never for their deaths. I still think they are/were much better off by dying young.
Throughout the years, I have lost other loved ones: close friends, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, and still I was -for each one of them, secretly happy. They were finally free of suffering, of pain, of heartbreaks, of disease.
Throughout the years, I have also seen many of my friends lose a loved one (seriously, which Colombian doesn’t have at least one family member being murdered due to the awful civil war and the corrupt goverment?). Most of them suffer. I understand their pain, I console them, I speak compassionate words to them. But I can never relate.
I guess somehow deep inside of me, I am really a Cimarrona, happy to see people finally be freed of the chains of this world.
*In reality, it is not that simple. There is a bit more to it but I think I’ll leave that for another post
The Untold Afro-Colombian Stories of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast by Girl, Unstoppable