We have lived in this particular corner of Canada for almost 18 years, and during our time here, we have been blessed to meet a lot of fellow Yorubas. There is one family that we’ve only known for 3-4 years, but they quickly became my parents’ closest friends. They are practically siblings, if you see the way they care about each other. My father and the man of that family are both from Ondo, while the women are Ilesha girls. They talk on the phone to each other regularly. Basically they have each other’s back, 24/7. When our car was stolen and we needed to transport things, we knew we could count on Mr. O. During various bouts of chronic illness, mostly on my parents’ side, the O family was there for us. And when they suffered a loss of a family member back home, my parents were there for them.
And last Wednesday, they needed us to be there for them: early that morning, their son, their middle child of 21 years of age, passed away in his sleep, less than 3 hours after they last saw him.
This was completely unexpected. There was nothing to make them think that this might be IT. No alcohol or drugs had ever crossed this man’s lips, nor did he hang out in places that might cause one to worry about his safety. I can only imagine the family’s pain and shock.
My father rushed to their home the moment he heard, and my mother left work immediately to join them. My sister and I visited in the evening when we found out. What can you say to a family in that situation? All you can do is hold them, listen to them, and comfort them. Remind them to eat and drink, pray with them, pray for them.
My parents have done all this and more. Since last week they have been going there from work to help them in whatever way needed, often spending the night there with them. I know the nights must be unbearable for this family, and his two sisters who doted on him are still in shock. When somebody passes away under those conditions, you can imagine that there are questions that are asked, and it is wonderful how the Nigerian community has really rallied around to help and support this family.
And this is something I really feel we have that some cultures don’t have. The true sense of community. Generally speaking, oyinbos will stay away from what is likely to be an uncomfortable situation (to say the least): the crying, the wailing the asking of questions, the loud prayers to God, all of it. Instead, they’d prefer to visit when things have “calmed down”. They’ll bring a casserole or flowers when they come to offer their condolences. Some won’t feel comfortable hugging the grieving out of concern that the person doesn’t want to be touched. (Don’t get me wrong sha: I’m not saying they don’t care, they just don’t get as involved, which may be a good thing in some cases, but I’d argue not in this case.) Not so with the Naija community! My mom was cleaning the house and cooking for the family and other people, lying on the floor with the mourning family members, calming down the women when they went into hysterics, basically getting right into it. In moments like this, your friends are practically family, so this is what you do. Other community members were helping make the necessary but heartbreaking arrangements.
The funeral is tomorrow. The parents do not plan to attend, as is our culture, or at least the Yoruba culture. I am not sure why but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that in so many prayers, parents are told they will never bury their child. By not being there while your child is being buried, you’re sort of honoring the prayer. Maybe they will decide to go though, I don’t know.
I would like you to please pray for the O family. There is so much more I could write about this family…you really would not believe what they have gone through since the second day of this boy’s life. He had suffered so much healthwise, but he had been well for three or four years, completely healthy, so this is just a shock. The family is actually in the midst of selling their home in our city to move five hours away to a school that would best accommodate him and now he’s gone.
Rest in peace, Oladiran. You will not be forgotten.