That Little Space


A week ago, I was at the Ikoyi cemetery, where we had gone to lay our departed colleague and friend, Mrs Labake Yembra, to rest.

I hate going to cemeteries, even though we may all end up there someday. But I had to do it for my friend.

Spending over an hour there made too many pensive moments and thoughts run through my head.

It is an old cemetery. Getting a space to lay a loved one is a challenge. Just a little space is even scarce. Every inch of a space matters. Like for the living as well as for the dead, accommodation is a problem. What is this life!

Walking down to search out the little space secured for Labaks, served me lots of lessons. Just a little space—that’s all we may end up with.

Every space is marked out with arithmetic precision. No space to waste. In the little corner found for her, not even a walk way is available. We had to meander through old graves to access hers. What is this life!

The cemetery preaches the gospel of life’s futility. There you see a million epitaphs some of 22 year olds, some of 50, and some of 87. All sorts and ages are there. Men and women, rich and poor. While some tombs look well maintained and protected, finished with beautiful tiles and marbles, many others are in ruin. Some have even caved in and looked desolate, overgrown with weeds. You can see rot and decay all over. Even the once bouquets of flowers have suffered the effects of the elements

The many types of epitaphs bespeak of how the people therein were valued by their loved ones. But nothing on the surface can ever foretell the fate of the dead: whether they are lounging in heaven or roasting in hell. The cemetery is a leveler. They all lay there quiet. And gone. Leaving behind concrete mounds that indicate they once trudged this earth.

No matter how much we cry when they are laid down, everybody turns to leave. Nobody stays back. The grave is a private place. So private, so desolate.

Some organized and “visionary” families, fearing the squeeze that even the dead suffer, had gone ahead to buy up spaces ahead of their passage. Thus you see two graves, lying side by side for papa and mama, with differing death history .

I hear in some other cemeteries, the managers have devised smarter ways of managing their limited space by making families buy spaces for the entire family. And this is achieved by having very deep graves where the first to die in the family lies farthest down, and he/she is decked off while the next to die is laid atop the first and so on. Just that little space, is all you are entitled to at the very end of the day.

At the Ikoyi cemetery, there is hardly a one- feet space between neighbours. Everywhere is tight. No matter how much they have, or how well they splurged or how well they were endowed, when that final bell rings, all you get is just that little space. So, why all the fuss about life, undoing others to position self, knowing that you will not get a jot more than that little space?