Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: An Obituary Gone Too Far


The African in me strongly believes that it is totally unacceptable to speak ill of the dead.  While it may not be wrong, I think it distasteful to harp on a dead person’s faults when they are not around to defend themselves or make the necessary changes.  It is true that moral rules cannot long hold if there are no consequences for transgressing them. So I think that this is the reason why people no longer think twice about badmouthing the recently departed.  Maybe there should be a rule that those who willfully and publicly break the rule should not be treated differently when their time comes.

First of all we should understand that most times life happens to us and there is very little we can do to change that. I have seen many people’s lives take a totally unexpected and sometimes undesired turn.   There is this girl who didn’t know how to walk with “sapatu” when she first came to secondary school because they were her first “shoes”  and now she says she can’t put on shoes less than three inches high because they apparently make her heel accustomed legs pain. Sigh! She is one of the lucky ones that are living an extremely better life than she had ever dreamt of in her childhood dreams.

Then there is this other one who was a physics and math whiz whom everyone believed was destined for Harvard, Cambridge or Yale and now, she is a kiwempe pastor complete with bleached skin and hideous makeup.

But the most shocking is our former chapel prefect.  It seems in her bid to make up for lost time she made up her mind to live as much of a depraved life as possible. The last time I bumped into her, she was finalizing the divorce of her fourth husband and was throwing a shindig to celebrate.  Apparently divorce parties are a thing for the hip and cool.

As eventful as these people’s lives have been, I hardly think that any of their relatives will be callous enough to talk about them. They will look around for one positive or respectable thing in their lives and run with that. Which brings me to what triggered all these memories.  As the taxi approaches Kibuye, a young man enters clutching one of those phones that look like trays; in fact I think it’s one until he starts making calls on it.

The first call goes out at 7:15. Hello Alex, Grace has died. When Alex doesn’t understand who Grace is, he goes on to describe her. Don’t you remember the girl who split from Allan, dated Dan for some time then moved to Peter his brother?  I am taken aback at hearing a dead person described in such terms especially in Uganda where people go to all lengths to turn every dead person into a saint of sorts.  I hope the indiscretion was a one off but I am proved wrong by subsequent calls.

At 7:25, another call is made to Richard again announcing the death and describing more hitches that the deceased got into. I count at least ten such calls before I get out. I am shocked and upset by all this. I also wonder how the deceased will get past St Peter if all this is true. As I get out of the taxi I send out one last prayer for the adventurous Grace and for once I entertain the hope that the silent listener was busy somewhere else and wasn’t with us.