On An Unexpected Death

This time the harbinger came by an apple red motobike carrying two men dressed in striking suits with ties that popped. They passed us on our walk home from the pool and somehow, deep down I knew they carried bad news.

I met a man here in Cotonou who is a history maker, a game changer and far too humble to ever say this of himself. The first thought I had when I met him was that he looked like a young Denzel Washington. The second, that he was overflowing with love: he loved God and he loved people. He was kind, he was generous, he was humble and he was joyful. In the very few interactions I had with him I was blessed and also challenged by the way he never stopped smiling and never stopped giving and never stopped believing.

We walked up to our front door where the sharply dressed men waited to tell us the news of our new friend’s death. It’s interesting how you can actually feel your world shift ever so slightly.

But the shift in my world this night is not because I lost a loved one but rather that I know friends who grieve this night, that a woman has become a widow, a little girl has become fatherless again and that a man of great vision and impact is gone.

I can’t claim to know him well and I can’t claim this grief as mine. But I can tell you that death never gets easier, that unexpected death strikes us all and can stir up long buried memories. Memories of the last time your world shifted.

I know the pain so many are feeling this night… The questions and the hurt… The anger and the frustration… The loneliness and the tears… I know the blank stare that comes across one’s face and the ice that creeps in and can slowly build over your heart. The muddled thoughts and the frantic rummaging through drawers to find that one thing that you can physically hold that was theirs. I know the fear of sleep this first night because somehow falling asleep means it’s real and the fear of the first morning without is heavy and real and scary.

I know that no one can say anything you want to hear and I know that everything sounds trite and all you really want is for someone to tell you, “This sucks,” and then sit with you.

Tomorrow can bring the verses and songs and cliches that carry weight but tonight… Tonight it just sucks.

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