wake keeping


I attended a wake keeping in the Bronx last night. A close family friend of ours lost her father, a chief, and called for a party in lieu of a memorial service. A high table, dancing, and copious bottles of cognac for libation. Akwa Ibomites came out in full regalia, gelees and all.

I was not going to go, had some reading and critiquing to do for my writers' group meeting today, except my entire family showed up so I could not stay home. Not forgetting, of course, that this family friend had been so kind and generous in the past.

When my mother was ill -- knowing what I know now, I can safely say dying -- this friend arrived at our home in Albany with a plastic bag full of still frozen bonga fish. She wore a flowing caftan and silk headscarf, had just taken the bus up from the city.

I watched her thaw the fish in the sink, helped her collect spices from our cupboard while my mother sat waiting in the living room. When she finished cooking, she sat cross-legged on the floor in front of my mother's chair and fed her a bowl of delicious soup.

Though many people shuttled my mother back and forth to chemotherapy appointments, it is only this woman that I remember truly helping: she fed her. Not long after, when Mommy could no longer swallow without significant effort, and would spend over an hour staring at her dinner plate, I realized the significance of this small gesture.

I don't think I have ever told this woman how much it meant to me. Perhaps paying my respects to her late father, no matter how peripheral my presence last night, can demonstrate something to that effect.

Death has a way of informing about life. Until then, I never knew how special it can be simply to feed someone. Maybe I could stop by one day with a pot of soup and return the favor.

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  1. This was quite touching. Hope the wake went well? may your mum rest in peace.


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