Encounter at Buduburam (3)

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By this time I was moving on.

Nearing the refugee center proper, I felt some elation within me. The atmosphere changed surprisingly, and I felt good to be away from my encounter. My steps moved very fast, and from time to time, I would watch from the corner of my eye if someone was pursuing me. At some point, the echoes of my steps forced me to run at top speed. As the sound sang behind me, it made it appear that someone was walking behind me. That illusion caused me more discomfort, and I thought “they” had decided to allow me to come closer to the living before crushing me with the last blow.

My speed increased, and I was surprised I had such incredible speed, in the face of an unknown danger. I knew then that I could be a runner, like, say, for the 100 meters or any of the relays in national track competitions. But again, I was jumbled out of my dream to realize that it was not the time to consider the decision to join any track and field organization.

It was a situation of life and death. Even that too I could not be sure. This was because I could not think of any enemy who I could credit for the shocking experience. But all the same, I was convinced that whether it was my friend’s doing or not, there was something at the gravesite, and it was possible that whatever I saw happened there every night of the week. I was resolved to remain careful, and watch my steps, since it was obvious to me that someone or somebody wanted me crushed. I had no evidence but my mind had already made that decision up for me. What else could I have thought about?

I am not sure if I did the right thing for when I chose to remain at the gravesite and alone in the darkness before the beloved departed, but I am convinced in my own world to believe in the truth that the dead are conscious of nothing that is done under the sun.

Mankind has always cherished the memory of the departed. It has always been the desire of man to understand the unknown and whether at the end of his days, there is anything left for him to be remembered with. And as sad as it seems, we may never know the secrets of tomorrow and man’s future beyond the grave.

True it is that the various scriptures, with the bible in the forefront, have provided mankind what should be expected in the great beyond. Hence, the foremost Israeli King Solomon was the leader in it.

It was Solomon who dealt deeply in the agonies and hopelessness beyond the grave, since the scripture indicates he was the wealthiest and wisest human being of all time, and his wealth could presently be more than any billionaire living. In his examination of the condition and the fate of the living after they are dead, Solomon lamented, and here I quote to express a point I was not aware of when I sought to honor the memory of my friend Wilson:

“(5) For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten. (6) Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.”

The above are the words of King Solomon and I could not agree with him better than he had expressed them for the benefit of mankind, which suggested itself to me that whoever was trying to scare me away from the cemetery could be the work of the living. Though I had no evidence to back the claim I just made, I could depend on the Israeli King to buttress my proposition. Again it was the same Solomon who, in his attempt to provide some comfort for the living, stated, “(7) Go, eat your food with rejoicing and drink your wine with a good heart, because already the [true] God has found pleasure in your works.

(8) On every occasion let your garments prove to be white, and let oil not be lacking upon your head.”

Though I could find comfort in Solomon’s wise sayings I also realized at the time that there was much more in life to enjoy than this life of sorrow and disappointment as the King next indicated, “(9) See life with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life that He has given you under the sun, all the days of your vanity, for that is your portion in life and in your hard work with which you are working hard under the sun.” Until now I had not considered it proper to abandon the amount of tears that had sought my assistance when I measured the death of my friend, but remembering Solomon’s position that life itself is vain increased my disappointment and wondered if there was purpose in life after all. Running from the madness in Liberia, I witnessed firsthand the brutality of man towards his fellow man. I saw the wickedness of man and the massacres upon massacres of innocent civilians carried out by all the contesting parties for the soul of Liberia, and in all honesty, they weakened me. They rendered me incapable to understand why they were necessary to happen.

But what was I supposed to do to enjoy the life of vanity as I had come to understand form King Solomon? In fact it humbled me, and made me cognizant of the futility of life itself. This was because there was something that I considered the King was not revealing. But to his credit, he revealed it in the next line in his book of Ecclesiastes, (Ch 9) with the verse number at the beginning of the quotation, “(10) All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in She´ol, (the grave) the place to which you are going.”

Here at least the King revealed the inherent expectation in the grave. Recall that back in Liberia, I had made a pact with my friend Wilson, “live for me if you survive the war,” it was a sacred and solemn pledge that was meant to pass. Sadly, Wilson was victimized by the ravages of a disease at the Buduburam Refugee Center in Ghana where we had been living; and I had also not failed to honor his memory these several years. So now I was left with the position of Solomon to live life to the level that the creator had indicated for me in this vain existence.

I could not forget Solomon’s own attempt at finding meaning in life itself, for he confessed, “(11) I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all. (12) For man also does not know his time. Just like fishes that are being taken in an evil net, and like birds that are being taken in a trap, so the sons of men themselves are being ensnared at a calamitous time, when it falls upon them suddenly.”

With this understanding from Solomon, I could not accuse myself for failing to do what was necessary for my friend but it was not to suggest that Wilson was destined to die at such a young age, but as Solomon said, time and unforeseen occurrence befall both man and the beast. Then I was correct, and here I must applaud the foresight of my friend Wilson to remind each of us to live for each other. I must deal and treat my fellow man with the required respect so that I could accomplish a sense of satisfaction, was my resolve from now on. That was how I passed the period after I arrived at my residence at the refugee camp, trying to make sense of my earlier experience at the cemetery.

When it was about noon, a friend came to me with information that a certain Ghanaian old man wanted to speak with me. “What does he want with me?” I shot back at Ben, one of the fellows who had resided in the camp since it was established in 1990. “Have you seen the old man here before?” I could not wait for Ben to answer as I piled two questions on him.

“Never saw him here before,” Ben said, “but he appears to be some kind of medicine man.” Though I had been overwhelmed by the experience at the cemetery, the mention of a Ghanaian medicine man, meaning a traditional doctor, at my door frustrated me. What did he want? Was he at the cemetery late this morning? I composed myself and shrugged my shoulders. “Tell him to come in,” I informed my friend, as my heart beat surprisingly increased in its tempo.

Meanwhile, I peeked through one of the several holes on the door, and saw a man, an older man, standing there, his body hung to the right, and his face cold. I could not but conjecture that he could be one of those I had encountered that morning. Looking at him, I saw how frail he was, and therefore could pose me no danger. I had seen enough and well, the old man could be the only source for me to understand my experience at the cemetery.

Whatever happened afterwards with the Ghanaian old man who came to seek me afterwards could be another story I would have to tell but it is true that many Liberians who domiciled in the great Gomoa-Buduburam Reception Center, as the refugee center was officially known, can tell the reader many of the exciting events that took place there. I now have great fond of memories about a place that I lived for nearly five years, when hell made Liberia a hated place on earth.

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