Death leaves a lingering taste in your mouth. I suppose this is why the seemingly African tradition around grievers is to bring food, to come and cook, to incessantly ask if you’ve eaten and/ or remind you to. Perhaps it is this stale aftertaste that this practice attempts to treat. The familiarity of loss for those that were before (or along side us if you believe in parallel realities and/or continuing afterlives) taught us this.

I’ve been frustrated by this practice before and even now still with this knowing of death more closely. I think this, like bodies, hair and conversations around personal choices are not to be nosily and inappropriately inquired about unless welcomed or based on volunteered information. Maybe now more than before, ever, I feel that this particular inquiry can be loving and caring. In hindsight, it feels comforting to know that when the loss of the fundamental care for the somewhat automated processes of maintaining this physical body comes, I have loves to remind me. I’m distinctly aware of how far out of reach trying to stay alive when loss arrives is, violently taking apart any semblance of grounding you thought you had begun to form.

This taste sometimes disappears into the humdrum of my life together with the other less notable parts. On many days in the last year, this hasn’t been the case. I find that this unfeeling, the numbing of my sense of taste, the distaste, has become more apparent. There are now these snacks, I considered meals there in the immediate period after people I love died, that are now ours to share. The snacks that kept me alive, the loves that noticed and kept me stocked, the change in my sense of taste, the way in which these ‘meals’ are inextricably tied to those that died that I feel I continue to lose in a multitude of ways I hadn’t considered. So on the days, the hours, the moments that feel unending and unbearable, this stale taste is soothed, it is remedied by these snacks tiding me over and on better days, the comfort of the loves that thoughtfully check in.

This taste resurfaces with the realisation of how overwhelming reintegration into the world, the ‘normal’ of your before life, is after grief sits and stays. The new, good, and everything in ‘the after life‘ is yet another way to cement the finality, the ‘never’ of death. This reinforcement only serves as the gateway to the continuous nature of loss that comes with this taste. The myriad of ways you lose yourself, parts of your life you shared and the person you lose over and over through your grieving.

Grief never departs. It will hide in corners. It will fold itself into the hems and stitches of your life. It will make no sound. It will convince you it’s gone and that you will never see it again. Till one day, when you suddenly hear a song or you smell a fragrance or hear a voice. The grief suddenly returns as if it never left, give it space. Give it time.

Nwabisa Mazana



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