Death in the Islands by Johanna N. Gibson


Back home, death is a spectacle. The way a body could go so limp so fast, how sudden somebody does cease to exist, how the place does get so still and everybody frighten to die cause it does remind all of we of our mortality. Death is a real exciting thing.

And when people die, the news spread like cornmeal in your belly. The steady echo of the question “You hear who dead?” across roads and into the neighbor’s yards would make you feel like is just waiting people waiting for Death to come and choke someone into it arms.

In fact, Death so beautiful, that some people die just for fun. My uncle was one of these people. He had die twice in the space of six years.

The first time, he had drink too much rum. Them say he heart stop just like that and no body at all could catch a pulse. So them just declare he dead and wait for the people to come for he body. But just as them put he on the stretcher to drive he away, he sit up straight as ever and say, “Where the hell yuh carrying me?” And everybody stop still and start to laugh. And he start to laugh too. And that was the talk for months.

The second time, six years later, he had make it all the way to the freezer. They were done ready to put he on ice and do the autopsy. The mortician just walk out the room for a quick second and by the time she come back in she meet my uncle in the corner hauling on he pants and grinning from ear to ear. The mortician faint and could barely come to. Nobody had know what to do except pay he way back home.

When we see he walking up through the gate, grinning that wide smile cause he had teeth too big for he mouth, all of we stop our bawling and start to laugh. And he start to laugh too. And the whole island laugh at he and laugh for months.

So when my uncle really did die, the whole island ram the church full waiting for a big show out of the affair. And they let the pastor speak, and the people sing, and they sing the hymns. And every single man walk the whole way to the graveyard and sing every single graveside song like them really did want to wake the dead.

But when them see he coffin reach down into the six foot hole and them watch us throw in the funeral pins and them see the dirt cover he coffin, nobody say nothing, they just look real disappointed.

Is then I think everybody had realize that the funeral had been real sad in truth. And everybody stop taking death for joke. And I start to cry. And my mother start to cry. And all of we start to cry. And the crying never stop.

Johanna N. Gibson is an emerging writer from the Virgin Islands (UK).