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Maurice Lawal Saley

On Monday morning, tragedy struck in my world again when Maurice Saley, close family friend and national director of Eden Foundation, passed away.

Maurice had just gone back to his people in the bush and met Renate at the field station. He had a high blood pressure and felt his left arm was funny, but he had ten new villages to register (villages who wanted to join the Eden program) and he did not want to let them down. Down in Zinder, my dad worried about him all day and tried calling him, but could not get through. When he finally did, he got an other person on the line who said that Maurice had been hospitalized in Tanout and was paralyzed on the left side. We drove up immediately.

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We arrived at the Zinder hospital late that night, and I would not go to sleep until midnight the following day. Any emergency in Zinder is made worse by the hospital’s slow-slow pace and endless unnecessary but oh-so-obligatory steps of buraucracy, even though the patient is dying. After hours of insisting, we finally got an emergency cat scan carried out in the early morning (as opposed to “some time” later in the day), and the results were good: Maurice had not suffered from a cerebral haemorrhage (which no one in Zinder could have done anything about) but from a thromb and the prognosis looked good. Although he had a massive headache, he was able to communicate in three languages (showing that the left side of his brain was intact) and to move the right side of his body. The doctors were happy. We talked about rehabilitation and changes of a high blood pressure life style. We talked about tomorrow.

But tomorrow did not come as we hoped it would. On Sunday afternoon, Maurice fell into coma and on the morning to Monday, he passed away. Just like that.

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The funeral here in Niger is imminent. Outside his house, Eden Street was filling up with people who had come to show their respect. Maurice was a much-respected man, well-known for standing up for others rather than himself.

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Trying to hold back the tears – as culture would like it – was impossible. Maurice was family and the loss was huge.

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My dad insisting on driving his African brother to the graveyard, a gesture that was much appreciated by his friends and family.

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Only men are allowed to attend the burial itself, so my dad took pictures.

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First, they held up a shade,

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…then placed Maurice’s body at the bottom of the grave.

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Pieces of wood were placed to create an aired space above the body,

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…on which they placed straw mats,

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…before the grave was filled with sand,

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…and watered.

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Back at the house, the women began to prepare for the three day long funeral, when people come to mourn and show their respects. The usual length is three days, but in Maurice’s case, the official mourning has not been concluded today, seven days later, as people are still calling on his family to pay their respect.

Maurice was a great man and he will be sorely missed.

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