Why Do We Write to The Dead?
Sunshine Bujawe, photographed above, and many of the children at The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines, have written letters to their friend Dave, who was murdered in his sleep on the city streets this past May. Their letters express their sorrow, their confusion and disbelief, their anger and guilt, and their faith that Dave lives on in spirit and can read their words or at least know what is written on their hearts.
So, why do we write to the dead? Saying good-bye is ingrained in our daily human existence, across all cultures, whether to the dead or to family members when we step out to do some shopping. We feel incomplete, shaken, panicked even, if we leave someone we love for an extended period of time without saying good-bye, without an embrace or a kiss. We need that closure and the comfort that comes from a sense of connection despite distance, especially if that person has died.
But is a letter to the dead purely for ourselves as we work through our grief and long for closure?
Maybe not. Many letters to the dead are written as if in conversation, as if the diseased were right there, reading them over our shoulders. Our words come from our hearts, and whether we believe in the after-life or not, our hearts tell us that love transcends time, matter, and is ever-lasting.
We’re grateful to our donors for helping us to initiate, sustain, and expand our school improvement projects. We’re currently assisting The School in a Cart in renting an additional room, which will be designated the Music Room for the Push Cart Children’s Band and for private lessons. Currently, homework, play, counseling, and music all happen in one room. A separate Music Room will provide the space for the children to excel at their instruments, plus allow for quiet time for homework and the space for a few extra toys for the younger children.
The band has been a highlight in the children’s lives since Lift the Lid provided the first instruments in 2015. It’s a source of pride, opening doors to new experiences, challenges, and friends. We’ll forever remember David on the drums.
This is Sunshine Bujawe’s letter to Dave in Tagalog, followed by the English translation:
So sudden was the stabbing and Balong (Dave) was gone. We were sad for what happened to my cousin (Sunshine considered Dave a cousin.) He was our cousin and we loved him even if he was naughty and hard-headed. Why did this happen? He did not do what they thought he had done. He did not break the car window. I could not accept that this had to happen.
I hope the one who did this will be caught soon. May his conscience bother him! There were many kids around but why was it that it was you the culprit saw. I wish you went home with Kuya (big brother Jordan.) I wish you did not feel sleepy that night.
Don’t give up. I will get even for you. You were not only a cousin, you were a good friend. I know you and Kuya were always together. I hope you are happy in heaven. Don’t be sad because we will get the one who killed you so that you will then be happy. We love you very much, cousin and best friend. (Dave was stabbed in his sleep on the streets May 17, 2019. He was 13 years old.)
Dear Sunshine, I’m so glad you and Dave had each other as cousins and best friends! I can’t imagine the sadness and anger you must be feeling. My heart hurts with yours. Even through your grief, I hope you will determine to stay in school and get an education, to be the very best that you can be. I’m sure Dave is watching from heaven and cheering you on as you move forward and work hard toward your future goals. Do your very best, always, and know we are thinking of you and cheering you on! Hugs!
Thank you, Connie! The children love to hear from you. It’s a reminder that we believe in them and are cheering for them throughout every step of their education!
Sunshine, I can’t believe how you’re growing up! I’ve been reading your writing and praying for your education for seven years now. I know this essay to Dave was the hardest you’ve ever written. It must have hurt to say good-bye. I lost my father in 2000 and even though there was a moment as he was dying when I had to say good-bye, I still don’t feel that he left me. Love does live on and can even grow stronger in our hearts, so let Dave into your life as your guardian angle and inspiration to achieve the good life he would want you to have. We believe in Dave’s love and we believe in you!