Tag: grief

My heart is beneath the ocean

March 15th 2018. 10 am. A month of disappointment continues. It is a Thursday. I am away from home and staying in a room on the third floor of a historic building. New faces, new people, new culture. I decide to cook:  white rice, tomato sauce with canned chicken breasts, and some fried plantain. It is a good day, I am in high spirits. Till the phone call.

Suddenly, the world is spinning so fast, in the wrong direction, and I am dizzy. I can feel it, that sense of foreboding that has been plaguing me all month, it is growing thicker and suffocating me. My heart is breaking. I am frantic, pacing the length of my room, making calls, calling in favors. Begging. Pleading. On the verge of tears. I can feel it: I am failing. I can see it but I am powerless to stop it.

My mother will die. I know this, with a certainty that is chilling. I don’t know how I know, but I know. We share a bond, maybe her soul whispered to me that it was her time. It is hard to accept, this foreknowledge and so I double down on my effort. I have duelled with death many times and won.

December 14, 2008, 5:30 am, Federal Medical Center, Owo. I am woken by a frantic knock on my door: a patient is gasping. A middle-aged woman, admitted for some severe condition, the details elude me now. I rush to her side and bark others. Suction. Ambu bag. Oxygen. CPR. I don’t know how long but she comes back. Fully conscious and talking. Vital signs back to normal. Death lost that day.  

This time is different. I cannot be there to face death. I send in the cavalry. I bark orders over the phone, talk to doctors, family, friends. Death wins. I lose. My mother dies. I don’t get to say goodbye.

Monday, March 12th, 2018. 1:30 pm. I call her. She is fine, returning from a doctor’s appointment. She has some complaints but everything is fine.  

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018. 7:00 am. I wake up from a nightmare. I have a test at 10:00 am. I call my mother but her phone is switched off and I cannot reach her. I try again, same monotonous female voice. Stupid Power Holding Company: her phone must have died because of the usual power outage that plagues the country. I call my wife to call my mom and get back to me. I instruct her to arrange for my mother to come to stay with her while I am away. Somehow, I know. Something is not right. I want to stay ahead of the darkness I foresaw. I am too late.

March 16th, 2018. 4:50 am. I get the call. 30 minutes earlier, I felt her spirit depart. We had a connection. I am crying already. I listen calmly and allow the voice on the other end stammer and sputter trying to string together the right words – the usual platitudes, “take it like a man” and “it’s the will of God”. I say “thank you” and end the call.

I have one more call to make. The most difficult call I have ever made. I have to inform my only brother that his beloved mother is gone. He had called her the preceding Saturday, and they had discussed her planned visit at the end of the month. Now she is gone, and I have to deliver the news. He has a job interview the next day.

We stay on the phone and cry together. I hear something shatter in the background and I know it is the sound of his heart splintering into a million shards and not the glass cup he threw against the wall. I don’t know how long we spend crying and talking and giving and getting virtual embraces or how the call was terminated. I am on the floor; my legs weakened by sorrow have given way. I experience sorrow in a new way; I am accustomed to sorrow, but this is different. I am defenceless. It is ripping me apart. I am gasping.

To cry is not the same as to wail. They are synonyms but the lived experience is different. I am wailing. When your body cannot contain grief, it spills to the floor. I roll on the floor but this makes the pain worse. I lie still. I stand. I pace. No position is comfortable. I want to get out of my own body. Sorrow begins at the point when there are no more tears left to cry. My eyes are dry and so is my mouth. I am heaving, convulsing in agony and struggling to breathe. This is day 1, phase 1 of my grief.

November 7th 2015. 4:00 pm. I am in Zanzibar with my wife on our first anniversary, we are sailing on a boat over the Pacific with two other couples. The waters are jade green and we see gold fishes swimming on the surface. It is high tide and the engine of the boat is off. We are bounding on the waves and the sail catches the wind as we gently travel towards the shore. I lean over the side of the boat and run my hands through the water. In the distance, I see the island we had just had a picnic on getting swallowed by the rising tide. I remember now because my heart is that island, and it has been swallowed up by grief. I have not left my room in 3 days. My heart is submerged beneath the ocean of pain. All my body aches. My pain has eaten up my body. Everywhere is sore.

I cannot fall apart. Everyone is looking up to me to be in control. I make calls, process hospital bills, mortuary fees. No, we do not want a public morgue – overcrowding and power outages; yes, a private one is good. Pay the fees, yes, 3 months. I answer condolence calls and messages. I call distant family members that I haven’t spoken to in years. It is the first son’s duty.

I write a lot too. Writing is how I process the world. Writing gives me clarity. I keep writing. It comforts. It is my lifeline. Writing saves me.

March 15th, 2019. 4:00 am.  I have carried my grief for one year. My mother visits me in my dreams. I do not say goodbye. I do not want to. A few months ago, I stayed with an elderly woman, a prophetess, who told me she saw my mother standing over my head watching me sleep on the nights that I spent sleeping on her couch. “Sometimes she sits and just looks at you,” she added. I don’t believe in ghosts or such tales and I struggle with her words; because I want to believe it – that somehow my mother is with me, that she will always be with me, watching me sleep.  

We buried my mother on May 26th, 2018. It is also my brother’s birthday. He insisted on this. I think it is his way of keeping her alive. It is how he brands her on his heart. This is the closest he can get to her now. That way, he will never forget, not that it is possible to. Every year, whenever we celebrate his birthday, we will celebrate our mother as well.

March 15th 2019. 4:30 am. I am crying in a dark room and typing through tears on my phone. I finally found words again; I have been searching for words for weeks. This is how I remember my mother today – through my tears congealing on the screen. And once again, I am rescued by words.

​February 14th, 2018. 8:30 am. My phone reminder tells me to ‘Call Mom’.

beneath her, the soil sings

trapped, like a sailor marooned,
caught between the struggle for supremacy
between myometrial contractions and the hard
craggy protuberances of a platypelloid pelvis,
this stillborn, fresh and warm, returns;
to spaces in between neurons
where happiness is stored in vesicles
inhibited by GABA;
to nights of insomnia and illusions;
amyloid plaques reminiscent of
egyptian plagues – effulgent blood,
darkness and death.
this woman cradles death
in earthen elements no longer
in equilibrium.
beneath her, the soil sings
songs of insanity

The Sanctuary

Where I go, you can’t come
It is a sacred ground
A hallowed chamber;
It is a place of memories,
A shrine dedicated to love;
There I sit, legs tucked underneath
Dressed in white, the garb of pure love
Palms pressed together,
Eyes closed
And await the visitation.
She comes to me dressed in purple,
Eyes aglow, shades of blue and brown,
She glides on air;
Her scent fills the temple,
Cinnamon and jasmine,
Fruity and sultry;
She touches me, strokes me
From the head down, stoking dying
Embers of lusts, fanning the flames of passion;
I watch her through tear filled eyes
As she sits astride and makes love to me;
I weep as she rides to ecstasy, her skin glowing;
She leaves and my heart breaks all over,
I empty my eyes of tears and
I’m left empty
I stand up and leave
I do not look back
I lock the doors and keep it in the purse close to my heart
Till the next time
When I return to worship
In the sanctuary
Of pain.

My Baby!

It was dark and she could barely see her hands in front of her face. The night sky was covered with a thick blanket of rain laden cloud hiding the stars beneath it. Occasional flashes of lightning cut across the sky followed by deep rumbling thunder.

The wind was howling, and several dogs were barking in the distance. An owl hooted nearby and the cicadas were chirping noisily. She paid no heed to these noises however, her attention was focused on another sound, one that made her blood curdle with fright. It was the shrill cry of a newborn piercing the night air.

She ran blindly into the thick bush on the right side of the path that led to the stream not feeling the pain of the blades as they lacerated the skin of her arms and face. She was unaware of the blood streaks mixed with sweat dripping down her face. One thought rang in her head.

She had to find the baby.

A streak of lightning flashed across the sky then, illuminating her path for a few seconds and she saw something white, a few meters from where she was standing. She rushed towards it.

‘That must be the baby’ she thought as relief surged through her ‘poor thing, not having anyone to care for it’

The white object turned out to be a cellophane nylon. Sadness washed over her and she stood staring at the nylon.

She heard the shrill cry again and her heart beat picked up speed and fresh panic seized her. She had to find the baby! Simultaneously, the rain started falling. It came in torrents and in a few seconds she was drenched and shivering.

She ran as much as her legs could carry her and with each step she took, the cry became louder. She was near.

She burst out into a clearing in the bush and stopped in her tracks. Everywhere was deadly quiet. The air was still and the ground was dry. There was a bundle at the foot of a tree 20 metres from where she stood. She moved towards it, feeling a sense of dread enveloping her.

She picked up the bundle and unwrapped it and let out a shriek of agony. The baby stared at her with glassy eyes and blood all over it. Her legs could no longer support her and she fell to her knees and clutched the child to her bosom and rocked to and fro.

‘Too late’ she thought with despair ‘I couldn’t save it. Poor child’

Her heart squeezed with pain so intense that she gasped. She could feel her heart turning to stone, and her body growing cold. She clutched the child close to her chest and sang to it. She was never letting go.

“My baby” she whispered, and the tears began to pour. Soon she was screaming and crying loudly. “Give me back my baby! Don’t take away my baby!”

Then there was blood everywhere, on the floor, on her dress and her hands. She couldn’t place where the blood was coming from. The baby moved in her hands and she looked down at it. It was covered in blood and its eyes were closed. Then it opened its eyes and smiled at her, a full toothless smile.

She screamed.

And woke up.

It took a few moments before the fog cleared and she realized that she had been dreaming. Her cloth was drenched in sweat and her eyes were wet with tears. A sound to her right drew her attention and she glanced to see her husband sitting up in bed his eyes holding hers and saw in them the emotions coursing through her.

Her eyes went to the cot next to the dressing table.

“My baby” she gasped, the realization of her loss crashing in on her all over again, and burst into tears.


Dedicated to all mothers grieving the loss of a child.


Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel

fallen angel

Hell has never felt more alone

The cold seeps into my bones

Even as the flames leap around;

The noises are deafening

Amplified by the deathly silence


The anguish is soul deep,

Ripping apart flesh,

Putting a shutter on breath,

Drowning the soul in its tears;

Sorrow has never felt more real.


Ridicule permeates the air,

The ever present fragrance

From the mill;

Daggers of judgments

From eyes narrowed to slits

Pierce my skin, a thousand times over.


Dreams lay scattered about,

Shattered shards litter the terrace;

Splinters that draw blood

From the many punctures

As I lay sprawled-

Fallen from grace.


Tears flow from misty springs,

A waterfall cascading downwards

In a show of shame,

Ebbs into a trickle

And dries up like a shallow well

In the peak of the dry season.


I will mourn and wail

Bow my head

And stoop;

I will bear the burden of my guilt

Till it brings me to His feet.

fallen angel1




It is dark,

In the middle of the day,

The sun is overtaken by the

Sad cloud

That shed tears

In racking spasms

And bawls on the shoulder

On the earth

As it soaks up the anguish

And sways and rocks

A steady rhythm.

weeping in the rain
weeping in the rain