Tag: Mourning

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’.

Eight days on…

the silence stretches,
hours have
turned to
days. dreamscapes
doting
skylines slowly
crystallizes.
clarity cracks
loudly.
trickling tears trail
truth
reiterated. reality –
soft snow showers –
becomes a blizzard
breaking bodies
broken by
love’s loss.

death came knocking

death came knocking on my door
and i didn’t hear it
the music of sorrow was so loud
around me
i joined in the dance
oblivious as death crept in
and stole you away
you were so beautiful
broken in so many places
your scars were the secret of
your beauty
proudly placed on my mantelpiece
all that is left now is an ugly emptiness.

don’t offer me a new vase
don’t offer me words of comfort
she is gone. just
gone. and nothing
could ever fill this sullen
space where she used to sit.

Ties that bind

This here is a very long post, I hope it keeps you interested till the very end. I initially planned to break it into two parts…but then, I couldn’t.
Enjoy!
Comments are welcome.

****

The last time she saw him, he was wearing a frown on his beautiful well sculptured face. She had been thinking how the crease on his brows had made him look sexy coupled with the day old stubble that created a dark contrast to his fair skin.

He had left home angry, and she had shut the door after watching him pull out the driveway, with a plan to seduce him when he returned.

She had planned to leave the door unlocked. He was sure to be angry when he found the door unlocked, but his anger would be short-lived when he saw what was waiting in store for him. Then she would go soak in the bath, after shaving down there- just the way he loved it. Next, she would dab her wrist, neck and ear lobes with Victoria Secret’s Flirty perfume. He loved the fragrance.

And she had gone ahead to execute the plan.

She was in the bathroom soaking in warm water with bath salts and oils added and imagining the myriads of expression that would pass through John’s face as he enters the bedroom. She could picture the darkening of his eyes and the bobbing of his throat. She imagined that he was going to be too impatient to ravish her and would waste no time in possessing her till he was spent and all his anger dissipated in passionate love making. The mere thought was making her quiver with need.

She needed him now.

The shrill ringing of the phone intruded into the perfect moment and she cursed under her breath even as she ignored it. Whoever it was would have to call her at a more convenient time.

The phone rang a second time. She considered ignoring it again but suddenly a sense of dread overwhelmed her and she shot up like a bullet from the bath tub, spilling water on the white marble tiles, and made for the room where her phone was vibrating on the bedside stand.

She looked at the screen, it was John.

She smiled.

“Hello” she cooed. There was static in the background. She could hear the honking of lorries and shouts in the background.

“Hello dear” concern etched in her voice.

“Hello” the voice on the other end was shouting, striving to be heard above the surrounding chaos.

The voice was not John’s.

“Who is this?” she asked, trying to hide the growing panic stirring up within her.

“This is Commander Akpan from the Federal Road Safety Commission. The owner of this phone was involved in a road traffic accident and has been taken to the teaching hospital”

The line went dead.

“Hello! Hello!! Hello!!!” she screamed into the phone.

‘This is not happening’ she thought frantically ‘it can’t be, it must be a dream, a very bad nightmare’

She dialed the number again and listened as it rang. Her hands were running through her hair and she pulled at random strands. The call was disconnected and she dialed it again; still no response.

Her body jolted into action and she ran into the room and with the precision of a robot, she dressed up, wearing a purple tee shirt over black knee length jeans and a slip on. She rushed out of the room and headed out.

She couldn’t trust herself to drive and opted for a cab. Half running, half walking she ran the distance from her house to the road, ignoring the stares and questioning looks on her neighbors faces. She couldn’t be bothered that her hair was in disarray and her face tear streaked.

Seated inside the taxi cab, she tried her husband’s number again and as at the other times, it rang till the call was disconnected. Next she called her mother and then her sister. She dialed her mother in law’s number but disconnected before it started ringing. She realized she didn’t know what to say. It was better to know a bit more before making the call.

‘Dear Lord’ she prayed silently ‘please keep my husband safe, keep John safe’

“Pastor!” she exclaimed in muted tones. She decided to call her pastor and inform him and solicit prayers. She was sure that he would come if he was free, John was a youth pastor in church and quite close to the pastor. She needed all the support that she could get.

The pastor picked on the fourth ring. As soon as she heard his voice, she broke down in tears. All the pent up fear and anxiety bubbled over and she just blabbed over the phone. With some effort and a lot of patience from the pastor, she was able to relay the call she had received to him. He promised to meet her at the hospital.

The emergency unit of the teaching hospital was a market. Staffs were running around and barking instructions and requesting for help, while relatives of patients milled around or were running from one spot to the other running errands or making purchases.

Tina looked lost. After a few moment she was able to track down a nurse and ask for directions. She was directed to a desk where an elderly woman sat.

“Good evening Ma” she asked, trying to keep her voice from shaking

“Good evening, how may I help you?” the elderly woman’s voice was soft and calmed her nerves.

“I am looking for John Badmus, he was brought here by one commander Akpan. I was told he was involved in an accident”

A look passed on the Matron’s eyes before she answered “Please wait here while I get the doctor”

Tina looked around at the buzz of activities happening around her. She saw different patients with different emergencies. A man was writhing on a bed to her right, a young female doctor was bent over him. She saw that the man’s singlet was stained with blood and a picture of John lying on the road, bloodied flashed before her. She shuddered and shook her head to clear the image.

A cry from the far corner of the room caught her eyes and she looked up to see a woman, in her early thirties and a bit on the plump side, land on her buttocks with a thud. She watched in horror as the woman removed her headgear, threw it on the floor and began to roll on the hard, cemented floor. Tina guessed she had just lost a loved one, her husband perhaps, she wondered.

She averted her eyes. The thought of losing her husband was too hard to bear. John will be fine, she repeated it in her mind over and over.

“Good evening Madam.” a voice jolted her from her brooding. She looked up to see an elderly man, dressed in green scrubs and wearing rubber boots reaching up to the legs. His face was grave but his eyes radiated kindness. “I am Dr Stephen. I understand you are related to Mr. John?”

She nodded. “I am his wife. Please can you tell me how my husband is doing? Are the injuries severe? Would he be fine?”

“Please come with me”

She followed him to a small cubicle and he offered her a seat. “Are you alone?” he asked her after taking his seat.

Tina was getting really worried. A small alarm was beginning to sound at the back of her head and it was growing loudly by the second. “Doctor, please tell me where my husband is, I want to see my husband, where is he?” she didn’t mind the tremor and the hysterics in her voice.

“I am sorry Mrs. Badmus, your husband’s injuries were severe and he was bleeding from multiple sources. We tried to stop the bleeding but he had lost much blood, his heart gave out”

She had watched many medical shows and series on TV and she knew what he was telling her. She refused to believe it. She isn’t one of those women who lost their husbands at an early age.

“So, doctor, he is in a critical state but he would survive right?” her eyes were pleading with the elderly doctor with the kindest eyes she had ever seen in a doctor and her voice took on a pleading quality. Her mind was screaming ‘please doctor, do not tell me that I am a widow. Do not remove the floor under my feet; don’t snuff out my candle and plunge me into everlasting darkness’

“Mrs. Badmus, your husband didn’t make it, I am sorry. He is dead”

There was a rush of blood to her head and she felt light headed. A wave of darkness descended upon her and the room began to spin. Her hands gripped the edge of the chair tightly as she struggled to hold on to consciousness.

“He is dead. My husband is dead” she mumbled as the moment passed.

“I am really sorry” the doctor whispered, standing in front of her and gently squeezing her hands. “Is there anybody you would like to call? You would need to go to the mortuary to identify the body and then fill out some forms”

“Yes. Yes, my pastor. He is on his way” everything was happening so fast and she felt detached from it all. It was like she was out of her body and looking down on all the events.

John. Dead. Dead? Dead!

Her phone rang then. It was her pastor.

“Pastor, John is dead” Saying the words out loud, the truth and finality of it hit her and the import of it sank. “My husband is dead o pastor” she screamed into the phone and wailed loudly.

She had never understood the reason for the theatrics women made when they lost their husbands up until now. Nobody can adequately describe the feeling of loss and the pain that hits. It is such an intense pain that can’t be taken standing still or sitting down. Not even lying down. It is a pain so deep, it knocks off the wind and leaves one breathless. The pain erupts from within like a volcano spewing ashes and darkness, and screaming becomes the only language that can express the agony.
She was on the floor pulling at her hair and screaming when her pastor entered the doctor’s office.

“Pastor, John has made me a widow at my young age o! What am I going to do now? He left me all alone pastor! He left me alone all by myself!”

She didn’t feel a thing as a needle pierced her skin but soon afterwards, she was lying limp in her pastor’s hands.

****

Clara was fuming.

She hated men that lied.

It had been over an hour that he had sent her a text telling her that he was on his way. It took about 15 minutes from his house to her place. She had been dialing his number but he hadn’t picked.

She lay on the bed feeling like a fool. She hated the feeling, no, she detested the feeling and she was going to make him pay.

She had been lying naked on the bed for the past hour after oiling her skin and putting off the light leaving only the bedside lamp on. She wanted him to walk in and see her skin glowing in the soft light coming from the lamp.

She had planned everything to the slightest detail. She liked creating the right ambience for their love making which was usually intense. She loved the way he made her feel wanton. She loved the way he looked at her, his mouth slightly parted as he ravished her. She was a goddess and he worshipped at the temple of her body.

She dialed his number again but he didn’t pick up. She read through their earlier conversation again

‘Hey babe, I can’t wait to see you this evening. I have missed you!’
‘Same here love. I have prepared my feast, come and take to your fill’
‘And I can’t wait to devour you with relish…’
‘I love it when you can’t get enough of me’
‘I am on my way right now…can’t wait!’

If it was true that he had set out when he sent the text, then what was keeping him?

Anger gave way to worry. ‘What if something bad had happened to him on his way?’ she stood up from the bed and started pacing. She tried his number again and it rang out.

“Oh baby, where are you?” she muttered.
A wave of helplessness washed over her. She wanted to do something but she couldn’t. All she could do was pace and call his number repeatedly.

Finally, she gave up, flopped on her bed and closed her eyes.

“I am pathetic” she said out loud “here I am, waiting for a married man. Trying to steal a few moments of happiness and bliss”

She had begun to doubt her fears. It was more plausible that he could not get away from his wife. Maybe she had planned an elaborate act of seduction or there had been an emergency that he couldn’t get out of.

“But then, he would have sent a message or called to cancel” she said aloud, trying to convince herself that she had not been stood up or made a fool of. She wanted to believe that he had not grown tired of her and did not have enough courage to say it.
She drifted off to sleep amidst these ruminations.

The clock struck 2 am when she woke with a start. She noticed that she was shivering. She had slept naked and left her windows open.

As she returned to her bed, she noticed her phone notification light blinking. She wanted to ignore it but thought better of it. Scrolling through her phone she received the greatest shock of her life.

“RIP Mr John Badmus” a BBM status message read.

*****

Tina sat on her bed and stared at the wall for a long time. It had been a week since John died and all she had done was to eat and sleep. The days had merged into one long, gloomy existence. She had cried till her eyes emptied of tears. Her voice was barely above a whisper, she had lost it from hours of screaming and demanding for John to come back to her.

What haunted her was the memory of their last moment together. The last thing she had said to him were hurtful words and the last image she has of him was of a frown on his face and his back turned to her as he entered his car and drove away. The image had haunted her dreams since his death, not that she slept much anyways.

‘You are just a good for nothing man!’

Those were her last words to him. She wished she could take those words back now. She wished she had not let him go. She wished he had not died and had come back to her, to make amends and make him happy.

She cringed to think that while she had been soaking in a hot tub planning her elaborate act of seduction, he had been lying by the side of the road bleeding to death. Sex would never appeal to her anymore, of that she was sure.

Mourning him made her miss him more. He had always been there to cuddle up to whenever she was upset and needed a shoulder to cry on. Now she was upset and he was not there. She was upset that he was not there, and he would never be there because he was gone. Dead.

Tina could hear the noises coming from downstairs where stream of friends and loved ones were pouring in non-stop to offer their condolences. She was glad to have her mother and sister around. They had been seeing to the funeral arrangements and the entertainment of guests. She would never have been able to handle it.

“Oh John, come back to me” she whispered as fresh tears coursed down her face. She was glad for the tears, they were her only comfort. They understood and shared her grief. They were her companion in mourning.

She looked up. Turned around and looked right and left. She could have sworn she heard his voice calling out her in that low throaty voice of his.

She stood up and walked towards the closet. She rummaged in it till she saw his favourite shirt, a lilac shirt with thin white stripes, and hugged it close to her, inhaling his scent. Her knees gave way as another wave of sobbing took hold of her and she dropped to her knees on the cream colored rug. She stayed that way for a long time, hugging the shirt close to her chest and rocking herself gently.

Her eyes caught a Ziploc bag on the floor beside the dresser and she stood up to get it. All the items that were recovered from her husband on the day of the accident was in the bag. She sat on the floor and emptied the contents on the rug. His wallet, wedding band, phones and necklace.

The phone was on and she scrolled through it. She saw numerous missed calls including hers. She was about to drop it when she noticed a particular number had called him severally too. She was baffled.

Then she opened the message folder and her blood froze.

Things began to make much sense now. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together to make a clearer picture.

The sudden change in tastes, the unprovoked smiles, the bickering and the quarreling. The times when he would stomp out of the house after picking a quarrel with her only to return several hours later. All made perfect sense now.

He was smooth, a real smooth operator. She began to laugh loudly, throwing her head back and holding her stomach. Then she stopped abruptly and began to cry. Emotions washed over her: betrayal, anger, hurt, disappointment, and a host of other she couldn’t define.

She felt anger rising within her, drowning out the other emotions. She hated him for all the times he had made her feel inadequate, all the times he had made her doubt herself and all the times he had put her down. All because he had been looking for an excuse to be with his mistress.

His mistress!

She stood up and went to the bathroom. She hadn’t had a bath in three days. She soaked herself in the hot tub and thought about the best way to approach the issue.

By the time she was through, she had already settled on a course of action.
For one, she would no longer mourn him. He didn’t deserve it. She had never been his for a long time and those periods when he had been unfaithful would suffice as her mourning period. After all, she had been unhappy for a while now.

She chose a flowery print maxi dress from her closet and took her time to brush her hair and pack it neatly in a ponytail. She looked at her eyes in the mirror and they were swollen and red-rimmed. She resisted the urge to hide them with some make up.

Then she made her way downstairs. She managed a weak smile here and there for the guests but her attention was focused on one of the people in the kitchen.

“Hey Sis, how are you?” the voice was laced with concern and Tina bit down the bile rising to her throat.

“Good morning mum” Tina ignored the greeting and directed her attention to her mother instead.

“How are you my dear?” her mother straightened from her chore and gave her a thorough look from top to bottom before taking her in an embrace.

“I am fine” Tina voice was muffled

“I think you should be grieving as much as I am, if not more” Tina directed her attention back to her sister, Clara “seeing as you killed my husband. Or was he not coming to your house to feast on the delicacy of your body?”

She watched with satisfaction the blood drain from her sister’s face and turned and walked away.

Screech

I saw death today. It came with a screech, the sound of asphalt grazing heated rubber tires, followed by a muted thud, as 2000kg of steel collides with a 50kg young adult.

I saw death as he threw its latest victim skywards, 20 feet above the tarmac, and watched with glee as the body landed with a thud and lay on his side unmoving.

Death was cloaked in the stench of molten rubber mixed with sweat and the metallic scent of bright red blood splattered on the silvery surface.

I stared unblinking as I beheld the precision of his work. In less than 10 seconds, he was through and was already cleaning his work instruments.

His works was greeted with an applause of silence and wide eyed wonder. Then the ovation became pandemonium and hysteria.

Lo! The travails of a laboring woman! Snatched without warning in his prime, nay, in the first tender shoots! Another destiny aborted, another soul sacrificed to the gods of the macadam.

The cock crowed this morning and this young man lying here in an awkward position woke up hopeful that today was going to be better. He dusted his aching muscles and rushed out, hoping to meet Aje, the god of fortune in a good mood. Alas, he rushed out and into the yawning mouth of Hades.

The culprit and bringer of death slowed down in a moment of rude shock. His flagrant deviation from traffic rules has finally caught up with him and lying a few feet behind him was the child of his folly.

Screw the rules! Who dares control me? I am in a hurry and it wouldn’t hurt anyone if I drive on the wrong side of the road. Wrong! The young man mocks you, lying lifeless on the bloodied road.

The shock gives way to panic and suddenly images of the mob crying murder and the smell of burning flesh assaults his mind, and the survival instinct kicks in. The decision is made in a heartbeat and the gas is floored.

Another hit and run.

Another woman plunged into darkness

Another family thrown into mourning

Death turned, adjusted his hat, and shifted his tool kit to his left hand and sauntered away.

Mission accomplished.

Bloody tears

The skies weep blood

Or is the tears that cloud our eyes?

The soil now grows bodies, like yam

Buried deep within the ground- lifeless

When did this abomination creep in?

Who welcomed him and gave him water

To wash his feet and palm wine to drink?

Who beckoned to him from afar, and

Promised him a safe haven?

Who gave him a place to stay and a hoe to farm?

Because the stranger now plants men as seed

And waters it with the blood of our children

And has gathered a bounty harvest of wailings

Into his barn and his calabash is full of mourning.

Before the sun settles in the sky, he is drunk on our pain

And the sun leaves him in the evening swaying to the

Rhythm of our dirges.

We watch from afar, none can confront him

Our heads have become women

The warriors have lost their hearts

The skies weep blood

Or is it the tears that cloud our eyes?

 

 

 

**

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Leave me alone!

leave me alone!
leave me alone!

Leave me alone!
Let me mourn my loss,
After all, the fly would
Not follow the corpse to
The grave
Unless it is on a suicide
Mission.

leave me alone

You have done enough,
The procession is over;
Your services are not needed
Anymore,
You can wipe the tears off now
We both know
They were not real.

Leave me alone1

Stop the theatrics,
Pounce on the meat
And wine;
Your eyes have not left them
Since you entered the room
And your throat
Has not ceased bobbing.

leave me alone2

Let me cry in peace
And properly immortalize
My lover,
Who you eulogize
With empty, hollow
Words that mean
Nothing to you.

leave me alone6

 

all images courtesy www.google.com