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A Grief Lived

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Winnie The Pooh.

This is how it happened, Okha. November 12, 2014. I am chatting with Ozoz about a dessert table for the wedding. Discussing macarons, I think. And candy buffets. Then Daddy calls. And he calls me Osemhen. Not Ose. Osemhen. In a tone that makes me feel like I am about to be scolded. You know that tone. And he asks me where I am. And I am afraid. Because he already knows I am at work. I’m at work. I force cheer into my voice. We are both prevaricating.

I have some bad news. I think I asked, what? And he says Okhafo is dead. I think I heard someone sob in the background.

I stand from my chair. Suddenly the air in the office building isn’t enough and I need to get outside. I tried, Okha. I almost make it. But my legs crumple at the door. I cannot stand and I cannot push the door open.

Our horror stares at me and yells into my face.

We have been here before. It is your horror. My horror. The horror.

My God.

The Holy Cross Cathedral

The Holy Cross Cathedral

We booked mass at Holy Cross yesterday for your anniversary. Rather, we tried to book mass. The parish office told us we were 3 months late. Masses are booked way in advance. Can you imagine? 3 months’ advance notice so they could read your name out loud before mass. With a bit of pleading, we got your name on the intentions’ list for December 13. Lol.

12242143_10205373536561943_1851719989_nWe didn’t let that deter us, though. We went for the mass that was said for other people and we added your name in our hearts. We prayed for you. I found this picture of you from the last time we went to Lekki Leisure Lake. I’d forgotten about that day. I’d forgotten we took pictures. I’m wondering now if I ever sent these ones to you.

We wanted to go to the cemetery as well but I had a hospital appointment. We’ll still go. I wanted to eat a shawarma and an ice cream sundae in your honour but we decided to spend the evening with Daddy instead. We needed to be together. To pray together. To laugh together. To grieve together. It’s been a long year. But God, we miss you. It’s acid in our veins. It’s fire in our hearts. I still have our Whatsapp messages. They still make me smile.

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Condolence Card by Emily McDowell.

The first two lines in C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed go, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid but the sensation is like being afraid.”

Grief is many things. It feels like fear. It feels like anger. And guilt. And laziness. No, I just want to lie here. I’m fine, really. No. I don’t feel like going to work.

Losing someone is never easy. But there are friends and family who make it a little easier. The ones who are so authentic, it’s disarming. I’m sorry I didn’t call, Ose. I was scared and I didn’t know what to say. The ones with long hugs. The ones whose eyes and hearts reflect your sorrow so hard, it hurts to look at them. I’m here. You’re not alone. Shall we go off to a corner and cry together?

My sister calls me, sobbing. “I know I should be strong, Ose but I can’t.” And I have to sternly remind her, “You don’t have to be strong.” And I want to punch the people telling her to be strong. You be strong!

How can you believe in a God who lets bad things happen?

I don’t worry about losing my faith. I could never be atheist or agnostic. I’ve seen too much, and felt too much. God is real. Very real. But I worry about believing bad things about God. I worry about cynicism and despair. My fear is not that there is no God. My fear is that He’s there and my pain, your pain, our pain means nothing to Him. But it does matter to him. My experience this year has been that when I ask him to take the hurt away, He does. He sends me friends, He sends me surprises, He hides messages in nature that I sometimes laugh out loud at.

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Condolence messages that don’t condole

  1. The Devil is trying to steal your joy and he will not win. (I don’t care to know the Devil’s plans and failures, at the moment.)
  2. My Pastor died last week too. (I’m sorry, what? Is this the Pain Olympics? This comment can be helpful as a way of letting me know that I’m not alone in grief, it’s part of the human condition etc. But when you launch into a eulogy about said Pastor, no. Please. No.)
  3. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (Can we at least agree that it hurts like hell?)

15 Comments

  1. Notey A says

    Grief is never easy…never… loss hurts like a wound that never truly heals. Hugs Ose, hugs!!! Indeed loving him helps… hugs my dear

  2. @pain Olypics… it is true that there are wars and earthquakes, but other people’s pain don’t invalidate yours.

    Pain can indeed make us question God’s care. I saw this quote somewhere:
    The people who know God well—mystics, hermits, prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. ~Richard Rohr

    May you and your family know God even more as you navigate this season of grief. I thank God, you were able to book mass to commemorate the anniversary.

    • The problem isn’t the sharing of pain. Pain is very much a part of the human condition. And indeed, there’s comfort in knowing that you are not alone. The problem is when a person’s grief now suddenly becomes more about the consoler than the consoled. There’s a time to listen and a time to speak. Someone called me when my brother died to tell me her Pastor’s wife died too. I was sorry to hear it. She then launched into an account of how virtuous the woman was and how she would be greatly missed by her congregation. It wearied me.
      I very much like that quote. I’ll have to look up Richard Rohr. Thank you for your kind words.

  3. Anonymous says

    The hope through the pain and the humor too…yes dear It Hurts like crazy!!! What stuns me is when they say “its been long get over it”, to me its feels just like yesterday. The pain doesnt go away, so i learn to live with, mixing it up with fond memories and lots of Hope.

    We pray they are happy with God. Sometimes they send little gifts from heaven 😄

  4. I don’t ever feel like I have the right words in times like this but I pray God continues to comfort you and yours. I am happy you are keeping your faith. Sending love and hugs your way!

  5. Taiwo aka wikitee says

    May his soul continue to rest in perfect peace ose. God be with you and the rest of the family.

    I am.one of those ppl who dont know what to say when visiting someone who just lost a loved one. I wld go but be quiet all through and just mumble some words and I try to be cautious so as not to sound insensitive could be as a result of what I have been through.
    Most times when I want to visit families or friends who are mourning the loss of a loved one, I tell my mum that I dont know what to say, she wld tell me to still go, that my presence matters and they under stand the unspoken words.
    . I remember when I lost my dad years ago, visitors would come to my house to console my mum , They start displaying film show immediately they get to the gate of the house, they would start screaming and rolling on the floor infact we start to console them. Some would worsen my mums condition others she wld start to console her self. All in all I think its the effort that counts.Humans are indeed of a special specie.

    PS. I commented on ur blog today (remembr my giveaway)

    • Your mum is right. Sometimes, your presence is all that is required. I can imagine the scene with the people at your gate. Lol. I see you. Countdown to giveaway.

  6. The long cry stimulating hugs….sigh…..Joy definitely comes but the sorrow and hurt still lingers…fades away but still present…like an echo.Glad we have funny memories and faith.Good combo.

  7. Hi Osemhen, I just read you post about your tradiversary and it immediately crossed my mind that you lost your bro not too long before your wedding. Glad to see you wrote something in his honor.

    If I were present at the time, I would have given you a loooooong warm hug and let you cry as much as you needed to. Losing someone is painful, it hurts! No amount of words and well meaning wishes can take that pain away.

    I hope that every year, the pain gets easier, not because you are forgetting your brother, but because the love and memories you shared become the healing that you need to get by.

    Still sending you the long warm hugs. Know that you are loved and supported by your readers 🙂

  8. MInxie says

    Hello Ose, 1st time on the blog and 1st time commenting.
    I am truly sorry for your loss and may his soul continue to rest on with the Lord.

    There is a saying, you never know until you actually know. The pain can never be compared to anyones. Your statement about God touched me, i didn’t stop believing, i just kept on wondering what we had done that was sooo wrong that God allowed such to happen, i still do. I think i have gotten to a stage where i can mention his name when recalling memories without being afraid or extremely sad.
    Thank you for this post.

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