“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.
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.
We 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.
****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.
Condolence messages that don’t condole
- 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.)
- 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.)
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (Can we at least agree that it hurts like hell?)