Tuesday, 5 February 2013

On Mortality And The Frailty of Human Existence

It'll be two years in March, but this  still holds true.

Disclaimer: I think you have to be in a certain kind of mood to read this write up. Whatever you do, please don't read it at work.

'The death of any man diminishes me because I am part of humanity'. John Donne.

Nothing can ever prepare you for the death of a loved one; even when you see it coming. It doesn’t matter how old the person was or what their achievements were while they lived.
‘You need to come home Naomi’ they said over and over again, ‘he’s not looking so good and he’s been asking for you every single day’...

I went. And saw something that looked like him but not quite. This one was emaciated and frail and had defeat written in his eyes.
He turned immediately he heard my voice. And smiled.
I went into the kitchen and dropped the tons of fruits I had purchased on my way from Abuja.
I sat beside him and held his hand in mine and looked at him for a long time, wondering how things could’ve gotten so bad so quickly.
‘I’ve been worried about you’ He said, fighting back tears.
‘I’m fine. Everyone is fine’. I whispered. I knew by ‘you’ he meant everyone.
He nodded and stared at the ceiling.
‘Daddy what happened? When Debby left you in January, you were hale and hearty. What went wrong?’
I went out for some air.
He was asleep when I got back. I let him sleep. And listened as his caregivers filled me in on his condition, what the doctors had diagnosed and what his treatment entailed.
He woke up.
I sat by his side again.
‘I need you to answer me’.
‘Hmm’ He grunted.
‘Do you want to live?’
‘Do you want to live?’
He nodded.
‘I need you to say it out loud’.
‘I want to live Naomi’ He stuttered in a hoarse voice.
‘Then why are you refusing your drugs? Why don’t you want to eat? Why are you lying there allowing the sickness to eat you up? ‘
He pouted.
‘You know, people say I’m like a one man army. Once I have my eyes fixed on something I don’t see obstacles. I tell them I got that from you. You are not the kind of man who lies down and gives in to disease. You are a fighter. I know ‘cos you’ve been through worse…Are you going to just give up everything you’ve worked so hard for? You just moved into your new house, it’s not even been 2 months’.
‘Who’s going to take my hand and walk me down the aisle? Who am I going to be coming back home to see? You are not going anywhere; your work here is not done!’
He nodded.
‘Okay, so, when I give you your drugs, I need you to take it. When I bring food, even though it tastes like grass, I need you to eat it. That’s the only way you’ll get better…’
He nodded again.

I gave him his food and drugs and he gobbled everything up amidst claps and laughter from close family members. I played Tye Tribbet’s ‘Bless the Lord’ on speaker over and over, I read him the scriptures, I called family and asked them to talk to him and pray with him and make him laugh and not to worry if he didn’t respond, he could hear, he just couldn’t speak, literally. I would remind him of hilarious stuff he did, like when he brought live broilers for me in school, my friends teased me about it until I graduated; he would turn on his side and crack up with laughter.
In the 2 days I was with him, I was told, they had seen more improvement than all the weeks they’d tried to take care of him.

And then I had to leave. Because no one from work knew I was out of town. I had leveraged on a field trip to Maiduguri and routed my flight to Abuja. I had to go take proper permission or I wouldn’t have a job when I returned, or so I thought.

I promised I would be back asap. No one seemed to understand. Even though my elder sister was on her way, they preferred I stayed back until she got home.

My kid sister, the last in the family, was writing her first semester final year exams, so we kept her in the dark. ‘Just come home as soon as you’re done’ I told her over the phone.

She arrived and I briefed her. She wanted to leave immediately. Na, rest for a few days, I said, daddy can be a handful. Arranging clothes and other stuff in her travelling bag, she listened as I explained how to administer his drugs, when to administer them and what he liked to eat when the text came.

‘He’s resting’ was all the text had said.
‘Meaning…? My kid sister asked, a sinister smile playing on her lips.
And that was when my day turned to night.

The burial was a haze. Too many people coming to say sorry; close to 30 people in the house doing what exactly? I couldn’t say. One think I can say though, they had to eat 3 times a day, and we the bereaved, did most of the cooking.

I had to go get the coffin, supervise the construction of the grave: No, the tiling doesn’t look nice, start all over. You need to add some space, the grave is too small, he’s going to choke, and I meant it. Has everyone been listed in the funeral program? Has it been printed? The printer’s system has crashed? Oh my God! They used the picture he took in a white Jacket? Why that one? Go get a tanker of water fast; jeez, do these people bathe by the hour or what? What song are we going to sing in church? She’s charging how much per chair? We are not having a party, someone died for crying out loud! Who used the toilet for Christ’s sake? Can you guys tell these people to flush? It’s the easiest thing in the world, Haba! The food didn’t go round, so what do you want me to do? They should drink Kunu and sleep abeg! Has the tailor brought our clothes? What? The material did not go round? Splendid!

Not one private moment. No time to grieve.
Burial over. Phew!
Back in Lagos, reality hits. Hard!
Well, not at first.
I was still playing macho woman, leaving everyone wondering how I could be so strong.
I tell them it’s the Lord’s doing.
Then one day, looking through some stuff in my bag, I come across my dad’s personal things that I had brought back with me-notebooks, pictures, documents, etc. And then it dawned on me- He’s dead. He’s actually dead.
And that was when the tears came, in torrents. I would think about his crazy jokes and laugh through my tears, and remember the gravediggers sealing his grave and cry. I couldn't help wondering: what if I'd stayed back? What if the doctors had paid better attention? If I'd prayed harder maybe...By the time it was morning, my eyes looked like I’d been in a ring with Tyson.

It’ll be two years in March. The sun isn’t shining just yet, but it doesn’t seem so dark anymore. Losing a parent is the most horrible feeling in the world; I have lost both. But, I’ve also discovered the beauty of friendship that transcends distance and language. One day at a time, I know I’ll get to the point where anytime I think of them, all I’ll do is smile.

P.s-The support and love I got during that period still gives me goose bumps:
  • To Chioma Chuka, who I have never met, but who took time out to call; you have become my sister. (I told you it was going to end up on Facebook; and now on bloodspot :))
  • To Onyeka Nwelue who sent my ticket info to the Bayelsa Book and Craft Fair the day I was having my father’s wake keep (Lol, literally)
  • To Tunji Ajibade, who represented the class of 21 and helped me stand as the ambulance drove away. Thank you
  • To Nze Sylva, who found my house without help and wondered what he was doing there, seeing how strong I was… (Now you know I cried:))
  • To Premo Okoinyan, my sister from another mother, who called me every day for only God knows how long (I will come to Miami next year, that’s a promise)
  • To the Fakunmojus. Thank you.
  • To House on the Rock, for sending the Care Dept over, and for making sure no one told me ‘The lord giveth the lord taketh, blessed be his name’ because I would’ve done something stupid.
  • To Omobolanle Fasokun, thank you. We should do a movie soon.
  • To Felix Obi, what a gentleman you are. Are you married? Lol
  • To Samira Gomwalk, my bestest of friends, who cried so hard I had to say-hol it, na my papa die na? lol
  • To Omokoru Nicholas, who never stops checking on me...
  • To all my friends who didn’t call and feel so guilty they’ve been dodging me ever since, don’t worry about it, I should’ve forgiven you completely a few years from now :). Seriously though, it’s not a big deal.
  • And to all my 'online' friends (I say ‘fans’ when I want to allow myself a little vanity :)), you all have been amazing, thanks.

©Naomi Lucas


Talatu Manuel said...

Awwwwww Naomi its well wit ur soul, its a sad place2 b bt in al tings we gve tnks! Lost my dad almst7yrs nw in july it wld b 7! Miss him so mch! Bt I knw we wld b reunited sum day soon! Lots of love!
P.S- ur dad has front row seats to al dts happenin in u and al ur sibligs lives!

Talatu Manuel said...

Awwwwww Naomi its well wit ur soul, its a sad place2 b bt in al tings we gve tnks! Lost my dad almst7yrs nw in july it wld b 7! Miss him so mch! Bt I knw we wld b reunited sum day soon! Lots of love!
P.S- ur dad has front row seats to al dts happenin in u and al ur sibligs lives!

Talatu Manuel said...

Awwwwww Naomi its well wit ur soul, its a sad place2 b bt in al tings we gve tnks! Lost my dad almst7yrs nw in july it wld b 7! Miss him so mch! Bt I knw we wld b reunited sum day soon! Lots of love!
P.S- ur dad has front row seats to al dts happenin in u and al ur sibligs lives!

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks you so much Talatu. Lol @ front row seat...

Talatu Manuel said...

L̳̿☺L̳̿ bt its tru! He has d best view of al dts happenin in al ur lives! Its well wit u and ur fam!

Naomi Lucas said...

Shey? Thanks dear.

Midas said...

May God grant him eternal rest, amen. So you worship at HOTR? I do too, Family House asb & Heritage House phc.

Naomi Lucas said...

Amen Midas. HOTR has been my home church for a long time...

Winnie said...

Laughing wit liquid(dnt know if dey are tears coz I hardly cry)in my eyes,kip on being strong gal.His grace is abundant in ur life.

Naomi Lucas said...

lol @ laughing with liquid. Pele o, Iron woman :) Thanks for your kind words. I say amen to your prayer.