Our guest Adewunmi MakaIn this week’s post, our guest shares her deep reflection about her mother’s death, how her brother’s recent picture messages about their mum brought back mixed emotions for her, and also how she dealt with those emotions.
I received some pictures from my younger brother a few weeks ago, and boy, did we go down memory lane! They were pictures of mum. The images of us as a family radiated and showed the beauty of us all, especially my mum.
21 years ago, my mum died. I was 9, and although I was young, I remember the memories we shared. Adeoye, my younger brother, was one-year-old when mum died. 21 years later and I still remember the details of events that lead to the day she died.
The time spent looking at pictures of our mum and talking about her felt very cosy and warm, especially when my baby brother asked endless questions – as he grew, he wanted to know more about mum. He would always ask me, “what did mom like?” What was her favourite colour? What was her character like?
Can you believe it has been 21 years since my mum died? My brother’s recent picture messages of mum took me back down memory lane; I had mixed emotions as I saw them.
First, let me take a detour to share some of the things I deeply miss about my mum.
Mum was a caring and organised mother of five children. Being organized was one of her strengths, she made sure we were properly dressed and on point! Bother line the envy of other girls in the neighbourhood. She loved seeing us look good, my older sister and I were always wearing matching clothes.
Oh, mum loved to cook. My memory still remembers her soft, golden, long fried plantain which she made. Mum loved her digestive biscuit and guarded them jealously. Ops sorry mum for the occasionally missing ones. I borrowed them.
Although strict, she was somehow playful. You know how parents are. I still remember some moments when my older brother was disciplined by her. Those moments reminded me not to mess with mum.
Mum was simply the best!
Like movies, when things appear to go smoothly, you somehow know that the plot is about to change. Little did I know that the plot leading to me being a bereaved child had begun.
My brother and I had returned from school, excitedly running to find mum so that we can download the events that happened at school, which would have been followed by the usual gifts of chocolates.
On our way running to the living room, we abruptly interrupted with the sad news that mum had been rushed to the nearby hospital. That was not the news I was hoping for. I was hoping to hear that she and daddy had brought me back some chocolate from Lekki as usual.
Mum spent four months in the hospital, but it felt longer than that. This visit to the hospital became a rollercoaster of emotions that would last for four months. The four months felt like many years. The hospital was at least one hour thirty minute’s drive from our house which was on the mainland in Nigeria.
This meant that we could only see mum over the weekends. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my fingers on what was wrong. I only knew that whatever mum was going through must have been serious.
I was happy each time I got to see mum. We were not allowed to see mum sometimes, which made the visits frustrating and hurtful as I had prepared to share the adventure of the week with mum.
I developed anxiety for the visits because of the irregularities of the conditions we saw mum. There were times when she was happy, there were times when she was sad, other times we didn’t get to see her. The latter days were the hardest.
After driving about one hour thirty minutes from Mainland in Lagos to Island, traffics and all, only to get there and be told: “she can’t be seen.” Every time we got to the hospital; my heart would start to race.
Even at the young age of nine, I knew my mum had mental health issues. Which made her do things that she wasn’t meant to do and had her sustain injuries on her leg, ending up not being able to walk again.
Looking back, l also want to find out more from my dad on how he felt when his world turned upside down. As a family, it was tough, but how did he feel?
I couldn’t imagine how difficult this season of life must have been for dad. Mum and dad were two love birds. They met in their teens and got hitched as they say the rest is history. He was a petroleum engineer whose work required him to work 2 weeks onshore and 2 weeks offshore.
During his off weeks were when we saw mum in the hospital, there were times when he went alone. Mum being ill for an extended period, destabilised our balance. Although we had the support of friends and grandmother to care us, it just wasn’t the same.
My grandmother and extended family had to look after us. Our routine changed. I wasn’t myself. All I wanted was my family back together. I wanted my mum to pick and drop me off at school as she usually did. I wanted mama’s home-cooked meals, I needed a cuddle and that motherly love, but it wasn’t to be.
Looking back, I think we all struggled. My older brother was fifteen and once told me that mum knew she was going to die. As she had told him some things the day before her death.
We never spoke about our feelings and didn’t really do anything to remember her. But now that we are much older. Whenever we are together, we talk about it, and I hear their side of the story and what their thoughts were at the time.
But we mostly remembered her through pictures and the stories her siblings would share with us.
Now, as a mother myself, l take any opportunity, I get with my children to hug, laugh and play with them. My experience has taught me how precious everything is. But deep within me, I have so many things to say to my mum, especially now more than ever. But I would mostly want to tell her I am ok. The below is for her.
My dearest Silifat Adejoke Olumuyiwa words fail me.
My sweet Adejoke, caring, kind, loving, there are so many words I could use to describe you. I could go on for days.
Your siblings say to me, “look at your leg, look at your hands”, “you look so much like my sister!”
It was the Spring of 1999. I was only 9 years old but already losing my mind, the pain, the hurt, the grief; my life would never be the same again. I had long waited for this day to come, but nothing could have prepared me for the news I was about to receive.
On the one hand, I was filled with joy that you will never be in pain again, but on the other hand, sadness covered my face, the thought of never seeing you smile again. Who would comfort me when life’s challenges rolled in? A mix of emotions floods my mind as I remember those four words ringing in my ears. What four words?
It’s like time stood still. It did not feel like Spring anymore. All I could see were dark and cloudy skies. Nothing would console my aching heart. Food had lost its taste in her mouth. The days seemed long, and the night even longer. Life was not the same again.
I cried every day, every minute. Anything that reminded me of you brought so many tears, and tears were the only thing I could taste.
I didn’t know what life would bring me. But, your little girl is now a wife, mother, and pastor who uses her life experience of losing you to counsel others. The few years I got to spend with you, I’m thankful for them. I don’t cry as much when I think about you, but once in a while, the tears flow. Through it all, I have concluded that I guess time is a great healer.
Embolden Faith is an initiative I started that helps young adults cope with the loss of a parent.Adewunmi Makanjuola
Support is available from Balanced Wheel.
Balanced Wheel’s Bereavement support groups support anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. Sharing your experience of grief with others who are experiencing similar things can be more helpful than trying to cope alone.
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To Be Continued Next Wednesday…
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