A DECADE AWAY

“Whoever said that loss gets easier with time was a liar. Here’s what really happens: The spaces between the times you miss them grow longer. Then, when you do remember to miss them again, it’s still with a stabbing pain to the heart. And you have guilt. Guilt because it’s been too long since you missed them last.”

“I was tired of well-meaning folks, telling me it was time I got over being heartbroken. When somebody tells you that, a little bell ought to ding in your mind. Some people don’t know grief from garlic grits. There are some things a body ain’t meant to get over. No, I’m not suggesting you wallow in sorrow, or let it drag on; no I am just saying it never really goes away. A death in the family is like having a pile of rocks dumped in your front yard. Every day you walk out and see those rocks. They’re sharp and ugly and heavy. You just learn to live around them the best way you can. Some people plant moss or ivy; some leave it be. Some folks take the rocks one by one, and build a wall.”

87,655 hours. That’s how long it has been since I saw my dad alive.

3652 days. That’s how many days I relive the horrors of that night, something I probably will until I stop breathing.

23/08/2005. That’s the day I changed. For better or worse? I have no idea. I can’t even remember who I was before then. It all seems like a dream. When I try to remember the pre-2005 years, I have a hard time picturing how I really was. It all seems like I’m seeing someone else’s memories.

Back to that night, how to describe it. I have never told anybody what really happened that night. The official story was He died of cardiac arrest, but that’s just what it is – Official. To understand how horrible that night was for me, one would need to know how close I was to him. And how much I looked up to him, I used to think my dad would live forever. Okay, maybe I didn’t think it like that but I just didn’t believe death would come knocking soon, I thought he would live into his 90s, maybe 100s but I got a reality blow that night – Things end and death represents the finality of all ends.

Crazy thing is, I couldn’t really cry. I was too numb and unable to think. I walked up to the car where he sat limp and lifeless in the front passenger seat held only by my elder brother who sat in the back seat. I kept thinking he would wake up and play an April fool’s joke on us but this was August and I was the only fool. I had never felt such despair and hopelessness before, I just wanted to wake up and discover it had all been a bad dream. And I slept and woke up but it wasn’t a dream, daddy wasn’t at home and he wouldn’t be coming back ever again. How was I supposed to move on? I had no idea. Even writing this, I see that I can’t ever move on. You can’t ever move on when there is finality to the loss of a loved one. You just find a way to live around the loss.

So what changed in me? I learnt to deflect attention from me, I couldn’t let anyone see how badly I was suffering, I got wittier, withdrew, learnt to put a smile on my face even when there a class-5 storm inside of me, I learnt to pretend that everything was alright. Sometimes, I failed and the pain leaks out but for the past 10 years, I have been doing a pretty good job, I plan to. I just don’t want to be saved. It’s like the pain has become my own identity, it’s the only way I know I can still feel. Every emotion or feeling I have had since then has been built on that pain. Hate, Joy, love, sadness, happiness, anger. The pain became the very foundation of which I am, add the other pains I have accumulated over the years and deep inside me, something only I can see is a big ball of pain which makes up the core of who I am. So saving me form the pain will feel like who I am is being erased and re-written at a core level. Who wants that?

I couldn’t sleep last night; I went to bed by 10pm, woke up around midnight and lay in bed with my eyes open for till the sky cleared. The following week after the 23rd of August, for the past 5 years has been my week of pain, it is the only time in the year where I let go and allow the pain consume me. I become a total mess, I stay in bed all day, lazy to get up and eat or do anything, I cry and think and cry and think and repeat until I feel drained. I never wake up with a dry pillow. I’ve come to embrace and dread it at the same time. And this year may be worse; I’ve never been in a relationship during these periods until now. And it has been the happiest I have ever been in 10 years, I smile for real but before I could tell my girlfriend about it, she hit me with the “She needs space (In her words; lots and lots of space)”, I have no idea where that came from and the only meaning I gave to it was that I was choking her and being overbearing. So I don’t think she will be there for me and listen to me when I feel like rambling, I don’t even know if I want to tell her anymore (I eventually may), but in the meantime, my hurt is double and I don’t know if I will come out of this with my mind in one piece. So I am, or am not, looking forward to going through hell alone.

So my nights are going to be the worst, and my days are going to be lifeless. Imagine having someone in your life and not being able to tell them what you are going through because they seem to not want to care. If you can imagine it, well, you have my support too.

But Life goes on. And we just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even though we have no idea where the dark road leads.

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Day 4: Serially Lost – IF ONLY….

“Grief does not change you. It reveals you.”
John Green

He wasn’t supposed to die. If only we had gotten him to the hospital fast enough, he would still be around today. “If only”, those are the words I constantly use to punish myself nine years after I saw my dad live his last day.

IF ONLY

Cardiac Arrest. Immediate medical attention would have saved him but we just couldn’t get there fast enough. I didn’t go with him to the hospital, there was not enough space in the car. All I did was stay home and pray and beg God not to take my dad away from me. But God didn’t listen or maybe He was too busy to care. You see good people dying senselessly while the bad keep on living and prospering and it makes you wonder what the purpose is in all this.

Losing my dad was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I realized that “PEOPLE ALWAYS LEAVE”. That in the end, all I really had was me. That day, I felt numb; it was too much for me to process. Until that day, I had never lost someone before so I had no idea what I felt like. Needless to say, it felt like death.

I wish I can continue to describe how that night was but I’ve never been able to tell anyone about it or even find the right words to use.

I can’t tell you why it happened because then I would get angry at the senselessness of it all. It would be like trying to explain why that bullet went stray and killed that kid who was only just playing ball around the corner, it would be like trying to explain why that car couldn’t keep its tires on the road and had to crush the lady on the side walk.

But now, when I think back through it all, I realized that there is no general order in his world, no general purpose, people die for no reason at all and wars happen and diseases come out from nowhere and kills thousands of people.

The only thing that is universal is chaos, random senseless, meaningless events and nothingness. There will come a time when all of us are dead and the only thing that remains is the chaos and nothingness that once was. That all there is and ever will be is chaos and randomness and it is up to each of us to find our own individual order and meaning in that chaos and make it all co-exist.

“Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.”
Henry Adams

I realized that the only reason is that which you create and give yourself and not what society preaches. The meaning and sense to it all is that which you can create out of the chaos. There is no order except that which you make.

Losing my dad made me a lot of things; I became reserved, cold, detached although I covered it up with humor. Sometimes I feel like there is a dark void inside and that I don’t really care about anything or anyone in the world and that every word I say and every emotion I express Is fake and calculated. Sometimes.

Somedays, it’s bad. And other days, it’s, well, not so bad.

September 11: 13 Years on

Note: I am not American. I am Nigerian but I sympathize with the American public more I do with the Nigerian public over the current menace that is Boko Haram. The reason is simple; the American government had the guts and seriousness of mind to go after the people responsible, while the Nigerian government is still setting up committees and squabbling over whether to borrow funds to fight something that they have, intentionally or unintentionally, permitted for so long (5 years and counting).

“I can hear you, the rest of the world can hear you and
the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
George W. Bush

So in commemorating the 13th year since that day (this is not me famzing), i am posting a poem written by Billy Collins which was dedicated to the lives lost and survivors of the attack.

NAMES by BILLY COLLINS

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name –
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,

I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner –
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.

When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.

Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening — weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds –

Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.

A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.

Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

“Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe. The first enemy is weakened, but continues to pose a grave threat. The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Usama bin Laden and his cohorts are killed or captured. Thus, our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al Qaeda network and prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.”
The 9 11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks