By Aeesha Abdullahi Alhaji
I winced while taking the journals I studied back into their bookshelf. Next, I rubbed my back slightly due to sitting in one place for so many hours. Then, I remembered I had a funeral to attend later in the day. So, I called Annabelle, my housekeeper, to prepare a light lunch for me to eat while I freshen up for the day’s businesses.
My junior colleague at the office lost his wife while giving birth. As I arrived at the venue, there was a commotion because Mr Andre, the bereaved, refused to allow his deceased wife’s body to be lowered into the grave. He was crying profusely. Looking at his unshaven face and unkempt beard, I knew he must have gone through a lot these past few days.
My eyes burned with unshed eyes, making me remember a fleeting memory of the worse day I pray never happens to any mortal on the face of the earth. I quickly shrugged off the bitter moment and walked over to the crowd gathered around Mr Andre. He was being consoled, but all was futile. He was devasted at the loss of his dear wife. After the burial, Mr Andre refused to leave his wife final resting place.
After an hour of waiting for him at his house to pay my final condolence, his older brother walked in, worries written over him. He attempted to explain to sympathizers how Andre refused to leave the cemetery. I smiled bitterly and told his family members I would get him.
I went back to the funeral ground, met him staring at her final abode, tears running down his cheek. I sat quietly behind him, asking him why he couldn’t accept destiny and let go of what had been ordained by the Creator. After all, death is a plane all of us will board.
He turned to look at me with a grief-stricken face saying, “Prof. Akin, you won’t understand. My wife and I have been through a lot. She had been through thin and thick of life trials and tribulations with me, but when my hard work is paying off today, she is no longer here with me. So what’s the essence of all I have endured getting if my loving wife is not here to enjoy it with me?”
I chuckled, swallowing a bitter taste that erupted in my mouth. I looked into his eyes. “Andrew, whatever has happened to you today, worse of it has happened to others, and I am one of them.”
My statement startled him. Yes, I nodded, adding: “Do you remember how often you asked me about my family, and I often shunned the topic? Let me tell you something today; I am the last of my kin.” Andre looked more surprised in disbelief.
Thinking about it, I started recollecting the sad memory.
“Darling, please, I have a senate meeting at the university. So I won’t be able to come with you to pick up our kids and their families at the airport but please, help me explain to them. But I will try to go home early enough for the family reunion dinner. Bye, my love,” I told my wife.
I hung up the phone with a big relief. I was not happy I could not pick up our kids coming home after a year abroad. But what could I do as official duty at times comes first?
An hour later, I received a call from an unknown number to come to a fatal crash scene involving a motorcade of cars. I ran out of the meeting; only God knew how I got to the accident scene with my sanity intact.
I could not believe my eyes until I saw the dead bodies of my wife, my three kids, daughters-in-law, seven grandchildren all lying dead. My world turned upside down. Though many people lost their lives in that accident, my loss was colossal. I lost my entire family that fateful day.
I later heard the cause of the accident was that they were in the traffic when, unfortunately, an oil tank lost brake and collided with many cars, going up in flames and affecting the other vehicles.
So you see, Mr Andre, your loss is nothing compared to mine. That tragic incident left me shattered. I go home every day from work with no family to welcome me. I have no family left, No kin to continue my lineage. I can no longer have kids talkless of remarrying because I am old now. My bones are crumbling, but what keeps me going is the sheer pleasure and smiles on my students’ faces. I take solace in them, seeing them as my kids.
So, be grateful at least you still have kids your late wife left behind. You better man up and start being a mother and a father to them. Please, don’t mourn for a lifetime because you have kids waiting for you to fill the vacuum of a mother and a father to them. Death is a whirlwind of fate that comes unannounced into our lives, but anyway, we are leaving the seasonal shade of life someday.
Mr Andre looked at me, dumbfounded. My life story numbed him. I patted his back and told him to go home. He stood up, smiling faintly grateful for my kind words and left. I stood watching the sunset in, a favourite pastime of my late wife.
Aeesha Abdullahi Alhaji is a student at the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, Nigeria. She is also a member of the prestigious Hilltop Creative Art Foundation, Minna Literary Society, etc.