It was around 11:04PM, Friday, November 26. I had just retired to the bed, and dozing off. A call came in from my immediate elder brother, Noah.
“Hello, Peter. Iya ti lo o (Mother has gone)”, he said, bluntly, to me over the phone.
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“Iya wo? (which mother are you talking about?)”, I asked. “Maami. You have to stay strong and be a man”, he added, then hang up the call. We all referred to our mother as “Maami” in the family, hence, Noah’s choice of “Iya” would not resonate, instantly.
“Maami? How did it happen?”, he didn’t wait to answer those questions.
Oh My world! This can’t be true. Will it be? Will it not be?
I returned the calls twice, to seek further clarifications, but he didn’t pick it up. He, Noah and my elder sister, Janet, were there, battling for her life, till the last minute.
After a third attempt, he picked up, and said “She had developed a stomachache and they took her to the hospital. There, the case grew worse. She was taken to another hospital, got an injection, but somehow, she died.
“Her body has been retrieved and brought home.”
Upon hearing this, I blasted “which hospital is that? Are you sure the medical personnel in question didn’t administer the wrong medication on Maami?”
“This is not the time to explain that. She is dead already,” Noah said, as he ended the call.
Yes, reality seems to have dawned on me. But I couldn’t cry.
Just like that? I saw Maami last on November 8, when I went to greet her, shortly after I graced a friend, Dotun Adeniyi’s wedding at Igbeti, Oyo State.
I was with her in Kisi, the family’s base, for about two days. We spoke about her illness which she had fully recovered from since July. She had insisted that I should come and see her. But the job won’t allow me. I only used my friend’s wedding date as an opportunity to say hi to my mother.
While leaving the house that Monday morning, November 8, around 6:30AM, she inquired if I would come home for the Christmas/New Year celebration. I responded in affirmative, but my mother was not convinced.
She prayed for me as usual, before leaving.
I equally told her: “See you again at the most suitable time.” She smiled and responded “Amen.” My younger brother, James, took me straight to the park. I had no premonition that that would be our last encounter.
We also had a couple of conversations over the phone until her passing that Friday night.
Maami, your death has left me completely broken, and perhaps, putting me in the most traumatising period ever. And I wonder how soon I can recover from this rude shock.
Like every immortal, I know you would leave one day, but it shouldn’t be now. Now that the family is enjoying some reprieve after many years of toiling to stay above the poverty line.
Maami, I remember vividly, those hard times, when there was nothing, but hope of a better tomorrow. The Grim Reaper didn’t allow the ‘tomorrow’ to come before you left, unannounced.
You had laboured so hard, most especially, after the demise of our father, 20 years ago, to put food on the table and ensure your children enjoy sound education.
Maami, you never saw the four walls of the classroom. It was not due to fault of yours, rather you were a victim of discrimination against girl child education. Yet, you trained graduates from your “naira and kobo” earnings as a primitive hair stylist, the service you were known for. Iya Ruth Onidiri became a household name in Kisi, due to your dint of hard work and exceptional services.
Maami, can I ever forget how in 2006, you exchanged some of your clothing for N31,000, to pay my tuition and accommodation fees when I enrolled for my Pre – National Diploma Programme at the Polytechnic, Ibadan, Eruwa Campus?
That night, you handed me the cash and told me “I had to give out some of my clothes to get this money,” tears rolled down from my eyes. I made a vow within me not to disappoint you.
You instilled in us cultures of hard work, discipline, resilience and most importantly, contentment.
Maami, those sleepless nights, years of sacrifices, of toiling and labour on your children, would now go down the drain, unrewarded?
Every child wishes to ensure his/her parents’ sacrifices are duly rewarded, while alive. But for me, and my siblings, that wish has become a mirage.
“Maami laboured in the morning, she laboured in the afternoon and she laboured at night, but at a point that she needs to reap the fruits of her labour, death took her away,” Timothy, your first son, succinctly puts, at your graveyard in Alifeti, Benue State, shortly after your body was lowered for the final journey.
Your death still looks surreal to me, and I wouldn’t know how soon I can embrace the sad reality. I pray to God to give me strength.
Maami, you lived for us (me and my siblings). And we are eternally grateful.
Maami, I have no doubt in my mind that you lived a fulfilled and impactful life.
It’s hard to say goodbye, my beloved mother. I will miss you sorely.
Till we meet again, Good Night, Maami, Mrs Mary Omele Moses (Nee Ochu).