A Day to Remember

23 Jun

“Thirty days had September, April, June and November all the rest have 31 except February which has twenty eight days and twenty nine days in a leap year”(class chants).Teacher: Now John stand up and tell the class how many days there are in March. John: (stands up looks round the class before speaking) there are 31 days in March. Teacher: Everyone clap for John (kpa kpa..kpa kpa kpa everyone claps for John and John smiles). As a child in Nigeria this is an example of what I learnt in Nursery or Primary school not so sure what level now. At some point may be Primary two or three I had to write creative writing essays such as “My favourite person”( I would debate whether to write about mummy or daddy), “A day you will never forget”( I would debate whether to make up my perfect dream day or write about yesterday).
A day to remember
There are many days I remember and probably will never forget. Oh like the day I saw him for the first time, he was so cute I was scared to touch him at first. He was so tiny with red patches on his face. Granny held him and I looked at him so wowed and went into the hospital ward to hug mummy and she says “do you like your new brother” and I say “yes but when are you coming home”. Oh what of the only,first and last day I saw my dad cry, I had recently turned eight. I mean it’s my dad the definition of a true African Man in tears; well it was at Papa’s funeral. I expected women to cry but watching him and his 5 brothers’ cry was quite gripping. I guess they were allowed to grief the loss of their father but nonetheless it left me bewildered with the knowledge that even the strongest of men do cry. 
This day was sometime early last year. I woke up early in the morning and within an hour found myself in a moving car listening to my then old generation 2gb IPod. My cool sister put all the songs in there and all I can say is I was listening to good tunes. In about two hours or maybe three if you were there you would have spotted me coming out of the car in a foreign city wearing a dress, black jacket, tights and black pumps. I was seated near the front of the church so I could see the pulpit and casket surrounded with flowers clearly. I cannot remember now if it was a Catholic, an Anglican or a Methodist church. I do not remember if I herd any one say Hail Mary or if the prayers were long. But I am sure I was in a church at the funeral of a lady I had never met in my life. From the programme I gather that she left behind a husband, two daughters and a son and many loved ones. Her son reads a bible passage with coldness in his eyes. Her husband is in tears professing how much he loved her and how much he will miss her. Her brother gives a captivating speech of his best friend who always supported, motivated and inspired him. A Christian group say how much she contributed to them. This congregation was full and this was a week day and I wonder how many of these people ever met her unlike me. I sing the hymns wondering if it is right for me to be there. I read her biography but still I do not know her and now I cannot summon up what her name was.

I am in the car again and stepping out at a cemetery. I feel the water pouring, sadly it’s raining. I am given an umbrella which I share with a partner. I am at the grave side again I question if it is right for me to be there. Would this lovely lady that has passed away find my being there disrespectful? Songs are sung by choir, the pastor or the priest say prayers. And then one of the most moving scenes I have ever witnessed occurred. Her husband shovels in sand into the grave crying someone holding on to him. He is saying stuff I cannot utterly hear from where I am standing. Her eldest daughter that looks nothing more than 14 years old shovelled in sand to the grave wailing and crying saying mummy over and over. When it came to her son’s turn he still had the coldness I had seen in his eyes in the church. He shovelled in sand with so much anger. My eyes became watery; he had no tears in his eyes. It was as if he was angry at his late mother for dying of cancer. He moved back and looked away watching the people crying as if he was irritated and dismayed with their grief. More and more people shovelled in sand I remember a woman who struggled to walk to the grave with the aid of her walking stick. The rain was still pouring heavily and I remembered stories I heard in Nigeria of how people consulted native doctors to hold rain from falling during functions. Or stories of how enemies sent rain to obliterate a function. Well I do not think this was the case here as this was in Britain and we all are acquainted with the British weather.

I am in the car again and step out in front of a town hall. And inside there is a buffet of Nigerian cuisine. Jollof rice, pepper soup, assorted meat, moin moin, food and more food. Typical of my people to turn everything to a “come chop” (come and eat) party. I look round and see faces unenthusiastically beginning to smile. Over hear conversations of reunited friends “I’m married now…, it was 5 years ago.., 2 kids” “are you on facebook” (I think why are these forty something year old Nigerians discussing facebook). I look around her husband is talking to people with a plate in his hand smiling; on my way out I catch sight of the back of her son. I could not see his face but I suspect that he was not smiling but I wish that now wherever he is he is smiling. I hope he is not still angry, I hope her beautiful daughters are happy. O I hope there is harmony in their home. And I am grateful to them for having me there. For them I’m sure it was a day of grief for me it was and still is a day to remember.

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