By sandra Ekwesili
I went to work on Sunday morning, tried to act like everything was fine. Tried to do my show and not show anyone how immensely terrified I was that your hour had finally come and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to prepare myself, I told myself I was ready, I read the dying process again and again and told myself I was ready. I made it through the show, had conversations with Kofi and Jide. Jide was realistic, Kofi wanted me to have faith.
All week I had known you were leaving me.. Everyday I saw you, I knew you were leaving me… Kofi said to believe in miracles, to keep my faith alive, that God was a last-minute guy (I remember thinking why the hell is god a last minute guy? what the fuck is he waiting for?) but I know what i saw when i saw you, I took you to get transfused, and I knew you were leaving me… So I started to prepare my mind for the worst, insure myself, insulate myself. You see I like to control everything, deluded myself into thinking i could control how much this will hurt..lol.
Anyways, I slugged through work, I smiled at faces that didn’t register, called to see what you needed, drove to everyday to buy you the diapers and cough syrup and then I sped like someone was dying (lol), and I came home to you. I held your hand, I kissed your cheek, you said ”my princess” and smiled at me…
I asked how far momci and Stanley, you said they just left. I gave you the Night Nurse I bought, you drank it and tried to sleep but the pain wouldn’t let you. Just then momci called. “Anyi gbafee gi kita” she said. “Oh?” I asked, “ehn.” She replied. “Kee maka daddy?” She continued. “O di ok” I lied. “Ngwa netakwa ya anya o? I ma n’okwazigi buzi mommy of the house, o? Mama Obele” she said. “Oh. Have a safe flight” I replied.
I put my phone away and tried to talk with you. Asked if you had eaten, you said you weren’t hungry. You didn’t want to talk, you want to try and sleep. I just sat there and watched you breathe. The article said your breath will rattle, I had been hearing that all week, I figured you would last another three days maybe but this afternoon the rattle was worse so I knew it would happen soon.
You suddenly wanted to pee, so I fetched you the bucket you had started using because the toilet was a long walk but there was no pee. This didn’t surprise me you see, because the article said it would happen. I begged to take you to the hospital but you said no. You were cranky, irritable and in so much fucking pain. You went back to trying to sleep but the TB Joshua channel mommy left on on the TV to “continue your healing” was too loud, so you yelled at me to turn the it down.
You never yell at me so I should have been shocked but I wasn’t because the article said you would. I gave you tramadol again but still the pain ravaged you. You came down from your couch to lay on the floor in the living room and then went back on the couch you had made your bed after you got too sick. You lay back on the floor and complained about the heat. I took a cold cloth and rubbed you down, still you complained about the heat…and the pain.
I expected you to have a fever, but your skin was cold to the touch. I rushed out to buy you diazepam, but no one would sell to me without a prescription. I told them you were leaving me, this didn’t change their minds…”go get a prescription”, they said.
The one time this country decides to work huh?
I came back to you, and still you were tossing and turning. Trying to find comfort. I sat beside you, battled with myself, wondered if i could let the words stuck in my throat out. Finally, i held your hand …and said; ”Daddy…, let go…. It’s okay. You know that if I thought you could fight I would ask you to fight, but you can’t. So, it’s ok… let go. I love you, you have left a fantastic legacy, I will never forget you. Let go”.
You opened your eyes, looked at me, and said ”Thank you my daughter”. Your voice broke, your breath hitched but you continued looking at me and you said; ”whatever happens, just know that I love you, and you’ve always been my favourite” I said ”ok” (I rolled my eyes at this and thought, yea well..duh?! Lol…weird the thoughts that come to mind at the oddest times, yea?) and continued to hold your hand.
And then we waited.
I called Stanley, told him to come home ASAP and buy you some piriton on the way, I had hoped its side effect will kick in for you seeing as I was refused diazepam. You dozed off again I think. When you stirred, I begged you again to let me take you to the hospital (in my head i wondered how i would carry you. wondered about where the mortuaries in the area was, made a mental note to google it later) you said no again and asked for more tramadol. ”Pain…pain” you groaned. i gave you more tramadol and tried to hide the tear sliding down my face. i tried to look cheerful for you. Again you tried to pee and again nothing came out. And then again you dozed off…
Stanley came back at 10pm with the piriton, i woke you up, told you Stanley was back, you didn’t respond, i lifted your head and gave you some piriton (why were you so heavy?), I took Stanley to his room and said to him; ”Daddy is dying” He stared at me like i had slapped him. I watched shock, disbelief and anger wash over his face. He said; ”which kain stupid talk be that?” I said; ”he’s been dying since he got back from the healing school, i knew when i saw him on Tuesday” Stanley said; ”…but dem heal am naw…e waka everywhere by imsef” and then I told him about the article, told him how it explained the ”miracle” they thought he received, showed it to him, had him read it and watched realization dawn on him, watched him crumble …and cry.
I left him in his room and went back to where you lay, I lay on the couch and watched you try to sleep. I fed you more tramadol when you said; ”pain…” which one was this? The fifth? How much time had passed between this and the previous dose? I couldn’t remember. It didn’t matter. You were in pain and I was helpless. The tramadol wasn’t even working. I wished so hard that i could take on some of the pain for you. For the first time i prayed to god, no god in particular, to make it quick. Why didn’t we have morphine? Why can’t I take on some of your pain? And then you groaned again..and again… I said; ”daddy please just let go now…please, stop fighting it..you have such a strong spirit…tell it you’re done fighting” and with such frustration in your voice you said; ”don’t you think I’m trying?!”
“Daddy please ….make this transition easy for me nowww.. Forgive me my sins nowww… why this pain nowwww…” you continued, praying I assume, to god.
And at that moment, I hid my face and as quietly as i could, let the tears come.
Turns out even dying isn’t an easy thing to do you see? The universe still also takes her damn time with that. We stayed up with you until 3am and by then I couldn’t take it anymore, so I called Dr Wakama, he said to bring you in the morning. I told him your skin was cold as ice, he said to wait till 5am that the hospital was too far, that it wasn’t safe. I told him you were in pain, he said to give you tramadol and check your pulse. I did, and I told him it was barely there. He told me to be careful but to bring you in.
I told Stanley to put you in my car and you said to him; ”No..leave me here, I want to die here” he ignored you. I went in and got your grey jalabiya, it was free flowing and should be comfortable, I thought. We put you in it and Stanley and Emeka carried you and put you in the back seat.
We got to the gate and the idiot security idiot was asleep. He even had the balls to complain my lights were too bright and my horn too loud when he decided to wake up and get the gate. See this idiot o?! I remember thinking. I drove out of the estate, l drove like mad, all the while looking back at you at the back seat, trying to see that you were still here. You said ”baby, calm down, I’m okay. Don’t worry, just take it easy. Ok? Just take it easy” lol. lol. lol.
At a police checkpoint, we were stopped, Stanley flipped and made to curse them out, I calmly told them I was rushing you to a hospital, they let us go.
I got to the hospital, they rushed out with their stretcher, lifted you onto it, and rushed you into the emergency room. They transfered you to another bed (and in a flash i was thinking, why are hospital sheets always this sick blue color? here’s one shade of blue i will never wear) and tried to set up a line…they couldn’t find a vein. The veins all kept “collapsing” said the doctors.
I knew you were barely there when you weren’t even flinching when the needle went into your skin. Normally you would have bitched at them, now you didn’t even notice…shit! I told the fat lady doctor to try your head or your leg, just find a fucking vein!
They put a catheter in, oh look, there’s the pee you’ve been trying to force. Another doctor examined the colour and volume, shook his head and went back to trying to find a vein. At this point, watching the needle stick into you over and over had become too much, so I stepped out for air, texted Jide, came back in and was relieved to find you were still here.
You kept tossing off the blankets they had put over you to warm you up. Complained about the heat. I told them to put on the AC, they said they needed you to get warm, that you were hypothermic, your blood pressure was low. They put an oxygen nose thingy (not the mask) in, and your breathing got steadier but you wanted them to take it off. They ignored you.
I sat beside you, told you it will be over soon, told you we loved you, told you it was ok to let go, told you we will never forget you, watched a younger male doctor come in, watched the female one ask him to try to find a vein, listened to her scold me for not bringing you in sooner, hallelujah he found a vein! Whooo for young people! I remember thinking. They rushed some things into you, tried to get you warm, you tried to yank off the blanket again, tried to yank off the drip line, and we stopped you. i kept talking to you, kept telling you it will be over soon.
And then things quieted down.
Stanley said; ”but when this wan start na? When me and mommy dey house, im been dey alright, abi na as mommy go? na miss im dey miss mommy?” At that you opened your eyes wide, tried to say something, grimaced like you were about to sob, and quieted down again.
I said to Stanley; ”I no know o. i reach house surprise as i see am like that. i wonder how una go see am like that leave am comot” to which Stanley replied; ”noooo em been no dey like that, true..em been dey ok, im even pray for mommy sef before we waka” we silently watched you breathe, i checked and it was 7.17am, i looked at myself and realised i was wearing really short shorts and a tee-shirt. I also had to brush my teeth. So i left to find somewhere to buy toothbrush and paste…”this town na yeye”, i remember thinking, ‘‘How can no shops be open at past 7am on a Monday?”
I went back to the hospital, sat beside you, heard Stanley telling momci you were okay and was asleep at home, watched you open your eyes, you trashed and said; ” ……hee gusiuueys ffkjdowud xszysfvfb ehaeup” I leaned in to hear you ”ehn?…daddy, I si gini?” I asked Stanley what you had said, he said he didn’t hear you.
I figured you were uncomfortable because your head had slid off the pillow, so i tried to lift you up and adjust it, you were really stiff and heavy, so i told Stanley to help. (Why were you that heavy?) I asked the doctor this, he didn’t respond. I asked if you were brain-damaged as a result of the hypothermia, he said no, it had to be really cold for that to happen. I heaved a sigh of relief, (I wonder why, you were still on your way out, but I think I had begun to hope that they could buy us some more time. Time to do what exactly, I don’t know…just…time) the doctor gave me a sad look, a look that said my relief was misplaced. I asked him if you were in pain still, he said yes. I asked if they would give you something to help you sleep, he said maybe eventually. I considered asking him about euthanasia, but I remember thinking this is Nigeria, he may think me an evil child, so I kept quiet.
7.39 or so, your oxygen tank ran out of gas, they brought a second one, it was leaking gas…lol.. They started trying to fix it, taking their sweet time. They took off the nose thingy, your blood pressure kept dropping, I sat beside you, slowly rubbing your arm, your breathing became slower…more laboured…really raspy.. Your teeth was clenched (why were your teeth clenched? I remember thinking)…your jaw was locked (were you still in pain? stupid question)…I could hear the air wheeze in and out through your teeth..your eyes were half closed and all I could see were the whites..in…..in…in..your breathing went, i kept telling you it would be over soon, i’ll be okay, i love you, it will be over soon…your breathing became even slower…sriii..it went..like a whistling kettle…I was holding your left hand…watching you..saw you open your eyes fully, your eyeballs looked for a second like they were going to pop out of their sockets, you looked straight at me, I saw recognition click, then you looked away, to the wall..and stopped breathing…
”Daddy..? Daddy…?” i said. Someone let out a shrill scream…I didn’t realise until Stanley rushed to my side, then rushed out hollering “doctor” in that deep voice of his that it was me.. ”You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!! What the fuck…” I whispered it… the doctors rushed in and started cpr.. I left the room…I was dazed…I stooped to the ground…and I wailed…I stopped…went out the door…let the tears come…paced in front of the hospital a bit…the pretty hospital receptionist with the very nice locs and well ironed pants came to tell me to come back inside, told me not to make a scene, that people didn’t die in this hospital, that people would gather to ask me what was wrong and that they wouldn’t want that. I was to dazed to clap back at her for making such an incredibly insensitive comment. I calmed down for a bit, went back in with her, smelled you in the air, screamed and then I ran..out of the hospital…into the streets…I just ran…to whom or from what, I don’t know…but I ran…and then I stopped…and I started to shake..”What the fuck?!” I said, to no one in particular. ‘‘Are you fucking kidding me?” “But I was ready, I knew!” I was still saying to the wind.
I gathered myself, went back to the hospital, saw them still trying to revive you, thought to myself, What for? So you’ll come back and keep suffering? And so I told them to stop. They did.
”Time of death, 8.15am” the Doctor said.
I stood beside you…looked down at you…and there was no stopping the tears…I touched your face…cupped your chin…it was still warm..there was some stubble too… I lay beside you…put my head on your chest..felt your warm big belle…and I just let the tears come…
Stanley pulled me up, held me and told me to stop. ”God knows best” he said or something along those lines, his sobs were as wretched as mine, so it was hard to hear. We held each other, in that flourescent lit room with the blue sheets and cried.. (We have never held each other like this before….what kind of twins were we sef, I remember thinking) a few minutes passed and I left him and asked the nurse what next? She said they’ll arrange for a hearse.
I stepped outside, texted Tommy and told him. Texted Jide and told him. Saw Kofi pull up to the hospital…watched him walk to me with a sober look on his face, a look he’s been wearing all week since I told him popci was dying…”what’s up?” he said, ”How’s he?” and with such an unholy glee in my heart, I looked him straight in the eyes and said; ”He’s dead”.
I watched the shock hit his face. It gave me a pleasure I now realise, came from the knowledge that he was wrong. You see, he had told me to stay strong, to have faith, to believe that God was still in the miracle business, that my daddy wouldn’t die and I had told him to get real. To fucking read the signs.. So in that moment, I was right and he was wrong and in the most twisted way possible, it gave me such pleasure.
“Where is he?” Kofi asked.
I led the way, showed him where your body lay. He stood by your bedside, folded his arms and looked at the man who would have become his father in law. I left him and Stanley to it and went back outside.
Dr Wakama came, said he was sorry. More hospital staff came to offer their condolence…I called Yop, she told me to keep it together. I called Aunty Priscilla or was it Uncle Kevin or Uncle Emeka? I don’t remember. I sha called one of them..and they all started calling me. Told me how impressed they were with me, with how I was staying strong, Aunty Priscilla will come tomorrow and we can plan what to do about momci….she’s alone in America… We don’t want her to hurt herself. They told me not to tell popci’s people just yet. They would ask why momci isn’t with him, they said. I could barely pay attention so I said “ooo” to everything.
The hearse came. Stanley, Kofi and the driver put your body in the car…the driver charged me 12k. 12k!! Oshi! I told the hospital to get the bill together and I will come back and pay it off. Kofi drove my car and Stanley joined your body in the hearse. Kofi tried to console me as we drove behind your body in the hearse. i was mostly in and out of it. Like someone in a trance. I saw through the rear screen, your body shaking in the hearse as he hit pot-holes, and another shrill scream escaped me. Kofi tried to drive past your hearse, to spare me the pain of having to watch you, he explained. I yelled at him, told him to fucking stay put or let me drive! He stayed put.
We got to the mortuary, Ashes to Ashes. Tidy little place. Blue roof, quiet, clean. They took your body into a waiting room and I went with Stanley and Kofi to the reception. It was also clean and serene. Enya was quietly playing in the background. You loved Enya, so you’ll approve I’m sure. They had sweets in a jar on a table(who the hell would want sweets from a morgue?), glossy caskets on stands and a dark skinned female with a curly, dirty colored weave and bad makeup behind a counter.
”Good morning” she said. It was still morning? i thought. ”Good morning..” I replied, ‘I want to deposit ..Is it deposit?” ‘‘Yes” …she said ”i want to deposit my father..” I continued. She said ”ok..” and gave me forms to fill and a receipt that amounted to #75,000 after explaining to me that my father’s cancer meant we had to pay more for the process. (Even after death the lil bugger was still a thorn).
She wasn’t very nice, this reception lady, she was rude even. Is a little compassion too much to ask for? I just became fatherless yo! I asked if i could do a transfer, she gave me the account number and i transferred the money. I filled out the forms, pausing to gather myself at every section that had the words “late” “deceased” “remains”. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, I thought. Forms done, I followed her to go inspect you before they took you in for storage.
I stepped into the waiting room, noticed how clean it was, noticed the candles and flowers forming a ring around a framed picture of Jesus in a corner of the room, there was a crucifix and a big white Rosary draped around the picture too. I smelled the formalin in the air, saw your body on a stretcher on the floor at the center of the room, still wearing the grey jalabiya I bought you from Katsina, stiff and unmoving, saw the cotton balls in your ear and nose and again I wailed…. Daddy m? daddy nkem? Lovum?
How can this be? I may have fallen to the ground if Kofi hadn’t been there to catch me. The attendants muttered ”sorry” and asked permission to go and embalm him, I waved my consent and was led out of that room.
Outside I comported myself, noticed the surveillance cameras and (security?)men with walkie-talkies, went back into the reception and finished off the paper work. I asked if I could see you one more time before I left, the rude lady said no, said they were prepping your body to be embalmed. I got casket and ambulance prices, paid the hearse driver, got in the car and let Kofi drive Stanley and I back to the hospital.
The hospital waived my bill, paid their condolence and gave me popci’s personal effects. I walked to my car wondering if I should sue for negligence. Maybe if their oxygen worked better… popci wouldn’t be dead but again the article said…yea but we could have had a few more days maybe…yea but he’ll be suffering, this way was better…were all the thoughts that were swirling around in my head.
I didn’t see Kofi lurking until he tried to hold me and asked to drive me home, I said no thanks, told him he had a show at 3pm and home was far and there may be traffic, he told me he didn’t think I should drive but being the stubborn woman that I am, I insisted I would. Who I was trying to prove to that I was strong, i will never know because Stanley could have maybe driven or even Kofi since he had offered to do so but I did. So Kofi insisted on tailing me just to ensure I got home ok. This was one of the reasons my folks wanted him as son in law, I remember thinking, for all his flaws, he truly loved and cared about me.
Somehow I did get home ok. My little cousin opened the gate, said; ”Aunty Good morning” …it was still morning? i thought. I mumbled something in return and headed to the main house.
I walked through the door, saw your couch empty, and then it hit me afresh; Daddy is dead.