She lived

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The muffled sounds and the continuous loud clinking of ceramic plates downstairs woke me up from my sleep. The morning sun from the window was too bright and it had me squinting. I sat up on my bed and stretched till I heard my joints click.

Shortly, I found my way to the bathroom to clean myself. I stared at the reflection of me in the mirror, it had been the same for the past few months. Every single day, I’d cry myself to sleep. Every single day, I woke up with puffy red eyes and saggy eye bags. I would cry and pray and cry myself to sleep. 

I splashed cold water on my face maybe it’d look better and prevent questions from people when I go downstairs.

Have you been crying ?” They’ll always ask.

The last time someone noticed, I had lied it was just my allergies acting up.

My mum on the other hand just chooses not to speak.

After brushing my teeth, I made my way downstairs for breakfast.

My mum was at the table alongside her “friends”.

Her friends that have overtime had nothing but bad intentions towards her. I took a pause and stared at both of them. They make my stomach ache. 

The first one, Mummy Doyin, a single mum,  had on several occasions made amorous advances towards my dad when he was still alive, and has made several attempts to ruin my parents’ marriage. My mum chose to turn a blind eye to it and “forgive” like she always do. 

The other one, Aunty Funmi, as we all call her since she has no kids, has at a point been business partners with my mum . She has times without number stolen from her, cheated her and tried to get more business partners to her own side by saying bad things about  my mum. 

But here they are today, on our breakfast table, trying to eat with us. 

Have they no shame?

My mum let everything go, till today I wonder what kind of person she was. 

She will always ask us to forgive and forget if we could, that there was no use keeping grudges and that God forgives us  time and time again for even greater sins.

That’s why we aren’t God I guess.

I walked over to the dining room to greet my mum at the the table first

“Good morning, Mum.” I said hugging her tightly.

“Good morning, Kemi.” she said planting a kiss on my temple.

I hugged her for a little bit more before I stopped to tell her I loved her. I had promised to tell her that every single day since she was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. The reason for my crying every night and praying to God to take her pains away and heal her.

Since the day I found out, I had done so many research countless times on cancer and how it can be cured. I probably know more than the doctors at this point . On some days I’ll feel hopeless when I scroll through my twitter timeline and see tweets of how someone had died of cancer, and on some days I’m filled with so much hope when I see posts saying “I am cancer-free”, and I wish—I wished it was the same for my mum.

I moved over to where her friends were, kneeling halfway to greet them. I couldn’t even force a smile if I wanted.

“Kemi, morning my dear.” Aunty Funmi said patting my back while chewing aggressively on her bread.

I took a seat at the table and picked a plate. There was a lot to eat from but I couldn’t eat much. I took few slices of bread , two sausages and poured myself a cup of tea. I began to slowly munch on it.

The atmosphere at the dining table was so silent and uncomfortable. We were all waiting for my mum to tell us what she had to say. I knew what she wanted to say, she told me already, but I wish she wouldn’t go on with it. She still has time. I hope.

“Um um” my mum cleared her throat, summoning the rest of the people at the sitting room to come to the table. My uncle, my Mum’s brother, her driver, her two sisters all came to table to join us.

“ As we all know, I called you here for a reason.” she talked with a lit up face, aside from her slightly sick face you wouldn’t know  she was down with anything, not to mention, Cancer. Sometimes, I admired her strength.

“I have little time left” she smiled looking at everyone of us. My food felt suddenly too heavy for my mouth and my throat tightened. I swallowed the painful lump of food and decided that was enough breakfast.

Don’t cry, Kemi.

“And not too many people are privileged to know when they’ll pass on , not to talk of planning their own burial.” she said laughing trying to lighten up the mood, Mummy Doyin and Aunty Funmi laughed along and I shot them a death glare.

My mum was smiling, the same way she had the day she was diagnosed. She has never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. So she puts on a happy mask. She has never wanted to been seen as weak, fragile or like she needed help.

She wanted to be there for others instead. She wanted to radiate happiness instead.

And I wish I could hug her tell it’s okay to be weak, it’s okay to cry and it’s okay to put herself first.

“So” She continued  “ I have called you all here to let you know I’ll be part of my burial process, in fact you don’t need to worry about the money”

“I’ll pick the finest of halls, bands, cloths and caterers.”

How’s that so easy for her to say. She was dying.

“I want you all to assist me as I can’t do it alone”   

 

              *                         *                     *

After breakfast, we all hanged around at the open garden in the house. They were all “planning” my Mum’s burial. It’s still sounds odd to me.

I didn’t say a word or contribute anything. All through all of it, I was fighting back tears.

I had no one to talk to except her but she’s busy, busy planning her own burial. I was her only  child. I have no close friends or cousins , they were still so young. I had only John at the moment 

Like he knew I was thinking of him, he called out.

“Hey.”

I went over to where he was and he wrapped me in his arms. I might have cried a little. He planted a kiss on my forehead and then my lips.

He then wiped my tears with his thumb

“What took you so long, I felt so alone and out of place, they seem all happy to be planning this thing”.I said with a shaky voice 

“I’m so sorry babe” he said holding my hand and pulling me away from the garden.

I sat backing him as he wrapped me in his arms playing with my hair.

“It’s going to be just me, I don’t know I’m so scared, and I don’t trust these people she surrounds herself with. I- I just feel it’s too early to conclude, I’ve seen people survive this thing. She—” I sniffed.

“You’re going to be okay, Kemi. You’re going to be just fine, I’ll be here.. with you, always” he said reassuringly. “You can talk to her when everybody’s gone, and ensure she’s fine .”

After everyone had gone and I finally had my alone time, I thought of what I was going to say to her. Only then did I realize that she has been strong for me, for everyone, all her life, that there was little to no need to see how she was doing for herself. It was time for me to be strong for her.

That night I went to her room as planned. She looked tired and no matter how much she tried to hide it, she was in pain.

I sat beside on her bed and just hugged her. I didn’t say a word, neither did she. 

“I’m sorry, Kemi” she said, breaking the silence.

“ It’s okay mum, none of this is your fault” I said cupping her cheeks with my palms. “ you’ve fought so hard that even the blind can see, I just need you to stop being strong for others, feel it when you need to, don’t waive it aside. Cry if you need to, it’s perfectly fine” 

“ Will you be fine?” She asked looking at me intensely. I knew what she meant, so I nodded.

“I’ll be fine mum, maybe not as fine as you” I laughed

“but I’ll be okay” 

“I love you”

“I love you too, Mum.”

That night I didn’t cry myself to sleep.

          *               *                     *

I haven’t cried for three weeks now since the “get together.”

Not even when my mum passed on a week earlier . I had always thought the pain I’ll feel will be gut wrenching. I had always thought I’d cry so much till I have tear marks and all the tears I’d cried before would be nothing compared to it. But I barely feel pain.

In fact I am relieved. Relieved that she’s finally resting and she no longer feels pain. I was only scared, scared of losing her, scared of being left alone that I didn’t think she  might have been so tired of the pain she felt, the hopelessness she lived through everyday.

She lived a good life, she was kind, loving, selfless and very happy. She was strong, very strong, and maybe this is a way of God saying it’s time to rest now.

So I have no reason to be sad. She has lived her own life and has lived it well. It’s time for me to live now.


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