At the age of 90, Mama didn’t die young. Yet, the news of her death disorientated me and hurt me more than I can articulate in words. Her passage represented the foreclosure of the fulfillment of a personal wish: I had always prayed, at least, for my first child to experience as great grandmother the incredibly wonderful human being I grew up to know as my grandmother.
Mama was one of the biggest joys of my childhood. She was a key character in my earliest memories as a human being. She made every moment in her company unforgettable.
As kids, my siblings and I looked forward to Christmas. We liked to travel home and spend the season in the village because a segment of our visit will take us to Olido. Meeting Mama was one of the highlights of our own festivity. And she made it so.
Mama doted on us and all her grandchildren. She cooked for us, served us and nudged us to eat. She rushed to attend to the crying child; to wipe the tears, to hug, to give a placatory gift.
Mama had a rare capacity to make everyone feel special, welcome and free. All of us were her favorites. And her sweetest music seemed to be the noise of our riotous plays in her compound.
In between one Christmas and another, Mama found time to visit us in the cities where my parents lived and worked. It was a huge sacrifice to travel the distance from Olido to the many far-flung places transfers took our family to. She didn’t like to stay away from her home. But she would come and stay with us for a while, nonetheless… just to check on my parents and us.
Now as an adult, I have come to a fuller appreciation of her uniqueness, her sensitivity and her value for her offspring. Next to her faith in God, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren mattered to her the most. She knew intricate details about them and never forgot. We were the only weight she had on her heart and mind.
In her last days, Mama had a domestic accident that resulted in a fracture. Pain tormented her body and made walking a torturous exercise. But Mama proved stronger than pain. She bore her late life challenge with dignity. She maintained her cheer in very difficult circumstances. She retained her faith in God and in his goodness.
Later, there would be another health complication that stopped blood circulation to her toes. The situation required hospitalization and many painful medical procedures. Mama stayed calm and possessed herself with a quality of equanimity that disarmed everyone who came by her bedside.
When the call came in that she had slipped out of time into the hands of God, I sensed my heart and the world grow emptier. And I realized that the one who has departed is irreplaceable. And that her absence is the loss of everything beautiful a human being can be.
I do not mourn in hopelessness. I grieve in faith. I believe in the God who promised resurrection for all those who died in faith. And I believe that, someday, I will be reunited with her in eternity.
I thank God for Mama’s life. I thank God for the eternal life she now has in Christ Jesus.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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