2103hrs. 6th October, 2016. Port-Harcourt, Nigeria.
Aunty Nene was family, although we had no genes in common. She worked for my aunt. She came in every morning and stayed till around 5pm, cooking and cleaning and providing company. When I visited my aunt, I often went to her house. She was there when I was born (the last time I was in Enugu, she pointed out the hospital I was born in), and had watched my cousins, siblings and myself grow up with the fondness and pride an old Japanese lady takes in her bonsai plants.
I think about death a lot, in a philosophical, academic way. Do the dying know they are dying? How does it feel on the other side? Is dying better than living? People condemned to die fascinate me. If you knew the hour and minute destined for your death, how would you approach it? What would you do differently?
The worst thing about death is its impact on those left behind. The dead are gone, and what happens here does not concern them. We are left to mourn their demise, celebrate their lives, sorrow and weep and accept grudgingly that we will not see them again.
The joint worst thing about death is how final it is. It is irreversible, a giant period sign at the end of life.
The next worst thing about death is how abrupt, how sudden it often is.
My mother called me about 30 minutes ago. I was lying in the dark, debating whether to sleep or not.
‘I noo n’ulo?’
“Aunty Oby kpoolum kita. O si na Grandma kporo ya, na Aunty Nene nwuru this afternoon.’
‘They were watching TV and she shouted “my head, isi’m”, and the next thing she was dead. Grandma is in shock. O daghi a zaa phone.’
Death’s suddenness struck with my uncle. One minute he was standing to his full 6ft7in height and planning the future. The next he was lying on his back in the hospital, complaining of malaria symptoms. 2 days later, he was a corpse.
It has struck again with Aunty Nene. I can only hope she felt no pain.
Goodbye, Aunty Nene. You were one of the most caring, selfless people I have ever met. I hope you find peace on the other side.