I mark the day, a Sunday, lying in bed
nothing much on my mind but what Instagram to send
and how to get to Streetfest later that day and
what we would wear and by we, I mean, the babes
I mark the hour, my brother’s
voice so normal on the phone, I was going to tease him
for not calling sooner, he said he’d seen my pictures
from dinner the night before, and I was just getting ready
to settle into our gist when
he told me
I mark the sound of my brother’s voice
cracking then dissolving
I’m so sorry, I’m sorry for you, I’m sorry for all of us
the phone slipping from my hand, my jaw slackened in pantomime
my head against the wall, was I shouting?
The boys running in, I mark their anxious little eyes,
faces crumpling and then three of us
in the kitchen in a huddle, sobbing
I mark the sense, the strange sensation in the car
when my eyes were closed, filtering sunlight,
that somehow Mummy sat in me, calm, guiding,
a gentle compass within the turmoil
I mark the door opening and my sister, somehow smaller
I fall onto her with relief and drench her
shoulder as she holds me, it’s ok, it’s ok
I mark the phone calls, the many many phone calls,
some bewildered, others stoic, some who waited days, maybe even weeks
to gather the strength to call, all of them with the same message
she was special, she was loved, hang in there
jisike, it is well
and still more calls, some that pushed us both over
the edge of what we tried to contain
some when I was the comforter, while the voice on the
other end shrieked her loss, murmured his disbelief
I mark the hours of planning and preparation and bookings
and dress fittings and account balances and
email after email after email and date setting
and the tireless work of friends and family
almost on auto pilot, moving inexorably toward the day
I mark the day the coffin arrived. I mark the rain. I mark the crowd that stood beside. I mark the wailing of sisters. I mark the pain. I mark the hearse moving ahead.
I mark the throng. I mark the singing, a magnificent chorus lifting and carrying us from Abuja to Owerri to Onitsha to the grave.
I mark the moment we buried my mother. Sunshine overhead, somewhere a rainmaker crying. My auntie collapsing to the ground. Dust to dust, we gather handfuls of earth and let it thud onto the wood. I mark the words the preacher said. Obi barely holding it together. Nkiru trembling beside me. Four sisters in a line. Whispering goodbye.
And now, life goes on. But I mark each Sunday. I mark the third of every month. I mark the weeks as they go by. I mark the rainfall when it’s heavy. I mark the ring I put on every day. I mark the songs that remind me of her. And today, I mark an anniversary. Two months since we lowered her body into the ground. People wonder. Do you feel better? Do you have closure? How are you now?
Ok, I answer truthfully. Love is love and laughter is everything. But what I really mean is that there is no closure. There are walls inside forever blown apart. I miss my mother. She’s gone and it can never be ok. I mean to say that loss is a process of marking. With time, the things we mark become the things that make us. Perhaps, even, the things that save us. We become the stories we pass on.