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Sam AwedaTuesday, May 9, 2017
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Lagos, Nigeria

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COPING WITH THE BEREAVEMENT OF A LOVED ONE; MY EXPERIENCE AFTER 3 YEARS

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am not sure there will be one adult who has not for once suffered the pain of the loss of a family member, relation or a friend.

I have come to the conclusion that the severity of the pain of the losses, though may be the same initially and for sometimes, there are some or a particular one that lingers on. Counsels and encouragement are helpful but the pain may never go.

Actually for those who have secured their salvation in Christ and remain true till they exited, we should actually rejoice with them. The Apostle Paul wrote that for him to live was Christ and to die was gain (Phil.1.21).

The gain is personal to those who exit in the Lord, for they are gone to rest from their labours (Rev. 14:13). They are done with the numerous worries of this world. The bad side however is the anguish and pain caused to the loved ones who are bound to miss them.

I had written those paragraphs when I abandoned it for weeks. I lost interest by asking myself "Who is interested in what I am going through?" Then a voice ministered "Someone, one day maybe helped through your experience.

I knew the grief of missing a loved one at an early age. I was not the one that was so grieved. It was my mother. My father departed. He had taken ill for few months. My mother did all she could to have him live. Her prayers were not answered. She wept so much on daily basis that I was very much grieved for her. I remember it all as if it happened yesterday, yet it was exactly 60 years ago (2017).

In the Yoruba tradition, when such things happen, relations move to live with the bereaved. They return to their various homes, one after the other depending on the closeness and availability. Those who have young children at home must return soon to their children.

In this case, it was one of our aunties (a cousin of my father) that returned to her family last. She did well after over a month. She stayed so long because my mother wasn't coping.

One Sunday evening, with the hope that my mother had gained sufficient strength, she returned home in the same town; leaving my sister, mother and I. Then my mother started weeping again. Neighbours quickly had to send words to my auntie to return. I cannot remember what much time she stayed with us again before she finally returned to her family.

I could understand my mother's grief. She was the first child of her mother, married to a prince in his old age; in what almost looks like an enactment of the young woman Abishag, given to king David in his old age to give him warmth (1Kings 1:1-3).

My mother was quite young I understand, when the prince died and my grandmother returned to her town leaving my mother behind. So, with a rough childhood, she had expected that God will compensate her with longevity of marriage.

It was not to be. She was yet to be fifty and he was perhaps just 60 when affliction struck her again. She kept questioning God, what her offence was. She would make reference to her friends who still had both of their parents and their husbands and why hers should be different; without parents right from early age, and now, pre matured death of a husband! She took it badly.

I remember that many times I woke up in the nights to find her sit down, sobbing. I pitied her so much, yet she refused to be betrothed to any of my uncles.

It was my turn three years ago (May 11 2014) to go through similar rough terrain. I had prayed, many people also did that the day never came. But it did on that Sunday, Mother's day morning. Cursed be that malignancy that struck her, which evaded the diagnosis of all the Physicians who managed her until less than three weeks to her departure, when nothing again could be done to make her live.

It was one event, which cheated me so much. I see revelations and I dream a lot and they are always to the target. But I did not dream about this. I had tried to re-wind my brain to as long as I could to see if I had any dream that could relate to the incident. No. I cannot.

Anyone observing me that I still continued with my activities may think that I am coping well. What a mistake! Three years after, I am unable to come to terms with it. There has been no week I do not see her in my dream; once, twice and more, discussing, jesting, making jokes as if she is still alive.

My case is bad because, not once, did I imagine she was going to go before me. I always told her what she would do about certain issues after I am gone. So worried was she that she at a time went to complain to an elderly priest, who was like a father to both of us. She and her daughters organized prayer meetings, without my knowledge though, to annul any plans of death over me.

But it was not that I dreamt or felt anything dangerous. But I always say that though we pray, anything can still happen because those who calamity befell are no worse sinners.

For decades, she lived with very High Blood Pressure (HBP). It runs in her Biological family blood. One would have thought about that, as the high probable thing that could lead to her exit.

But God was kind to us, in 2002 we got the right combinations of medications that put that behind us and we were very grateful to Him.

I still find it difficult to believe that what seemed like a minor complaint made on December 31 2013 was the beginning of the end to our union.

I had been with my High School mate and close friend, Pastor Gabriel Oluwayinka and his family in Maryland, since December 26.

She pointed to her back at the right upper flank as where she was having some pain. "Don't worry, I have asked Dr. Sola Babalola to bring me some Diclofenac (Voltaren) retard tablets on his return journey from Nigeria in the new year" I replied.

Little did any of us realize that a pain, which looked like one that would soon fade away would turn to be the end of our journey as husband and wife in under six months.

Her threshold for pain must be high coupled with faith. She did all she used to do until a very late stage.

Did we delay seeing her Physician? No.

At the clinic, the Nurses noted that her weight had dropped significantly. Everyone was excited but not me. I shivered seriously because she did not engage in anything that could have caused such a drastic loss. The drop was yet to be visible, looking at her, even at close range as the husband.

My worry escalated at her birthday dinner early in March, when she could not eat her favourite menu. She feared she might throw up. I have participated in the management of cancer patients for many years in my career as a Health/Medical Physicist and there, I suspected we might be in trouble with her pancreas. But no results of investigations indicated it until I insisted on CT guided Liver Biopsy, which was done less than a month before she breathed last.

Until about two days before her exit, her composure and demeanor showed no indication of someone returning home. She was very calm all through.

On Friday May 2, when she had the 1st and what became the only chemotherapy, a time came when I observed that the drip was no longer flowing. The nurses pinched her at many sites, looking for another vein to use, but the veins of her arms had become very faint, yet she was calm all through.

In the evening of Sunday May 4, she suggested we go to the Emergency unit to lay complaint about her swollen feet. She walked by herself, un assisted.

The counsels of children of God helped, I counseled myself as well but I am not able to get over the pain of missing her up till date.

A brother told me what helped him. The Holy Spirit reminded him what he signed during his wedding ceremony "Till death do us part"

Was that helpful to me? I do not know.

I have tried to counsel myself why I continue to lament on a situation, which I could not help. My elder son asked one day "Can it be that mummy was going to run into some evil days, was why God took her? (Isaiah 57:1).

But here is my problem:

My heart is torn each time, whatever number of times in the day my mind ruminates at one thing or the other about our life together; how we met (as if it was yesterday); our courtship; moments of joy; challenges we faced at one time or the other; jokes we shared, which only two of us know the genesis; tough decisions we made; fierce disagreements (she was my worst and best critic). I made sure I kept watching her countenance during Bible studies. She screwed her face when she thought I was talking too much and same when I was on the pulpit. If I ignored her body message, I was in trouble on the way home); agony of parting (we lived apart many times); excitement at meeting each other again (I remember in October of 2013, as she drove me home from the Nashville airport, arriving from Nigeria, my eyes caught the beautiful aesthetics landscape and the beautifully mowed green grasses around the airport, and I started talking about my frustration with Nigeria. Without apology, she cut me short saying "Please leave your frustration about Nigeria for now having left me for 8months); anxiety and expectation of the time when we would retire to Nigeria to live alone with no children. And she did make good preparations towards this. I asked that some of those items be used at her funeral.

I had to get one item to nurse her when it remained few hours left for her. Tears rolled down my face as I drove westwards on Murfreesboro road into the store. I knew I will drive the roads alone without her by my side henceforth.

My heart is torn as the scene of the end come often in my memory; from very fast breathing, to slow, to intermittent and eventually fading away. The pulse stopped. At that time I withdrew upstairs to the bed room. Few minutes later, Pastor John Ekundayo came to me and said sorrowfully "Mummy is gone" "It was after it happened, I withdrew upstairs" I replied.

Blame Trade

I till today continue to scratch my head if there was anything I should have done, which I did not do, which could have prevented the disaster.

I asked myself many times if there were any habits in our intake (choice of food and drink), which we did not have enough or over did.

There were certain food items she would not let us eat. She would say she read that they were carcinogenic. For over 5 years before her exit, she would not let us eat the stuff called pounded yam in the US. She said she did not trust it to be real yams. I am so pained that after all those precautions, she still ended up with cancer. In protest, I have resumed eating it; not frequently though but whenever I feel like doing.

In the past, I used to wonder what shame is there in being a widow each time I read Prophet Isaiah in Chapter 54: 4 "---for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more" I frequently pondered "reproach" Why the reproach? Except the living partner was the person responsible for the death.

After her exit, I felt naked. Very naked! I always felt something was missing in me. I felt stripped. I felt incomplete. When I went out, it was as if I left behind, something which, I needed on the journey. It was as if a big chunk of me was gone. I felt very lonely in the Church. It took me a long time to sit down by myself in the Church without having a feeling of reproach, nakedness and loneliness.

The situation made me to understand fully the feeling of our fore father, Adam after he woke up and saw Eve by her side and said "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gen.2:23)

I met an elderly widow in Ilorin, Nigeria who had same experience as I did after the exit of her husband years back. I was relieved that the experience is not peculiar to me.

Rev. Simeon Oladimeji's visits are memorable. His length of years in the vineyard were made to bear with his patience, gentle counsels and many visits.

Rev. Kehinde Oye (late) resumed in my house every morning as if reporting for duty till evening till some days after the repose of the body without knowing that his own days were numbered. He himself was recalled exactly after 4 months-September 11.

Avalon Hospice, Murfreesboro, Rutherford Country TN is wonderful. Their quarterly letter was spirit uplifting. The company Grief Counselor, Milton Stanley is very experienced. He left me to myself after a year in a letter dated June 1 2015.

Any Area of Appreciation to the Lord in the calamity?

1. Since 2010 July after I relocated to Nigeria and launched the campaign for a nation where the common wealth of the nation will no longer be in the hands of a few but evenly distributed as fairly as possible, with the aim to reducing temptations to sins and make the journey to heaven easier, I came to the US before Christmas and return to Nigeria in the new year.

It was to be different in 2013. The last boy was in his final year High School. He must pass the ACT in good grades to earn him a scholarship to College (University). Having put our account in red with the campaign programs, it is only a scholarship that can make him go to the College.

So I arrived the US in September to start studying the ACT past question papers with him. I was to return to Nigeria in May 2014 after all admission processes to College will have been over. Usually, I returned to Nigeria not later than February. Consider the difficulties my wife and children would have gone through were I not to be around! I was priviledged to witness the whole affliction from the beginning to the end.

2. The final examinations of the boy was to start on Monday May 12. The mother slept about 800pm Sunday, few hours to the start of the examinations.

But how good and kind God is; he had been exempted from the final examinations, having met all the requirements to graduate.

How could he have written any examinations in that frame of mind?

The only regret is why she was not allowed to see him graduate having taken care of him all the 12 years of schooling. Now in the presence of Baba, she must have by now gotten the explanation, if she cared to ask.

Paul wrote "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it"(1Cor.10:13)

God is forever faithful.

We also read in Psalm 37:23 "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way"

Grace

We have a very close family friend. The brother was recalled in the year 2000, 17 years after (2017), the sister is yet to come to terms, to the sympathy of all friends.

I visited her one day after my bereavement. She remarked that what helped me to be able to cope is because we lived apart from each other many times. I hope she has access to this write up to be educated.

Ok how do I do it that I am able to keep my pain and agony to myself?

No. I do not keep it to myself alone.

i. I might have frustrated Pastor John Ekundayo and a few others who I talk with often, other than the children.

ii. Though we are equally frustrated, the children will not say I kept it to myself alone, particularly the girls who I talk with very frequently. I wonder if there has been any time we spoke and will not voice out one regret or the other. Up to now we still trade blames occasionally. This indicates that none of us is yet able to overcome our different frustrations.

Ok, how have I been coping?

Badly I cannot lie but

My eldest daughter often pleads with me to tread softly as she could not afford my exit and be left with none of us parents.

In all honesty, life became meaningless to me seeing how she exited and I often soliloquies "Is this all that we are, as humans?"

I no longer hear nor see her laugh hilariously again. She looked at me after my weeping woke her up but could not talk in spite all the encouragement from her sister in-law, Mrs Iyabo Adebiyi, a nurse. "Aunty Ranti, leave a word for the children in Nigeria" She slept off after about 7 minutes.

With that scene, I recognize how sweet death can be. It is just a transition. How true the wordings of the song "Death is the path to life"

Being kept occupied with my out reaches has helped.

I am making efforts to cope because I want to see come to pass the Nigeria of my vision and desire, for which she was denied of my presence in the last 4 years of her life.

By 2011 she was no longer going to accept us live separately. It was either I return with her to the US or she stays with me in Nigeria (She visited Nigeria in the Summer).

She made no pretext about it. She said "When you were in Saudi, I came to you in Summer time and you too came to us at Christmas. You were bringing in money. Now, you do not bring in money, rather, the money accumulated, you have emptied it and I do not see you"

So I must continue with the campaign, for which I made her to suffer so much; "The restoration of Nigeria" in her honour.

I must not forget that though I am not given to eating as such, I miss the foods of her culinary skills. I do not joke nor exaggerate; I am yet to meet a chef like her. If we went out, within minutes of our arrival, delicious food was ready. When we had unexpected guests, by the time one realized it, delicious food was ready.

My experience should teach everyone to prepare for any eventuality. I am suffering badly because I did not envisage me without her.

I am surviving only by "Grace"

Some wordings of the song "Grace ! 'tis a charming sound... Saved by grace alone" are most relevant and consoling.

1. Grace ! 'tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to the ear ;
Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.
Chr: Saved by grace alone ;
This is all my plea-
Jesus died for all mankind,
And Jesus died for me.

2. 'T was grace that wrote my name
In life's eternal book ;
'T was grace that gave me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took.
Chr: Saved by grace alone ;

3. Grace taught my wandering feet
To tread the heavenly road;
And new supplies each hour I meet,
While pressing on to God.
Chr: Saved by grace alone ;

4. Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made mine eyes o'erflow ;
'T was grace which kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.
Saved by grace alone ;
This is all my plea-
Jesus died for all mankind,
And Jesus died for me.

5. Oh, let Thy grace inspire
My soul with strength divine
May all my powers to Thee aspire,
And all my days be Thine.
Chr: Saved by grace alone ;
This is all my plea-
Jesus died for all mankind,
And Jesus died for me.

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