A fierce wind swooshed all over the compound. The sun had set and darkness, like a thick blanket had covered the sky. People still trooped in and out, most of them sparing a passing glance for the lone figure that sat at a corner. They trudged into the house situated at the middle of the compound and from its depths an occasional wail could be heard piercing the night.
Sitting at the corner of the house, Ifeoma barely heard the shout. Her eyes were fixed only on the two freshly dug mounds of earth before her. She had been sitting there for more than an hour unaware of the chilly weather, people passing by or the ever growing darkness. As she looked on at the graves of her parents, her thoughts became more wild and erratic. She started imagining another reality, one where her parents were not six feet under, one where they were still by her side and not gone forever.
Though she’d willed them to for the past hour, the tears just wouldn’t come. This was strange because from the time she received the news that she’d never see her parents again, she’d cried endlessly. Even today as their bodies were lowered into the earth, she flung herself on the coffin wailing and refusing to be pacified. Now her eyes felt empty but the pain in her heart, she knew, would never go away.
Where would I go from here? Ifeoma thought. She was basically an orphan now, no parents, no siblings, all alone in the world. It was so unfair. Why did this have to happen now? What am I going to do? She kept on thinking and the more she thought, the more she felt she was teetering on the edges of her sanity. Assuming a fetal position, she lay on the ground. Her parents were gone, it had sunk in the moment she saw sand being used to cover their caskets. If only I had more time with them, she thought, if only I had been a better daughter. It was too late now; no words could be said again, no reparation could be made.
Ifeoma’s parents had been very overprotective. Given that she was an only child, they had been very scared of losing her. Rules were set to be strictly followed ranging from friends she kept to places she visited. At a point Ifeoma felt boxed in and began to rebel. Her change in character worried her parents so much but they didn’t have the heart to punish her. Things got so much worse when she entered her teenage years. Ifeoma that had been one of the best students in her class suddenly became one of the worst. Hanging out with the wrong crowd and avoiding her studies had taken a toll on her results. Her helpless parents had looked on not knowing what to do. Shouting matches, slamming doors and empty threats became the order of the day in their house.
Ifeoma hadn’t been totally unaware of the pain she caused her parents daily but in her heart she felt that going back to being good would rob her of her freedom again. Her parents would control every facet of her life acting like omnipotent dictators and she didn’t want that. Despite feeling remorse at times for her actions, she didn’t stop but carried on doing whatever she wished. Things came to a head one day when she had been arguing with her mother and her mother blurted out,
“I regret having you as my only child.”
Ifeoma had been hurt beyond words that day and she retaliated by saying,
“And I wish that both of were never my parents!!”
Words said could never be taken back, therefore the gap in her relationship with her parents kept on increasing. The day they died was just like every other day, there was no premonition, no gloom in the atmosphere, no dark clouds in the sky. All Ifeoma remembered that day was being shepherded into her principal’s office where she saw her father’s younger brother and her grandmother. Her grandmother’s eyes were red but nothing was said to her until they were on their journey home. The news was broken and Ifeoma couldn’t stop the tears. Many times before they had died, she had tried to convince herself that she could do without her parents but now she knew better. Worse was when she found out that her mother had actually been pregnant before she died. Her parents had been on their way to see a doctor that morning after she had gone to school when they met their death in an unfortunate accident. So not only had she been robbed of her parents but also of the chance of having a little brother or sister.
Right now staring at their graves, life felt vague for Ifeoma. Majority of her life had been spent going against the two people who loved her most in the world and now they were no more. If they were still here, she thought, if I had one more day with them, what would I say?
“Mom, dad, I love you both” she said aloud. “I’m sorry for the way I always acted. You two were good parents. I was the one that was the problem. I wish you both were here with me.”
And as she said it, the tears finally came. They trickled down her face slowly and she unknowingly wiped them off.
“I promise I’m going to do my best in school. I’ll make you both proud.”
She stopped talking for a while finally noticing the engulfing darkness surrounding her. Fear suddenly gripped her heart and she moved closer to her mum’s grave.
“I’m so afraid, mummy. What am I going to do without the two of you? Who’s going to take care of me? I never valued the both of you when you were alive now you’re gone. Why did God have to take you away?”
Ifeoma wept uncontrollably now, her previously empty eyes leaking like a rushing faucet. The thoughts of her living in a world where she had no parents fueled her misery. She hadn’t been a good daughter, she hadn’t valued what she had and now it was too late, tears couldn’t bring back the dead.
“Ifeoma” someone called.
She heard her name but didn’t turn neither did she stop crying.
“Ifeoma” the person said again.
She turned and saw her grandmother. She had been standing there for some time watching Ifeoma and observing her monologue. She also had a somewhat scared look on her face as if thinking that Ifeoma had taken leave of her senses.
“Grandma” Ifeoma muttered, not trying to hide her tears.
“You shouldn’t be talking to yourself in the dark; people will think you’ve gone mad.” Her grandmother said.
“I’m sorry.” Ifeoma apologized.
Her grandmother brushed past her and stood at the foot of her parents’ graves. She stood there, just looking at her son and his wife’s grave, then turned to Ifeoma and pulled her into an embrace.
“It’s going to be fine, my dear. Things happen and we ask God why, we have every right to ask. It’s very painful but we just have to believe that God knows best and he is working things out for our good. You had fifteen years with your parents and I had 45 years with my son. Let’s cherish the time we spent with them. You’re a special child honey and I promise I will take care of you. You’ll never be alone.”
Ifeoma held on to her grandmother absorbing her words. There were good times she spent with her parents and she was going to treasure them. Her parents wouldn’t want her to mourn and be morose all the time. She’d respect their memories and live with the principles they tried to instill in her when they were alive. As her grandmother guided her towards the house, Ifeoma felt the pain in her heart easing a little.