I grieve different. But I have only ever grieved once. We will all die one day. Death, has grabbed the people we love the most. But here I will speak of death, of someone I loved even before I knew what love was, and how I died with it. It was a slow, long, death.
He always bullied me. He always got what I wanted. We will chase each other around the house and play mummy and daddy and act different plays. Life was beautiful, sibling love had never been at its finest. I vaguely remember him being ill, a lot. I was familiar with the term “SS” before any other word. SS, they said, was doing that to him. Making his bones weak and making him cry out in pain. We always took turns to massage him, to pet him, to lay by his side and sooth. We loved him, it was easy really, he was a lovable child. He loved God, loved his bible and playing pastor in Church drama, he was oh so kind, he was always eager to help, he was just, sweet. The sweetness had nothing on genotype awareness.
That day, all I recollect was, getting called out of school that my oldest brother was involved in a fight and had been hit by a car. I was so worried and scared and I went home with trepidation. But I get home and I see said brother, coming into the house, looking hale and hearty. I was so relieved, I was so happy, that I didn’t even notice the crowd in the house. Or the gloomy faces. I went into my mum’s room, to find her, all in the midst of the bewilderment. That’s when I asked, “where is Ore?”. That’s when I heard “Ore ti ku”. Blast whoever told me that, I was too young to understand death, but there it was, unleashed on me without mercy, or pity, or nice words. I wailed, oh I wailed. But that was the only time in my young life, anyone ever addressed me on this death. The only death that ever mattered.
We have all lost someone before. Father, brother, mother, sister, best friend, cousin, on and on. Our lives change, because if it is a parent, there goes some stability. There goes one side, or both, of parental love. There goes financial happiness. There goes a part of us, that we may never gain back.
Grief made my mother angry, and sad, and anguished. She lost her Son. He was an angel on earth. Damn all that crap about him being too precious for earth so he had to go to heaven. He was precious enough for her to keep, but he’s gone. Grief made my father, well, my father. I don’t know if he ever grieved. He looks like a hard man, walks like a hard man, talks like a hard man, so, he is a hard man. Grief made my brother fearful for his life. Mortality hit him really hard, no one was there to counsel him, that it doesn’t mean he’ll die too, so he started living on the edge. We only live once. Oreoluwa lived once, short too. Grief made my sister blame herself. You see, she was home alone when it happened and she kept thinking, maybe I could have handled this better. Sometimes, I see the pain in her eyes, I see the fear. No one ever talked about any of these. Sure we talked about the preceding events to him giving up the ghost, but never how we felt; or maybe it was just my poor memory, but one gift I have honed, is perception, and piecing emotions together. I didn’t know then; I was engulfed in the burial of my soul. But it all came to me later. It all made sense. It also helped me come from the six feet I was under.
That day I did not just lose my immediate brother and best friend and grieve and move on. That day, I died. That day, just like every other unfortunate day in my existence, changed everything. You see, I used to curse a lot as a child. I have no idea where I learnt it from, probably from the aladalu(beans and corn) woman beside the house who always bathed her children in curses. Who knows. I just always turned to it as a solace when I was in a battle I couldn’t win with my family members by wit or strength. Trust my parents to hit it out of my mouth each time. After he died I was named the child who cursed her brother to death.
I entered secondary school without him, and had to answer our friends, say it over and over, that he’s dead. I found it hard to make friends, I would cry every lunch time, singing the lyrics of Westlife “my love” over and over again till my eyes were red and swollen from crying. Nobody could understand my gloom. But I mourned for a very very long time. I would have no one to talk to about the many other tragedys that happened after, I would wish he were there.
I blamed myself for killing him of course. I was an impressionable kid. I would dream of him many times, many many times, and he would not talk to me. He always walked away from me. I thought it was the blood on my hands. I thought he was mad at me. I always wanted to talk to him, I’ll call out to him, he never answered. I would give anything to hear him say, “I’m okay, you didn’t kill me, I love you”. Or just I love you.
Grief, made me lose the brother who could have been my best friend, the way my older brother and sister are the closest. Grief, made me feel like a murderer, for 15 years. And thanks to this grief, I will never grieve again. I will not be close to anyone with the ferociousness that will make me cry when they die. And I have not. Oh I have cried at the death of friends. But not so much. Not so much because I never called them, I never kept in touch, I never hung out with them. Don’t get it wrong, I prayed for them, I loved them, I try to be there if they reach out for me. But every time I almost grieve, I convince myself they were never my friends, so I do not have the right to grieve them. I convince myself their family members don’t even know me as their best friend, so I have zero right to impersonate their grief, so I don’t. I hurt a bit, I cry a little, then I shove it to the part of my mind that houses my darkest, deepest secrets that I also refuse to grieve, and I move on.
Grief, broke me. Grief made me cold. Grief, made me old. Grief, made me friendless and distrustful of the strength of life. I won’t pretend and say grief also made me stronger. Pfffttt. It’s been 17 years since his death, Oreoluwa, my ying. I still strongly believe my life would have turned out better. The quality of my mental health would be way different. But now I’m reminding myself, I will stop grieving. I will stop interpreting my grief into everything I do, into every relationship. I will learn to enjoy people, because maybe they will die, but that’s okay too.
It’s been a long and hard challenging 17 years. I miss you, I always will. Now I have to go on and pretend to be strong and agree with people when they tell me, it’s okay.