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Bunmi Oke – “The Fellowship of Grief”

Just the other day on the beach, you had asked me—and a strange asking it was considering—how I would cope with the loss of you. Over the years, we’ve both been bereaved of loved ones—cousins, friends, both our dads and my mom (and most recently, and most devastatingly, the unborn little one in your belly) and it’s been challenging, to put it mildly. But how would I handle it, you asked me, if you someday became the deceased. “What would be the texture of your grief for me?” you had said. 

All I could do, while rubbing my soles absently on the coarse sand, was hum in pretended agreement as though I was taking it all in, this home truth. Really, I was rejecting the reality you were forcing down my throat. I found myself unable to chide you for entertaining such negativity. Unlike the usual me, I would have raised literal eyebrows and heckled you midsentence, God-forbidding it away. But I can’t tell what made me feel the hypothetical scenario you painted had a chance of occurrence whose probability was larger than I was willing to admit. 

Remember, while we were still dating, the old Mariah Carey song you sent me via chat a month after we had this terrible quarrel and I walked?

When you left I lost a part of me. 

It is so hard to believe 

Come back, Baby, please come

We Belong Together… 

My leaving that evening and the radio silence that spanned days was akin to death, you had said. That was just many of the fights we had, the cause of which I clearly was. Yet, you took the first step of mending the breach. So, no, this time don’t come back. I don’t want you to. All our life together, you’ve mostly been the one shelving self-interest, pushing personal priorities aside, crossing over to my side of whatever the divide between us was, and doing things my way. So don’t come; this time, I’d do the honours. 

I don’t mind that the only other time I reasoned with you, sympathizing with your stance, granting your request a re-attempt, things took a fatal turn. How was I supposed to, against my better judgment, let sheer sympathy for (y)our childlessness prevail over our family doctor’s, Dr. Vince’s, firm medical advice: That we hold off with trying to conceive for now (read, ‘forever’), seeing what prior miscarriages had put you through? I yielded to your suggestion that we ‘try one more time.’ 

Yes, I would be plugging Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” into my ears right now, a song whose import I’ve known too well. But that would be selfish. Why not listen for two—to a song you and I will both cherish? You bet I circled in on “One Sweet Day.” (What can be better than your favorite artist and mine doing a song?—that Grammy-winning song you wouldn’t stop arguing was written for you, and I argued it was for me, until we had to reach a truce: It was written for us.) Remember it was the loss of your dad and that of my parents and then your sibling that ignited that spark at the park the other evening where we met, total strangers? That Christmas winter we didn’t know what made one say hi to the other, despite the private sadness each came with. Or what made you spy the media player on my phone as I unplugged my ear and paused the player. You couldn’t believe your eyes that it was the exact song you were listening to. Many things we didn’t yet know about each other on that strange evening, but not what both our departed meant to us or how with them we know we’ll “eventually we’ll be together. One sweet day.” We yodeled. Exploring line after painful line of the song, it was a confluence of sweet music, seasoned with salty tears, over a sour grief. Many couples find love under a different atmosphere—the colors of the rainbow round and complete amid the comforting chill of a just-ended rain, or the stars aligning beneath a full moon above fluttery feelings over similar likes and shared interests. But unlike that affinity whose memorableness is the excitement of eventually encountering one’s soulmate, ours was a commonality of pain, a fellowship of grief, a cord of adversity whose strength was in its harrowing depth, and nothing flowery. Maybe that was why the “…for worse… in sickness…” line of our marital vows were the most rousing for us. Had we not, together, seen the worst already? 

I’ve been seeing the doctor, a psychologist. Your mom had insisted I not keep keeping things to myself. So the doctor has been gracious, giving me these meds to numb away the pain, confident that amid his consistent prescribing (and pre-assuming, rather sadly, my compliance), that the meds will blunt off my pain, take the edge off my bereavement. So your mom can see me happy yet again. So the world can feel I’ve overcome it—while I’m left to deal with the real pain gnawing at me on the inside. Yes, window dressing: the exact thing your mom didn’t want in the first place. But maybe drugs only do what they should: repair ruptured tissue, exterminate pain, bla bla, if they can. Maybe there is really no mending a broken heart. For all I care, healing could well be motivational talk, and closure, make-believe—all consolatory bywords for this self-defeating wrestle with our travails. Maybe, at best, time only diminishes but never deadens, pain, while we delude ourselves that a dwindling sense of our loss is as relieving as a total absence of it. Loss is pain enough, but to prescribe the rate a man’s grief dwindles with the passage of time? That cannot but be flawed in itself. 

They say time heals wounds, that loss isn’t terminal. “It’s not the end of the world,” they admonish. But where does one make a home when your world is no more? What would you have a lonely heart do than allow it go be in its world, where it now is? Or if for the past four months, I can struggle without success with the idea of surviving alone, bearing heftier concerns than the thought of the ‘widower’ label, tossing and turning in a pool of nightmares on a large bed meant for two, seeking a rest that won’t come, is time not utterly incapable of handling agony? Or maybe not. Maybe the bulk of guilt and fear outweighs the potency of time and drugs. Or how will that man ever be able to sleep, who after finding his nulliparous wife is with child, but not for him,—yeah, Babe, I’ve always known about you and Dr. Vince—then poisons her in order to kill the baby—only to kill them both? I am sorry, Honey.

And that’s why when I lay me down to sleep tonight, that I should wake up tomorrow morning isn’t the prayer—with this jar-load of painkillers waiting to be downed, Lord knows I won’t to earth—but that I do to heaven, to you. To us.  

Tomorrow will be different, I promise. It’s going to be one—haha, yeah Sweetie—sweet day.


Photo by Ahmed Ashhaadh on Unsplash


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

May 17, 2020 at 9:38 am

Sighs……. i literally had 3 strong emotions in the last five minutes….. i was sooooo happy at first,then utterly sad and then an unimaginable “wait,what??” Suprise. I loved it ….

May 18, 2020 at 8:07 pm

I literally can say same, damn good! And if this is non fiction, then… Did it…? What?!

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