Words call us, we go. A blurry thought, uncertain notes, hopelessly we stroll until meaning becomes clear, becomes us. Today we sat patiently trying to wait for words to come. It took a while. Children were crying. Hearts were weary but souls were full from a reunion a pandemic almost denied. We waited for the words to come, to express how we felt for we where thankful, full of thanks for a day that kept giving, spilling into another day that continues to give. Then the word ‘serious’ leapt across our mind. We questioned its intent, waited even for the discontent. ‘Serious’ what are we supposed to do with you. Then we remembered, being together is a serious matter. Being with family even in the middle of a pandemic is serious. The terrible stories we could have told are blunted because we did together seriously. So as we settle in, as we bask in the glory of yesterday, the majesty of today, and the hope for tomorrow, we know that together will always remain serious for us. Thanksgiving with people like us is a serious matter and we intend to keep it so.
The light that came to me, came through friends that love me till end. Friends like sisters are like Angels that pass through fire and ice. Asia is my sister, an Angel, whose love passes through like light till the end. With her, this light has no end. Keep friends like Asia, like sisters, like angels.
Love is the closest thing to heaven on earth. It’s the closet thing to what we all deserve, what we all dream to have. To love, be loved, and die loved. It’s the light we all need when surrounded by so much darkness. To light, be lit, and die with light. To let our light flow as we want it before we become dust to dust, ashes to ashes, keeps me focused on love. And this love will break all we know. Our hope, our beliefs, even our faith that tomorrow will be so much better than today. Love knows all things. Surpasses all things too. But love, breaks all things. It hard to write too because to love and be loved is like a willingness to break and be broken. I am thinking particularly of my children. I know they say there will be tough days but the past two months of caring for them fully have broken me down. Tears have rolled down my eyes and I too have asked myself whatever possessed me to have so many of them. Love remains the answer. Dreaming too.
Then there is work. My fourth love that seeks to be first. It constantly breaks my heart with every twists and turns, every attempts from others to dim my light for fear it may outshine theirs. In these moments I’m realizing that even love with work is only as great as the dreams that can be realized. The more beautiful the dreams, the greater the love. We focus too much on work as defined by others that we forget to dream. Rather than waste time with those who choose to dim the dreams, dim your light, it’s best to surround yourself with those who prefer to help you realize them, help you dream. We need more dreamers at work. For what we value for work, can only flourish and shine when it’s built on love, when it’s built on dreams.
I have been dreaming lately of a new kind of work, dreaming of raising the possibilities of work built on love. Not just one that reflects what I currently do, but one willing and committed to transforming work beyond what I do, even if it breaks me down. I have also surrounded myself with dreamers, a rare group of people willing to transform all we know about the work we do. We are in love, this group and I. I expect one day that our love too will break us. Yet we choose to dream. For that is the hallmark of what it takes to love, be loved and die loved. Also what it takes to light, be lit and die lighting our paths, our own way. We choose to dream so our love, our destiny can unfold. For we know that even with this work, even with the willingness to be broken, there are fragments of paradise, fragments of light pushing through that refuse to be hidden. We are pushing through these dreams knowing we are loved. Knowing too that we maybe broken. Yet we keep dreaming. Keep dreaming with those who choose love.
P.s this keep was inspired by Ben Okri’s A Time for New Dreams, my muse these dreaming days.
I waited a day to write this. I waited to see if anyone would remember. I searched Google. The local news in Birmingham didn’t forget. It was the 58th anniversary. 58 years of flowers that could have bloomed, yet cut too soon, gone too soon. The youngest among them, Carole Denise McNair, only 11 at the time of the bombing would have turned 69 this year. Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson, all 14 at the time, would have been 72. There lives were cut short because of hate. And 58 years later, only 3 sites, 2 of them, local news sites remembered. These are times when words don’t come. Yet for the sake of history, these are times when words are all we have, since their story, their history, are cut from books that should have their stories. We still live in times of hate, where lives so fragile, are cut so soon, with so many gone too soon, that we fail to remember where the sun set to soon. Yet their memories, even their stories of flying and sailing away to soon, to a place, to love that replaced hate, something so unfamiliar to date, is the keep I choose to remember in this space. Their lives may have been short, their deaths even quick, but none of that was in vain, Toni Morrison wrote in her book ‘Remember.’ I agree. I so agree.
They were on the floor. All three brothers, head to head. Sister was in the room with her piano teacher Ms. Neva mastering the twinkling star, wondering what it was. I looked at the boys wondering why the floor. They rolled around and around, laughing and smiling away. Shining brightly too like rare diamonds on the ground. They twisted and turned, and twisted some more, oblivious to the dirt all around them, oblivious to the sounds of my pleas too. The ground was all they wanted. Getting up from it was all I wanted.
So I tried to pull them up from the ground, one by one. They all went back to the ground after each successful attempt. I kept pulling them away, trying not to lose my temper or my mind. I was afraid of the ground, afraid they would hurt themselves, afraid that they too would hurt the ground. The carpet was light brown. They are children, boys too. I hate dirt on carpets, on lightly colored ones, or any colorless one. They love dirt, big or bright, dark or small. Any that will make you curse under your breath. It’s the reason why we have no carpets in our home. We just removed the beige ones that came with the home we bought. The carpet lasted 20 years or so prior to our ownership. With us, my boys and their love for red volcanic experiments or any colorful merriment, it lasted 2 days.
Carpets aside, we are still in a pandemic. If you believe the virus is airborne, then chances are that no child should lay on the ground. Yet, my boys adored the ground. Laid on it too, like it was the finest of cottons. After my pleas to get up fell on deaf ears, I paused and looked at them, looked at the ground too with intent. I took in the moment, took in the laughter, took in the love fully on display. No wonder they were oblivious to my pleas. In life, we will pass through dirt, we may be on the ground too with dirt. Diamonds are all the time. But still, we can shine brightly even in the middle of all the dirt around us.
My boys taught me that, rolling and laughing on the ground. They call it black boy joy. I call it love. To see it on full display among boys oblivious to the dirt around them, oblivious to the ground, oblivious to the world, is breathtakingly magical. We need more love. Here, they are oblivious to the world. Here, they have defeated the world. Here, they have rolled away the ground. Here, they choose to listen to their laughter, listen to joyful sound. Here, they returned back to dirt, return back to earth. Here, they uncovered the beginning of knowledge. Here they use it to teach the power of love, the power of being loved. Here, they love, love and love, loves them too. Here, they love being together, laughing together too, even on the ground with dirt all around. Here, they love those around them, each other and that is all that matters. I will cherish this keep.
Love was in the walls and headboards. It triumphed beneath the floors where feet’s stomped and jumped to the sounds of Amen and Hallelujah. It was also in the faces of everyone who came to hold on to it longer. From as far as the US and her hometown Nimo, to as near as her brother’s Festac town, everyone who knew and loved Angie made an attempt to hold and pray for a divine miracle. It was all we had. Cancer’s power had revealed itself where her body had cracked and fallen to the depths of no return with its wide reach, impacting everything in sight. So love was all we had left, was in every face that met her eyes, every questioning gaze full of whys and how, every gentle squeeze and audacious pleas.
Love was in her mother’s eyes, her tears too were full of it. She was afterall her first born child, her first experience of creation, her first love personified, her first companion amongst men, her first every thing worthy of gist. Under the turmoil of Cancer’s reign, under moments of shared bliss, even in the middle of pain and despair, love continued to lean in deeply, gleam brightly too, as it tightened it’s grip around her. Through a storm of tears, that flowed for moments of slipping away, love continued to roar, continued to fight, continued to ravage the storms, refusing to turn and flee. Wherever love went we followed. We were prepared to go the distance, to do all we could, even to delirium, so long as love reigned eternal. Cancer’s grip was strong, but love was stronger, tougher too and ready to push any boulder up or down any steep hill. We were all held in captive and could not move for love’s grip kept our soul still.
Looking back to last week, we thought we had a day for love to stare into each other’s eyes, for mother and daughter to drown wildly in love once more. We got a week. Little miracles of what the gift of time can do. The gift of being together too in love. Something my hubby and I are forever grateful we gifted this to his mother. When we got the call that her daughter was unresponsive last week. We sprung into action. I have never purchased a ticket the day you travel. Surely not one for an international flight in the middle of a pandemic with its glaring requirements for Covid testing. We got the ticket at about 7am and kept moving. Lucky mama was up. She was even dressed for the day. We told her she was heading to the hospital and asked her to wear something comfortable. She did. We were initially preparing for her to travel later that week. Just the night before we were speaking about what she would travel with. She had been preparing to visit home last year for one of her son’s wedding. But the pandemic derailed all her plans. So I had an idea what she wanted to pack. I watched as she brought them out and arranged them in piles. She was also waiting for me to bring her suitcases from our storage room. We were supposed to pack her items together. I did it alone.
While my husband took her to the hospital to get her Covid requirements, I began to pack. One suitcase was not enough. Not even two. I didn’t care as I didn’t know whether we had a day or six months. I packed everything she brought out. Then I grabbed all 4 kids and rushed to the airport. We saw mama off at the airport. She never came back to the house. She never even said goodbye to the garden she had started to grow and love dearly. This was also the first time I saw her break down and cry. She asked why the rush. I started to cry which made her cry even more. I told her to stop crying that everything would be okay. She cried some more. I prayed to God for a day with mama and Angie.
The first day was unbearable. Mama cried and cried and asked whether we knew it was this bad. I cried too saying over and over that we tried everything. I kept apologizing that we couldn’t help enough. She said then let’s pray. We started to pray fervently. God gave us an additional week. It was plenty. We are still processing this experience. Still making sense of how we got here. Still asking questions. Still crying. Still even being angry with her but we know that it is out of our hands now. No mother should go through this. The only consolation we have is that they spent a week together. A day or even a week together with those you love is a lifetime. Treasure every moment together. That’s the keep I’m keeping. Being together. With love, we are granted this grace.
One of the earliest gifts I received from my sister-in law was a purple scarf with a light pink intricate embroidery. I caught sight of it this morning while looking for clothes from an old pile for my baby. It glistened in the clear plastic bag full of clothes we dry cleaned following our water accident in the spring. I picked it up and thanked her for this gift. She always knew ways to make me feel special. Our shared experience will forever be a knowing so deep. Everytime I see the scarf, I will forever see her smiling as she called me by the name she gave to me, Osodieme.
To be named again, this time in my marital home is a precious treasure, a special gift that I am only now fully embracing. She knew how to use words to draw out of what is there in my life. Things I never really knew I had or was capable of possessing. Things I didn’t even expect to serve as a guide, to lead and help me as I lived side to side by her brother. Osodieme. It means, one who works alongside her hubby. I always found it strange as I am my own person. I don’t need my husband to tell me what to do. Our relationship was never built that way. Professionally for example, I still bare my maiden name, a taboo in most Igbo households, yet a function of the understanding I have with him. So I never really gravitated to the name, never really accepted it’s significance and only smiled when she used it, though never really thanked her for naming me this way. I am finally coming to terms with the name. Being in this strange place with her has a way of making me want to cling to everything I did with her, including the name she gave to me. It’s a special gift, this extraordinary perception, this profound intimacy I find in this name. One that I long for now to hear her say one more time.
We woke up this morning to the news of her death. It’s truly a knowing so deep when it arrives at your doorstep. To see it close a chapter. To feel the loss. To know the end has finally arrived is just as tough as it is painful. Tears kept flowing. I cried because I wanted to hear her say Osodieme one more time in that voice of hers. I cried because I wanted her to say that I didn’t have to get that thing or do yet another thing in the way my husband does. I cried because I wanted to listen to the joy she reserved for me. Our knowing was so deep. I truly took it all for granted. I cried because I wanted to let her know one more time that yes, I am what she says I am. Osodieme. It’s a name that I intend to live out the rest of my life, knowing you used it to pull this out of me. This thing that I am only now fully making sense of about humanity. Osodieme, is a name I will listen out now for you, the gentleness of your voice, your whisper as gentle as a breeze. The last thing you said was thank you as we prayed for you. The last time we spoke, all the children told you to get better and you said thank you. You asked after all of them and they spoke to you one by one. It was also the day mama said she had handed everything to God. I didn’t know what she meant, but knew how bad the cancer has spread, I knew this was then Gods plan. So we spoke words of encouragement to you. Even made you a bird-like card to wish you well. And God had this still in his plans. That you will soar to the skies and sit right next to him, even though we stay behind to imagine what next to do.
I wish we had more time. I wish I could hear you one more time. We need collective strength to get through this time in our lives. If we achieve it, it means you are forever our angel, our Angie as your name implies. We are already united. You had a way of making us all come together. This moment is holy. You left surrounded by love. You left surrounded by everyone who hold you dear. Osodieme is what you would want that I hold on to. And like the purple scarf you gifted to me in the beginning, I intend to do so till we meet again. God be with you. Rest In Peace Angie.
The past 1-2weeks has been a whirlwind. I am still processing it all. I am still making sense of how life can come so close to an end. I am still trying to make sense of how any plans you make, can literally change in a day, an hour, even minutes. Like how we changed my mama’s travel from one day to another because time was not on outside. I still remain in awe of the precious gift of time. How life and the time it gifts is a gift as well. How love is all we have in the end, to make sense of this gift.
To be surrounded by those you love is such a precious gift that i want to spend the rest of my life surrounded by the people I love. Not folks that are willing to tolerate me or folks afraid to see me fall and rise up again. But folks that never get tired of unpeeling any mask I wear. Folks that are willing to go deep, to sit down and listen. Cry too for when nothing makes sense. Like my dear friend Uzo. In the middle of her joy, how she made time for me is a precious gift that I will cherish. Then their are the people who came to my life expecting me to mentor them, like Ucheoma and Chisom. How they spend every time to mentor me keeps me in awe. How they know how to ease the burden makes me speechless always. I will never forget their precious gift of time and love. It too is a precious gift that every single experience together keeps gifting. Then there are those I literally call my father and mother, as if they literally gave birth to me, as if they were there when I was being conceived in my womb, as if they knew what I would become before I was even birthed. How they knew that we would need their company this week, how they provided insight and love, how they held us up even in the middle of our sorrows, how they spent time, keeps me in awe. To be surrounded by Mama Yannick and Papa Yannick’s love and time is a precious gift that I have no idea why it belongs to me, to my family, even to my children.
This past week has been the fourth most difficult week of my life, reminiscent of the week my dad and my grandmother passed, and the day my little 10 year old left us behind. To be this close to death once again, just a year after my nephew makes me realize that I truly want to spend the rest of my life surrounded by those whose love and light are a precious gift for these times. I don’t care for the world, for people, who are not ready to bring this to me. Save your time and energy for yourself. For me and my household, we will keep choosing love, with who love and accept us just as we are, for their love, for every single moment with them, every single time is a precious gift that I intend to keep for the rest of my life.
My awakening summer was 2020. Like the entire country, I was literally in labor. Something wonderful was born on this day, by 9am last year. We became parents to our fourth child. We call him Ranyenna. In Igbo, it means giving him back to God.
His hair was full, short, brown and crinkled. His eyes were big, brown and beautiful. They moved slowly to see this world we live in. His voice was tender, very mellow, very hush, except when he cried and only food, stopped all the fuzz. I imagine he was weary. I was too. The world was unfriendly and unkind, squeezing through my canal, equally unfriendly and unkind and he choose to make his arrival in the middle of a pandemic and a long overdue racial reckoning so unfriendly and unkind.
The times were changing but my baby was as beautiful as the setting sun. The loveliest thing about life, about love, was in my arms. I was prepared to protect him like an eagle. Nourish his being for he was regal. Watch him soar unfettered like a seagull. For he was mine to gaze and hold so dear. His entire being filled me with enormous pride. I too was prepared to say, here is my child, with whom my joy for life, cannot be denied.
Love was more than a four letter word, more than a feeling, more than I can even put to words. Love was him and together we were loved. To see a child pass through the different stages of becoming a being. To listen from the beginning and watch till the end for over 9months until they they make their arrival to this world defies words. I have been through this 3 times already, but everytime has a magic of its own and Ranyenna’s birth was no different.
I felt no pain, expect during the critical times of labor. I didn’t even know I was in labor. And people continue to underestimate my labor. We walked into the hospital the night before, with our masks on like never before. We were 2 days early. I felt contractions. They weren’t painful or I seem to know how to tolerate pain. My husband asked whether we should go check it out. I did so because he suggested. I felt completely fine. I left my purple hospital bag in my car. These were the terrible beginning months of the pandemic. I feared even my bag wasn’t safe on hospital grounds. I was taken to a room where the nurses started to check whether I was in labor or a false alarm. I was in labor, 4 cm dilated, and I didn’t even know.
They took us to a plain-colored room around 1am or so. I was curious about birth in a pandemic. I expected it to be surreal and unlike my other 3 births. It wasn’t, except for all the mask people wore around us. My husband and I wore no mask in our room. They put all their tubes, started epidural, and waited for labor to progress. I went to sleep. By morning, they broke my water. And my labor started in full force by 8:30 am on that fateful Wednesday morning and by 9am he made his arrival known.
My Ranyenna cried, piercing tears that were so melodic to my ears. Then he came straight to my body. Flesh for flesh, love for love, I held him completely mesmerized that he was mine. Completely in awe that I passed through the journey for the 4th time with no problems. I am the last person to ever share news of being pregnant. My mom once said that because pregnant women go through a journey called pregnancy, it’s best to keep mum about the journey until you become a mom. It has always been my philosophy to keep mum. Until they arrive.
With baby number 4, his arrival illuminated my spirit and set my world ablaze. My soul has been on fire ever since. Because of him, being fearless is all I know. You would too if you watched yourself give birth to a living being. It’s an out of body experience that I can never fully wrap my head around. This gift called motherhood. One that I will forever cherish because I am never overlooked. I struggle with that a lot. Struggle with when I should speak or stay silent. When I should lead or follow. Even when I should stifle my drive so others and their drive are not stifled. It’s a struggle I’ll admit that means women like me get overlooked and underestimated all the time.
But with my children, with my greatest treasures, with my profound creation, with my cup that overflows, I am looked at, with eyes that say I love you and words that speak it all the time. Love that knows no despair. Love as gentle as an evening prayer. Love that never wears or tears. Love that is always there. Love that allows me to go anywhere. Love that I will follow anywhere. Love that leads me anywhere. With them, I found strength for this thing called life. Their love is all I need to get by. Your love Ranyenna is all I need. Happy birthday my gift I gift back to my God always.
I begin this week in awe of becoming a mother for the 4th time. My last baby arrived this week, last year.
The pandemic kept us all distracted. This was the 4th month of mask wearing, social distancing and lockdowns. It was also a time where the virus was so debilitating that I feared a wrong move would put myself and baby in danger.
There were no research on its effects on pregnant women. There were more deaths in black and brown men and women. I did not want to watch the news for we lacked leadership from those sworn to protect all men and women. This was also the time of protests by brave men and women.
A wide-awakening was ongoing and finding ways to refine ourselves was eminent. Enough was enough was all we could muster even as we protested our rights to exist, amidst ignorance for their bluster. Of course I stayed home, but my mind was on the streets.
We stayed home and prayed God’s plans for his children were of prosperity. Baby’s due date was eminent and so I focused on how to create another baby, another life, within an already pandemic and race-inflicted world.
Creating a new life, a new being, a new beginning, a new purpose within a world committed to a path leading to doomsday, seemed to be the last thing anyone should be undertaking.
But then again, I am not anyone.
By this time last year, it seemed that the most fruitful thing I could do to for a world so filled with darkness, was to shine a bit of light, with a dash of hope, and a sprinkle of love.
Imagining what his eyes would look like, his first smile, even his tears occupied my mind. It was a ‘He’. My third one for a world where I wished he was a butterfly. Love appears impossible in times of despair and frustration, but I choose it as a valuable experience. I choose it to fly away to the spaces and places full of brilliance, his brilliance, his beauty.
The beginning of love, a future full of hope, all of which seemed to be dissipating in the world at that time was a gift to the times.
So throughout this week, I want to keep these moments in mind. I want to relive this experience through words and pictures too. I want to contribute a share of myself to your world so you sense the light of my motherhood.
It’s a gift I continually gift myself. Like a restorative balm to soothe the realities of a world so full of harshness.
Motherhood shakes and informs every aspect of my being. It restores my soul too, in the way quiet streams of water do.
Like a Phoenix, I rise to every occasion, countering every interpretation necessary to showcase that my interior life, my nurturing life, even my academic life, as I define it, is so valued and revered and I wouldn’t trade this for anything else.
The beauty, the brilliance of being a black mother in light is my keep for the week. My doors are open. Enter if you may.