To know love, bell hooks, once suggested that we must first surrender to it. Discover it. Choose it. Practice it. Respect it. Voice it. Listen to it. Nurture it. Admit to ourselves that we want to know love, be love, and dwell in it. I have spent the past week doing as bell hooks noted and loving every single moment I discovered love in the city of love. I have walked steps I once walked in love over 10 years ago. Touched faces and places long forgotten, all to rediscover for myself and my love, why our love matters. It’s the eve of our birth. I am still full and choosing and nurturing and listening to love with my Belle.
They call us Iwelunmor.
The ones for whom anger does not reach our soul. Even if they stir up trouble.
The ones for whom anger does not invade our being. Even if they hinder our dreaming.
The ones for whom anger does not dwell in our mind. Even if it lasts for a moment.
So we will live season after season, not with their trouble or their anger near our soul.
We will dream, night after night, not with their anger invading our being.
We will love, time after time, not with their anger dwelling in our mind.
But as Iwelunmor. The ones who lived despite their trouble. The ones who dreamed. The ones who loved. Knowing that they could never reach us.
I have been reflecting on my maiden name lately. Mainly because someone asked me what it meant and I told them. They said wow, I should write about that someday. I guess here is the day. I get a kick out of explaining it to. It’s from Delta State region of Nigeria by way of a village where my ancestors hailed called Onicha Ugbo. By the way, I come from a great line of farmers as that’s what my village is know for mostly. But the name, Iwelunmor, which you can pronounce as Eway-lun-morhor, means ‘anger does not reach my soul.’ Imagine that. Just thought to keep this here as I continue to shape this season I find myself in, remembering the lessons too of falling leaves, such letting go (of things like anger), is love. And this love is God.
She opened her eyes yesterday and started to cry. Being so close to death will make you sob for all you are leaving behind. Like your mother. A mother’s love is beyond these words I use to write. Beyond this air we even breathe. A mother’s love is life. To be so close to death, and see your mother, really hurts. She cried because she saw the one who first loved her. She cried because it wasn’t suppose to be this way. No daughter should go before her mother. No child should leave before the one who first birthed them. No one should even be this close, while the one who named you, formed you, nurtured you, and loved every single fiber of your being remains. It really hurts to be here. And so she cried all morning, not for herself, but for her mother. The woman who first loved her.
To listen to her retell this story, to hear her mother remember this encounter, to even listen to the calmness of her voice as she told the one she first formed to stop crying, didn’t only break my heart, but made it explode. I feel into a deep sleep right after our conversation, hoping for this dream of a lifetime to slowly dissipate, and for things to slowly return back to the delicate balance we call life. By the time I woke up, it wasn’t a dream. This is our reality, and every single moment we breathe together is truly daring. I am learning about the necessary power of love. This four letter words that demands we say it to those we reserve it for, every single moment we have air to breathe. It’s that precious, those four letters that spell love. I am learning about what it truly means with every single day we have on earth. It isn’t as the movies portrays it. There are no happy endings, no riding away to the setting suns, or twirling around in grassy fields. Love is shockingly frightening when you come so close to death. To do it justice, to even reserve it to words, defies what it truly symbolizes.
I am learning, that it involves feeling so helpless even though you have tried everything for the one whose life has tainted the air you breathe. I have been here before, watching once as my grandmother slept, checking every single breathe, for it meant, our love remained. To be here again, to breathe your air of love, to listen as tears flow from your eyes, as words fail to come out, moves me once more beyond words. Love is a being, a radical being that shows you how to find your way back home to the one who formed you when all else seems to fail. To be so lost in it these days, to listen as a mother and a daughter exchange it as best as they could, is the purest form of humanity which to me personifies why a mother’s love, will forever be supreme.
Nneka is what we call this in Igbo, what we reserve for those we love, those we named and formed, in all their humanity, in sickness or in health. To witness the power of a mother’s love, it’s being, keeps me rising up for those I formed and named in love. For them, I urge you to keep love completely. It’s bigger than what people use to try to dominate you. The love you reserve for those you love should remain utterly untouched by them. A mother’s love is how I choose to escape from their darkness to light these days, entirely unscathed by their ways. Keep nurturing it, even in these vile moments, even when you come close to death. For a mother’s love will always remain supreme. Always!
I see life as a journey. For some, that journey may take up to 86 years. For others, few months. Last year, my little nephew completed his journey in 10 years. He returned back to the one who first called him, first framed him, first loved him. We all have to return back to him. But the exit of a 10 year old, stings.
Here was a boy, his mother described as her king. An oasis of love, so divine, so beyond the beauty of flowers that bloomed in spring. Their love too was never supposed to end. Always supposed to rise up on eagle’s wing. Yet, perfect submission was all our soul could sing.
This weekend too is bittersweet for all of us living. Life remains a journey that will come to an end. Yet, many still take life for granted, pretending that there is no dead-end. Expending our time and energy for things that even our life can’t seem to comprehend. And when our journey comes to an end, very few remain to commend all we left behind, defend even the time we spent, sowing love that was supposed to transcend time.
I called his mom yesterday. Told her to be strong. That their love is still divine. That his journey, still sublime, even though the end stings, he is still the perfect definition of life lived by God’s design.
She called him her angel. God’s perfect being. Sitting next to the one who first called him. I asked her to send up a prayer to him for me. Remind God of all of us still here, all of us still contending with time, as we comprehend this loss our heart still cannot get over, despite time.
Then she took me on a journey, an oasis of her love for her king. Though, he is gone, she said, something great can still come out of this moment. She imagined it would be an oasis. His very own oasis of light. Where all the memories they had together transcends time. One where all things supposed to end, never truly ends. Like his smile, the warm glow in his eyes when he shines his bright smile. His words, those he reserved for those he loved, because they deserved all his words. Every thing about him was truly perfect and by God’s design.
When love is defended in this way, it never really ends. It begins again, always like a circle that never ends. So she is going to sow an oasis of love. She is going to raise awareness of his love. No other child should end their journey by 10. But if they do, she wants them and their families to remember not how but when, not why too, but when they choose love over and over again. A never-ending oasis, this outpouring of love that truly never ends.
Listening to her, made me realize how connected we all are to love and by extension light. Even in our deepest darkness, in moments that are difficult to comprehend, the pull and push for light transcends time. Like an oasis, the movement towards light never ends. We become light the more we seek it out for ourselves. Our light, does not exist in isolation. Rather they interact and will penetrate moments of darkness in ways that allow us to survive and thrive even as we bend to things our soul can’t fully comprehend.
When we move towards this oasis of light, we are no longer held captive by the firm grip of darkness. We move towards light even when darkness surrounds our journey. Our existence can only manifest great things if we let light flow like gentle waters along rocky streams.
The key is to keep moving, whether along rocky paths or in dark tunnels. Many say it’s at the end of the tunnel. I say it’s right where you are, whether at the beginning, the middle or the end of the tunnel. Light is all around you, so long as you choose to move. A mother’s love, resembles this oasis of light. I saw a glimpse of it as I listened to it being manifested in the words my sister spoke so eloquently with all her heart, all her might.
It’s an oasis after-all. Light invades our being despite our resistance, interrupts all the noise too, often with no assistance, and structures our lives when we choose it as the pinnacle of a supreme persistence for darkness that threatened our very existence.
No other being perceives it in this way. Darkness may come to disrupt it. Death too, in its own final way. But seeking light, doing our best to reach out to it, to clutch it firmly in our hands, is freeing, in it’s own unique way.
We are bound to be in darkness. Our journey through life began in a womb filled with darkness. Yet we thrived despite being surrounded by an air full of darkness. We did so, because of this light inherent in places filled with darkness. So that, even if we watch our children depart before we do, even if we pass through the deepest darkness, their gift back to us, reminiscent of the moment they first came to us, is an oasis of light
This is a mother’s love truly undefined, one my sister has found for herself. One that I hope to live up to, as I continue my journey through life. Keep this oasis of light for all mothers, especially those who bear the unthinkable, unimaginable, unbearable weight of loss. There is still light for them and all of us, even in these moments of loss. Rest In Peace, a perfect oasis of God’s light Kaysen.
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.
He cannot find his tape. We awakened to tears. He wants to fix something. A book in pieces, he says, between tears. But he cannot find his tape. So he cries. He starts his morning some days like this, crying. Today it’s for a tape. Other days a piece of crayon or a book, even a favorite toy. Little obsessions like this can lead to a day full of meltdowns. All his mind knows is that something is missing. Like a train out of its tracks. Everything stops. No amount of comforting even pleading can reset his mind back to its track until that thing is found. We begin today with a tape. It’s only 6am. But such is the life of a kid on the spectrum.
That we have been helping him get by, past the tapes, past the obsessions, past his tears, past his inability to stop them, is no small task too. We acknowledge. He cries. We give hugs to quiet the noise, he cries some more. We are stern, unyielding. Still he cries. His brain and mind is in control. So we look for the thing preoccupying his mind. He cries further. The tears are strong, unmanageable at times. Some may see cries for attention. Three people are looking for the tape. He knows we care. He sees it in our eyes. He mutters in between the tears, with his hands on his head, a desire to stop the tears, to quiet the inner noise, his brain seems to relish. To know him, his frustrations, his obsessions, his tears, even his inability to stop them, is to know love..
Ritamae Hyde, a Belizean poet wrote a poem about a Mother’s love. In it she shared how a mother’s love cannot be confined to beautiful words or abstract expressions. But her love is and remains one of the purest form of human expressions to be felt on this earth. This love she writes about so eloquently portrays what lies silent, under, between, hidden, beneath, and invisible for mothers, and other mothers who mother a child on the spectrum. With torn and crying hearts, we look for tapes. Amidst a desire to quell his inner noise, our insecurities, we turn the room upside down. We hold, we hug, we plead, we pray, still the brain wins. We hide our tears, our crying hearts wishes to spill. Only thing left then, since we have been here before, in times of labor, in time of unbearable pain, is the purest form of expression, one we felt in the beginning, one we still feel even in this moment, is love.
Through the tears, we love. Through the missing tapes or crayons or books, we love. Through the inability to stop, we love. That is the purest form of expression Ritamae writes about, one we want to share that all children on the spectrum need. Whether in the beginning or the end of a meltdown, for a missing tape or anything else, give love as only you can. Keep this mother’s love for children on the spectrum.