Growing up as a child, my favourite game was “house” (a game where children act like members of their family). I would force my siblings to play and I, of course, demanded to be the mother or wife. That is how much I love the idea of having and holding a family. I dreamt of keeping my marriage my whole life.
When my heartthrob, Biola and I decided in 1980 that we were ready to get married after a very short friendship of 6 months, I was very excited. Believe me, we had the best relationship anyone could have asked God for in the 40 years that we were together.
Unfortunately, loss, heartbreak and death are no respecter of persons. We watch dreams die, see people leave, lose their careers and even lose their loved ones but we never really know how it feels until we experience it ourselves. God is deeply acquainted with loss, He knows the pain of being let down and rejected. He knows what abandonment feels like. Jesus was left all alone by the people He loved most in the hardest and most painful hour of His life. It doesn’t matter who is lost or what is lost, loss is loss and it hurts deeply. I know this because I have felt it.
On the 20th of May, 2020, Biola and I tested positive with COVID-19 and we started our isolation at our Ikoyi home together, taking our medications and doing all we were advised to do by the doctor.
On the 26th of May, we both went to bed together but early in the morning of the 27th, I had to rush him to the First Cardiology Consultant Hospital, in Ikoyi. You cannot even imagine my confusion because this husband of mine had never fallen this ill in our 40 years of marriage. Anyways, he got admitted and it became the beginning of my journey without him around me.
Oh! I prayed like I had never done in my entire life. I must at this point commend my children and their friends who prayed tirelessly during this period. It was a period filled with fear and hope for me. I believed God was going to answer my prayers and bring my husband back home, but alas, on Thursday, 25th June, 2020, loss came knocking on my door and my world stopped when I was told my other half had left me to be with our Maker.
Gosh! I was dazed, scared, confused and wondered how we got to this stage. That afternoon, I asked God why He didn’t take me as well? I was in a state of shock. I was in my daughter’s house (where I stayed throughout the period my husband was at the hospital) when I received the information. I ran out of the house and headed straight to the hospital with a glimmer of hope for a miracle. When I saw my beloved husband on the bed, my heart was shattered. It dawned on me that my world had actually come to an end as my own best friend and the one who gave me strength was dead. I just could not take it in. How? Why? These were questions I asked every minute but none could answer me, no one could help me, it seemed like I was going crazy.
I went back home from the hospital and the place was filled with friends and family who had come to sympathize but none of them knew what was going on inside me. I was too confused to understand what was happening around me. On Friday, plans began on how to take him to Ibadan, Oyo State to be buried. I left for Ibadan on Saturday filled with shame because I felt that God had abandoned me despite my “supposed” relationship with Him.
My trauma began as I stepped into OUR HOME in Ibadan for the first time after the incident. I went into our bedroom, laid on his side of the bed and I cried out my heart, calling unto Biola and praying that all I was going through was just a dream. That night, sleep eluded me as I tossed and turned on the bed throughout the night. I opened all his side of our wardrobes and kept talking to myself – honestly, I felt I was going insane or believed I was to think he was dead.
On Sunday 28th, the children arrived with his body and he was laid to rest.
The grave was dug and my Biola was put in it. My heart stopped beating at that point and I wished everyone would just go away and let me die. It was a very traumatic day for me. I could not sleep that night, all I was picturing was how he was lowered into the grave and the reality that I would never see him again.
Next day, my children and I returned to Lagos and instead of going back to my daughter’s house, I went to our own home. You cannot imagine how I felt going back to that house without him. I went first into our room, laid on his side of the bed and I tried to recall the whole incident again. I was still asking “how did we get to the stage of you being dead?” This is one question I still haven’t received an answer for, and perhaps one that I will forever keep asking myself. Guests and sympathizers kept visiting and though he had been buried, I still wondered if really I was the one they were sympathizing with.
I lost the urge to live. I kept praying that God should just take me away to be with my soul-mate. Even the mandatory Islamic mourning period of 130 days (where I had to remain at home) made no difference to me. Where would I even go to without my husband?
There was no thrill in life again.
During this period, I had stopped praying to God. I told God I did not want His help anymore since He took the one person I cherished the most away. When pastors or my friends came to pray with me, I looked at them as time wasters. Sometimes, I was filled with hatred for them – why would they be talking about God who didn’t hear me when I prayed and cried unto Him to spare the life of Biola?
The loss of a loved one hurts, and learning to live with it is a long, difficult but necessary process. What I have learnt and can tell you for free is this; in our loss and grief, we can feel so alone and isolated, but God never leaves us when we hurt. He actually promised to be close to us and bandage us up in tough times.
Days ran into weeks and before I knew what was happening, it was 25th of July – a whole month without Biola, the love of my life. I think what was most painful for me is the fact that Biola and I never discussed death. All we ever talked about was how we were going to spend our retirement together. Never did the topic of death come up once. So, you can imagine my shock and disappointment when he suddenly left me.
Every day, I was dying slowly.
I was filled with so much sadness and pain that I went to bed every night praying not wake up in the morning. When I woke up next morning I asked myself, ‘you are up again?’ Then finally, the mandatory Islamic mourning period came to an end. My fear after the mourning period became how to start going out to face people, still carrying my load of shame and failure. By this time also the traffic of people in the house had reduced and my greatest trauma began when I started sleeping alone. Weeks became months and the woman who her husband complained that she sleeps too much couldn’t even sleep for 2 straight hours. What an irony.
My Biola was unique. Talking about him makes me happy and thinking about him gives my heart joy. To be honest, it is the only thing that has made me smile lately, besides my wonderful children, of course. After a while, I felt some sort of relief or so I thought until we had to celebrate the first ILEYA (an elaborate Islamic celebration) without him. ILEYA was normally a big celebration for us as a couple and family. I was hoping I’d wake up from the dream of him being dead and he would ask me for his new outfit for the celebration. It was not a dream. He was really gone and we had to celebrate without him. It did not feel the same. It would never feel the same without him. I cried bitterly on that day and went to his tomb asking him amidst tears why he left me?
Those who knew my husband know that he loved me very much and he was never afraid to express it even in public. Sometimes when I tried to shy away from his public display of affection, he would tell me “you are my wife and not a girlfriend.” I miss his cuddle and kisses. I miss our gists and fights. Biola was a hopeless romantic. He gave me everything. I miss him so much that I never thought I could survive without him. Yes! My survival till now is still a mystery to me, but, hey, one year has passed and I am still here. One year has passed but the pain in my heart still feels like it all happened yesterday.
You know, there’s really no timeline for how long grief and pain last. One really does not know how or when he or she will find closure. I will be honest with you, I still feel like I am in a rollercoaster. One minute I’m feeling strong and confident, next minute, I am overwhelmed with grief but I am grateful for the good and bad days.
December 16th of every year was a special day and it will forever remain so. It was a day I got to celebrate Biola and show him how much I appreciate and love him for all he does for me and the children. It was a day I went all out to buy him a gift. The one thing he loved was watches, so every birthday he got one. Whilst he was alive, he told me during one of our chats that he would like to celebrate his birthday yearly with a round table which he started on his 69th birthday. Last year, since he was no longer around to host the birthday round-table event, I decided to host it in his honour. So, I swung into action with so much excitement in preparation and everything went so smoothly.
A day to the event, I went to do some last minute checks at the venue. I did not know when I started to cry again. It was emotional for me because we had planned to celebrate his 71st birthday in that same venue. On the D-day, I woke up, went to his tomb and I started to cry. It was his day and he wasn’t even there to celebrate with us. I was devastated. I looked forward to this day and there I was, crying uncontrollably at his tomb. What was the point of throwing a celebration without him? I could not believe that I would not get to celebrate him the usual way. What else can you give to a man that has given you everything in life; love, comfort, selflessness, support, strength, courage? I can go on and on. Biola allowed me to be me. He made me the woman I am today and brought out the best in me, he gave me wings to fly. What then was the point, I thought to myself as I cried. One of our aides found me there and pleaded with me to leave the tomb to go get ready for the event.
The event turned out greatly. In fact, better than I expected. I was proud of myself. I knew Biola would be proud of me too. I cannot thank God enough for the strength He gave me this period. God stayed with me, even when I was angry with Him for taking Biola away and not answering my prayers to bring him back, God stayed with me. He worked on me and walked me through the valley of the shadow of death and in the end, led me right back into green pastures.
After the birthday celebration came Christmas. Another nudge in the reality that things will never be the same without him. My husband was a Muslim, while I am a Christian. He would say “my wife is a Christian, so Christmas must always be special.” Our different religions was never a problem for us as a couple and a family. We celebrated every religious holiday and programs together. For Christmas, my husband would go all out for me. Every Christmas, we travelled to Lagos to celebrate with our children. We did it for over 18 years. Biola did not see the travelling as stressful or trivial. He was a selfless father and husband. He handled everything from decorating the Christmas tree to ordering of cake and food. He would say “it’s your celebration, so no stress for you, Flory.” He would then shower me with gifts.
Christmas in 2020 was nothing like it had always been for us. The entire family planned a trip to Dubai for the holiday, hoping it would make me happy but it didn’t. It was a very sad Christmas for me. Every 31st of December, he would drop me at church for the New Year’s Eve service, go back home to say his prayers and pick me once I’m ready. On the 1st of January, he would send wishes, prayers, and admonitions for the New Year. He did this consistently for 40 years. This year, I didn’t get anything from him…no wishes, no prayers, no words of affection, no words of advice…nothing.
I love my children. They are the very essence of my life. Though the vacuum Biola left in my heart cannot be filled by them, they remain the greatest blessings God has given me.
I still have problems with my sleep pattern. One day I woke up and reminded myself that all my tears have not brought him back, so I have to live with the reality of my pain and misery. I began to identify the places and events that trigger my emotions and learnt how to manage them. This actually helped lessen the intensity of my feelings as I have come to the conclusion that my heart can never heal, it is a life-time process.
It’s being hard coping with people who actually mean well, but do not know how to act around me. Some of them avoid mentioning my husband’s name or even talking about him. I find it funny though because he is all I want to talk about all day. If only they knew that unlike them, I don’t want to pretend he never existed. I want to talk about him. I want to relive his memories with family and friends.
Some of them even say “you have to move on.” I won’t lie that it has been easy to ‘move on’, as a lot of people have advised or would expect. He IS the love of my life, moving on won’t be a walk in the park for me, but I am willing to take things one day at a time. When I visit our home in Ibadan, it has become a routine for me to sit by his tomb and take my early morning coffee. The fact that I know he is there with me makes me happy and I plan to relish these moments.
So, now, I wake up every morning, write a piece about him, watch videos of him and then talk a lot about him (to those who care to listen and can’t complain that I bore them). Doing these things have become therapy for me.
April 5th is another special day in my home. It is my birthday! My dear Biola would go all out to make me feel special every year. This year, I could not spend the day in our home so I travelled out to be alone and soak myself in my pain and sorrow. Two of my daughters flew in to surprise me where I was and cheer me up. It was a nice gesture that I appreciate but believe me it all meant nothing to me, I was just lost in my pain. The fact remains that a part of me is gone.
Socializing became a problem. I just couldn’t go out or visit friends that have been there for me over these trying months. Rather than say NO to going out all the time, I tried visiting my daughters which I had not also done in months. I attended about 3 events and made them know that I would want to leave early. I am not used to going to events without my husband.
Sometimes, the feeling of grief is so painful that I feel overwhelmed. I find it so hard to see meaning or purpose in my life, and want to find a way to make it stop. I feel I can’t cope with the intensity of my grief and pain anymore.
In May, I decided to go away to be alone and gather myself together as I felt I was not coping and could not continue wanting everyone around me to be sad because I am sad. I was very angry each time my children were celebrating either their birthday, their spouses’ or that of their children, I just didn’t get it. So off I went and honestly by the time I returned, I was a better person. Healing did not take place but a better way of learning to live alone and live with my pain was identified.
Usually when I return from trips, especially abroad, as soon as the plane touches ground, Biola would call me to say “thank God you have landed.” Next few minute, he would call again to ask “are you on the express?” By the time I get home, he would have instructed the people at home to prepare my favourite dish and have the table all set. I would then get another call asking “hope the food is fine”.
When I step into our room, he would have made the room look special and inscribe a message on the bed, “welcome home Flory, I missed you.” I got back to Nigeria from my May trip this year, there was no expectation. No one to pamper me like Biola did. I told myself “you are all alone, so get it”.
When we had arguments, which is typical of any couple, Biola was always the larger person whilst I remained the ‘baby’ and he was quick to tell me “Flory, we have no one else but ourselves, let’s talk it over.” He would tell me “angels don’t live on earth and I’m not one and would definitely make mistakes.” But he was my Angel and will always be my Angel.
Sometimes, I believe I am reading a story and just going through a bad chapter but I thank God for making me stand today. Each sunrise is a victory for me. The journey has been the most painful and traumatic that I could never have imagined that I’d still be here. My husband and I thought we could never live without each other. I am still so pained and sad, I cannot understand how I got to where I am even after one year. But I am still here.
For the sake of my children and family I have to be strong. As long as life and memories last, Abiola my best friend, ever smiling lover, husband, soulmate, gist partner and teacher will forever live in my heart.
Biola, till death do us part isn’t long enough. To say I miss you is an understatement as my heart is still so sore from losing you. I love you much more in death and forever will.
Despite everything, I surrender to God and acknowledge that He is SOVEREIGN.