Grief

When I was growing up, my family took many trips to my mother’s village home. We took these trips to go and lay some very close people to rest. My maternal family has lost so many people. If I were to make a list, we would have over 20 people on it, each death hitting harder than the last. We would cry, lay to rest and try to get on.

I never gave grief much thought till I lost a friend and then a cousin in the span of 1 month. Grief is hard. Grief is depressing. Grief is many things. One thing I know for sure is; grief is felt and expressed differently.

While I was trying to recover from the numbness of losing my friend, death hit my maternal family again. We lost our spice (story for another day). I watched everyone closely and realised everyone was grieving differently. Some of us spoke about her often with tears in our eyes, some of us remained mute and held back tears, some cried non stop, some refused to say her name or listen to anyone say her name… Everyone was hurting differently. One year after her death, everyone is still grieving… Most of us still don’t want to say her name, some of us think of her with a smile, some of us still cry… Grief never ends. It was on that day of her remembrance I wrote about the sad truth/fact I have come to accept, life goes on.

Things I have learnt in my grieving period:

  • Grief is normal.
  • We can’t dictate how a person should grieve.
  • There is no way around grief. You have to go through it to get out of it.
  • Grief will last as long as it wants to, you can’t force it to stop.
  • It is not predictable. It comes and it goes. Hits you at unexpected moments.
  • There is No shame in grieving.

I used to cry while listening to Drowning by Chris Young but now I even smile sometimes… Grief gets easier, it just rarely ends.

Sad truth

Life goes on

Sometime last year I was scrolling through the pages on the blue app and I found one of Torkwase’s questions, it read; “what is the ‘hardest’ truth/fact you have learnt?” I started to type my reply and stopped right in the middle of it. I couldn’t write it. I was half pissed and half ashamed. I didn’t write anything. Today, 13 months later, I remembered that question and I have the same reply.

I lost a very dear friend on the 4th of December 2020, on that same day my sisters came into town. They were sad for me, they knew what I was going through. The thing is, when I woke up that morning, I had a truck load of responsibilities I had to see through. It was the reason my siblings were in town. I never knew that before the day would get going I would get the news about my friend’s passing. The next day was the wedding of one of my cousins. I was responsible for almost all of the planning.

I didn’t explain what I meant by “my sisters came into town”. My sisters and I have this thing. We can talk, laugh and go crazy for hours, especially when we haven’t seen each other in a while. I had been looking forward to seeing them for weeks…but when they got here, I was numb. I spent the entire 4th of December in a haze, running errands and trying to be normal. I didn’t sleep. Not even a wink. By day break on the 5th, I decided not to put a damper on the wedding and its activities so I decided to put up a facade and be merry with everyone.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. I ended up having a lot of fun. My staff and students cooked and served the food at the wedding and it was lovely. I had another wedding cake to present at the other side of town, I tried to do it but it couldn’t work out, Sandra ended up doing that for me and she did great. The whole family had a great day. We took lots of photos and caught up with all the family members we hadn’t seen in a while. After the wedding, we sat at my dad’s house and talked and shared drinks till almost midnight.

That was when it hit me… I lost my friend, it hurt. It really hurt but I went ahead and did the things I had to do and continued with my life. That truth shocked me, it upset me and there was nothing I could do about it, it was the sad truth… Life goes on.

So Torkwase, that’s my sad, ‘hardest’ truth/fact… Life goes on.

What is your own hard truth/fact?

Rest

Rest can be productive

I belong to a closed motivational group of eight members; today, being the first day of the year, I asked if we had any goals I could key into. One of us said she planned to get pregnant, one said she planned to make more money and lose weight and another said she wanted to rest this year. Her exact words were; “I have stressed myself so much in the last 3 years, I just want to rest now”. I know a number of people who may say that isn’t productive. They could come up with reasons why rest can slow you down. I can take a wild guess and say that even she who plans to rest this year may have thought it a bad idea a couple of years ago. At that time, she may have need the stress to get her going, today she needs to rest to get her going. Life changes and we need to take decisions as it does.

Take some time to rest

Rest is when you cease to work or move in order to relax or sleep or recover your strength. So I believe the period of time needed for rest depends on how long it takes for you to recover your strength. Physical strength takes a shorter time to muster but when it comes to mental health, I believe one can and should take as long as they need.

Only this evening I was telling my husband how yesterday I was too tired to continue a daily online fitness class I had enrolled in online. After I had spent almost one hour talking myself into logging in, I finally did. I clicked on ‘Day 5’ and the words “REST DAY, Your body and muscles need to get some rest” popped on the screen. My jaw dropped in shock. Apparently, they have studied the program and they know that the average human would need to rest by day 5. I rested. Today, day 6, I faced it without any tiredness or reluctance.

It’s the first day of January in the year 2022. If you worked (physical or mental) hard in the previous year(s) and feel tired and you feel the need to take a rest, please do. The rest may be productive.

I plan to do a follow up on this about the importance of rest but in the meantime I will conclude with the words of Alan Cohen “there is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and over look neither”.

Enjoy life

Life is great. Even at the end of a bad day, we look forward to the next day because we know and hope deep down that the next day will be better. Everyone likes to quote “when there is life, there is hope” and I remains a fact. I feel that life can be better, if in addition to hoping that the next day be better, we add intentionality into making it better. In many situations this may not be easy but it is worth a try.

I’ll like to focus on intentionality in relationships. Relationships with our mothers, fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, cousins and nibblings, mothers and fathers inlaw, sisters and brothers inlaw, friends, colleagues etc. One thing that helps us enjoy life and have great days for sure is the people around us and people who love us and also the people we love. No one is an island. That’s another fact… That is why I believe that one major thing we need to be intentional about is our relationships.

I’m not a clingy adult. Growing up in a large extended family and being the smallest, I used to be a clingy child, squeezing into people to sit and holding on to my older ones. I don’t know what happened along the way, I can only now describe myself as a “friendly” loner. I dare say, I grew up to realise that I was the last born at home only and not last born of the world. As an adult I have found myself building friendships and relationships but I never get clingy. I think I’m okay with that. However, I try to make sure that I maintain peace and love within these friendships and relationships. I may go long periods of time without reaching out to some, I may talk to some daily and some maybe weekly… But in my heart I make sure there aren’t any hanging ill feelings. I intentionally make sure of that.

I believe that, if for any reason someone is upset with me I should make atleast one effort to make things right. The hard part is the battle against pride, very very hard. I have seen my good intentions win the battle 90% of the time so I’m going to give myself a pat on the back.

The uncertainty of the where and when of the afterlife should be our driving force to do right by ourselves and others. I have chosen to continue to be intentional in my relationships and not only hope they get better. I hope we all do the same because life if great, life is meant to be enjoyed and to be enjoyed with loved ones.

All I want for Christmas

All over the world, Christmas is usually celebrated as a period of gift giving and receiving and a time for merry making. The 25th day of December is the generally accepted date. Christmas day is celebrated by Christians to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. Even people who do not believe in Jesus have continued to celebrate it as a cultural holiday. Children grow up, knowing that they will definitely get gifts at Christmas time.

A few days ago, my son SonTer did something that got me playing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is you’. I played it so much, I started to ask myself if it had become my favourite Christmas song. My favourite Christmas song has and I think will always be ‘O Holy Night’. It gets me everytime, no matter how many renditions of the song I hear.

… Back to SonTer, he had been having a hard time falling asleep, as usual… He’s got a wandering mind too, like his mum. I had sent him to bed but about 30 minutes later he knocked on my bedroom door and asked if he could write his Christmas list. I convinced him to go back and try to fall asleep and promised him we would write the list together in the morning.

Bright and early the next day, SonTer presented his list.

  • Yoyo
  • Christmas hat
  • A Christmas mug
  • A Christmas family photo

“This is what I want for Christmas” was what he said. I looked at his list and my heart melted. I am not sure what I expected but it definitely wasn’t what he was asking for. That was when the first line of the song ( I don’t want a lot for Christmas) came to mind and I’ve been playing it since then.

All he wants for Christmas

When he gave the list to his dad, I could see he was as surprised as I was. We wasted no time. It’s 5 days to Christmas and we are ready. SonTer’s list has been handled appropriately and we can’t wait to give him all he wants for Christmas.

After all, he is all I want for Christmas.

A Christmas family photo

I think of you (Part 1)

A couple of days ago, I got up a little earlier than I had planned to, so I decided to snooze a little. My husband was awake of course… He doesn’t sleep much, so i asked him what the time was and if he could wake me up after 15 minutes. He told me it was 6:47am. I couldn’t sleep anymore.

If ever I catch the time at 6:47, morning or evening, I think of my cousin Imoter… And so on that day, that morning, I didn’t fall asleep anymore, my mind went to my cousin and then moved on to several other connected things, just because it was 6:47am.

I’ve always marveled at how the mind works, how you can just think of a person immediately you hear, see or do a thing that your brain has linked to that person. I also marvel at how you can start thinking what you are going to have for breakfast and less than a minute later, you find out you have wandered to just about anything at all. That’s what happened that morning. I started with Imoter and my mind wandered so far I lost any desire to sleep at all. This happens a lot, I always envy people who can just fall asleep with no problem at all.

Imoter went to school at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria at the same time with my eldest sister. The school did not permit male students visiting female students in their rooms, so whenever he or any male wanted to see a female student, they would just shout out the room number. My sister Dough was at some point in block 6, room 47. So, the number 647 had to be called out loud enough to be heard. When they came back home for the holidays, Dough told us all how everyone in her hostel always knew when it was Imoter out there and then she mimicked his slow and sad “647” and that was that.

It’s been over 20 years and there isn’t a time when I don’t think of Imoter when I see a number 647 or I catch the time at 6:47. I don’t see him very often, sometines maybe once a year. I rarely call him, but I can say one thing is certain bro, I think of you… Very often.

A good old thing

Dough’s blanket and cardigan

When I was 19 years old (20 years ago) I bought 2 pieces of clothing. One was a dress that can be worn by a 2 to 3 month old baby girl, the other was a unisex pinafore jumpsuit for a 6 to 10 month old baby. I bought it for myself, for when I would have my own children. I didn’t have any children till I turned 31. I have a son, he used the pinafore jumpsuit when he was old enough to. It gave me joy to see my wish come true. I still have the dress.

The interesting part of the story is how those two pieces of clothing have become something I will always think about with a smile. In less than a year after I bought them, my eldest sister had a baby girl and I loaned the dress to her. I could have given it to her completely but I didn’t have the heart to let the dress go, besides, Suur (her daughter) would definitely outgrow it and she wouldn’t have use for it anymore… And so as soon as it didn’t fit anymore, I took it back and kept it safely. Subsequently, my other sisters had 2 children each. The girls used the dress and the boys used the pinafore jumpsuit. Recently I had a reason to remove the pinafore jumpsuit from storage, it is currently being used by an adorable little boy… He is very much like a son to me.

The pinafore jumpsuit and it’s current owner 😁❤️

I’ve found that I love to keep some stuff to remember loved ones by. One example is a cardigan and blanket my sister Dough brought back from university in 1998. At this point I don’t know if she gave it to me or if she just left or forgot them at home when she got married but that blanket and cardigan make me feel close to her and so I kept it. I can only imagine her shock when she realises they still exist.

I love to de-clutter a lot, but there are a few items I have a hard time throwing out, for example, I kept my husband’s cummerbund from our wedding for my son, I don’t know what use it will be when he is old enough to use it… But I would like him to have it.

Overtime I have come realise that the older I get, the more I cherish old things that come with good stories. I sure still love new stuff but the joy of having antiques, especially the ones I have had a part in creating makes me get a feeling I cant even describe.

From the Heart

Thank you Stephanie…

A few days ago, a cousin of mine dropped by the bakery to find out about my Christmas gift offers for this year. He particularly wanted to know what he could get for different amounts. He had a list of 3 groups, each group having a certain amount budgeted per head. This got me thinking. We all really love different people in different measures, sometimes without even knowing it. Most of the time, it is this measure of love that dictates the amount of money, time and energy we put into gifting to our loved ones.

I got a gift a couple of weeks ago, I was so deeply moved by this gift. It was a mug. Yes, a mug. One would wonder why a mug could mean so much to anyone. Well, first things first, any tea lover would always appreciate a mug…but that isn’t the reason why this mug melted my heart. It wasn’t even my birthday or any special event. I just got a message from Stephanie asking me if I could send someone over to pick up something for me. My first response was shame.

Stephanie is a customer, turned friend, turned sister. We have a special bond I can’t define. I can’t even put a finger on when she became special, but she simply is… special. She recently fell seriously ill. I never went over to see her, we just kept in touch on phone. That’s why my first response was shame. I asked myself why she still cared even after I had not been there for her like I should have. Anyway that’s a story for another day.

Stehnanie is a CAKE LOVER. We would sometimes quarrel about how much cake she was eating and whenever I decided to cut her off cake for a while, she would make up stories and try to convince me to sell cake to her. It was a back and forth thing, almost every week. That is why when the mug Stephanie sent to me arrived, I was deeply moved.

It read “I ❤️ You more than CAKE”

My son’s jaw dropped when I told him who sent it. “Mummy, that means she loves you very well o” was what he said… He knows just how much she loves cake too.

Today, I made some tea in my mug and decided to share this story of love and gifting. Show love to someone this Season, let it be from the heart. I will do same.

Mummy… Hug

I’m a big fan of small crowds. Very funny right? Yes, small crowds. What’s a small crowd by my standards? I come from a family of 7, mum, dad and 4 siblings. However, it was never just 7 of us living together. We always had extended family and sometimes friends and even paid help living in the same house with us. I can confidently say we were never less than 15 people under the roof of our small 3 bedroom flat. It never felt crowded at all. Never. We enjoyed different activities together, we ate together, we worked together. My mom was big on neatness and cleanliness so the ‘work together’ part was very important. Gradually everyone grew up and we’ve all gone our separate ways but we are still closely knit together. My siblings and I keep in touch and talk almost everyday, and it’s the same for the others… Terhemen, Moses, Esther, Angor, Terhemba, Saalu, Imoter, Shimayam and so many more. Every now and again I find myself craving small gatherings like the environment I grew up in. I find joy in small friendly crowds of 10 or so.

In this big love we shared and still share,We didn’t hug. No, we didn’t. My family wasn’t (and still isn’t) a hugging family. This didn’t mean we didn’t love each other, I guess we just expressed our love in other ways, hugging wasn’t just one of the ways. We were more into loud hailings and high fives… Yeah. I never gave it a thought or see anything wrong with it till I grew up and started mixing up with other humans. I’ve learned that people have different ways of expressing love and affection. I also think it’s a learned behaviour. You are either born that way or you learn it from people around you.

My 8 year old is a complete hugger. He can just walk up to me and hug or when I’m busy and can’t see him coming for a hug, he just alerts me by saying “mummy, hug”. I think he has made me more open to others. Lately I’ve found myself hugging family and friends before thinking about it…that’s new. I think I like it. I feel less rigid.

And or with?

I love tea. Especially black tea. I love to take it with some lemon and honey. Over the past couple of months I’ve begun to drag my husband Terver into my morning tea routine. He’s not a tea person. Last week I placed his breakfast on the table and he noticed the tea was different. He asked why it was whitish, I told him it was Lipton with milk and a little suger… I love that combination. “Sugar?” he asked. “Why didn’t you use honey?” I explained how I thought honey didnt go well with milk in black tea.

I actually have never tried black tea with mlik and honey. So I honestly don’t know if it doesn’t go well together. For me, it’s just one of those things that you feel do not go together. Just the other day Terver came over to my bake shop and he had with him some corn, coconut and mzembe (local pear). He offered and I declined. I told him I didnt think it would go well together. He persisted and I tried. The corn and pear is a very common combination but I had never tried it. I was right. I didn’t like it. The coconut and pear however was awesome. Different strokes for different folks I guess. I have heard people say a little honey in warm milk has calming effects, helps with insomnia and so on. I just don’t know if I can combine them. I have never been so much of a milk person and I also learned to like honey so I think i see where the problem could be coming from.

Anyway, his response to my opinion on Lipton with milk and honey was quite funny. He said “Babe, even the Bible talks about milk and honey together and you think milk won’t go well with honey?”. Guess what my argument was, “The Bible said ‘milk and honey’ , it didn’t say ‘milk with honey'”. It’s been days now, but I really can’t get it off my mind, were the people drinking milk and honey or were they taking milk with honey?… I guess I will never know.