(In loving memory on Emmanuel Obinda. Your memories are the reason I find courage to talk about you in the most beautiful ways, because there can never be another person who will treat my heart as softly as you did.)
The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. - Harriet Beecher Stowe
(If you haven’t read about Manu before, click here)
It has been slightly more than a year since that dreaded phone call came through. Since I lay in my bed that mid-morning, wondering why the hell I am alive, if I can never see you again. Since I cried my heart out, begging the voices in my head to slow down. Since Chris’ voice at the other end of the phone call, shaking and breaking, left a permanent wound on my heart and soul.
How did he die? I asked.
He just collapsed, suddenly, and died. He replied.
It has been slightly more than a year since I begged the universe to be kind to me this one last time, even as I picked my phone to share my heartbreak with those closest to me. And since then, their words have stuck in my mind:
Are you okay? Are you going for the funeral? What can we do to make you feel better? This too, shall come to pass.
It has been slightly more than a year since I repeatedly knocked my head against my bedroom window, crying like a baby does when its mother leaves. Letting the mucus fall into my mouth. Ripping my hair and clothes apart, before collapsing on the bed, and wishing death would take me as well.
It has been slightly more than a year since my heart started skipping its beat every time Chris calls. Because I know our conversation can never end without mentioning your name. Because we were your little ones. We were the little people you had taken under your arms, determined to see us ride to the top. Because we were your little babies, and have remained lost and confused ever since you left.
It has been slightly more than a year since you left, and I still do not know how to talk about you without breaking down. I still do not know how to gift people without you crossing my mind. I still do not know what to say when someone asks why my journey to where I am has been with the fewest of bumps. Because how do I talk about it, when the one person who always held my hand is no longer here to listen to it?
So when Chris calls to say ‘Unajua Manu angekua hapa hatungekua tunahangaika hivi’, my heart breaks into pieces. My wounds start bleeding afresh. The knot in my chest tightens, and the blood in my veins rushes too quickly. Because on our bad days, which we have no control over, you are the one person who crosses our minds.
Take this. Use this; it will get you from A to B.
In case you run out of supplies, let me know.
I am here, in case you feel confused, or need any kind of help.
So when Chris called last week to remind me that it has been one year, my insides churned. Because grief has a wicked way of finding us at our lowest, and still knocking us down. Because grief has perfected the art of staying with us, as if it is the very reason we are alive. Because grief finds room in the very things we like, and builds a home. Because grief attaches itself to the little doses of niceness still left within us. Because grief has no timelines; it awaits an opportune moment to knock us down.
It has been slightly more than a year since I looked at your body for one last time; cold and seemingly at peace. A year since I watched your casket being lowered into the ground, and wishing you could hold me one more time. Wishing you could tap my back, and tell me that I shall manage. Wishing you could give me one more reassuring smile, even when darkness was threatening to rip me apart.
It has been slightly more than a year since you left, but I still hear the sound of your laughter whenever I am alone in the silent darkness. I still hear your voice when I cannot sleep at night, asking me to take it easy. I still feel your presence whenever I stumble and I am close to falling. Somehow, you are always there, preventing me from the hardness of this earth. From the atrocities lurking in the shadow. From the pains hidden in the darkness.
So when Chris asks, ‘Are you going to write something?’, I almost want to cry. Because it has been a year since I started struggling to get out of this dark hole; of moving on with life without you, as if it is normal. And what else slides me back into this dark hole, rather than thinking about you, and writing about you?
But if there is a thing I have learnt about death, and grief at large, is that it never goes away no matter how much hard you hide from it. No matter how hard you try to flash the thoughts and memories down the drain. No matter how hard you breathe, and beg your tears to stop flowing. It stays with you, the grief, like a bad cancer. It grows with you. It suffocates you. It blinds you, only remaining in the shadows whenever you sit with others, and laugh about life.
Anyway, wherever you are, my dearest; may you always feel and know that your spirit remains alive within us. That the memories of your life keep us going, even when we fail to find reasons for breathing. That it is your will to live that has remained our anchor, even when life’s waves threaten to rip us apart.
That in our darkest of moments, thoughts of you remind us of the beauty of friendships, and unconditional love. That through your eyes and arms, we were able to live our younger lives fully, and happily. And even though you are not here to watch the unfolding of our greatness, your name will always be etched in everything we do. That our victory speeches will always have your name. That our roads to greater heights will always be lined by your fruits.
And even if we wake up tomorrow and our eyes are swollen from all the crying we are doing right now; may we see you, always, within the blur.
Rest well, my dearest. Rest well.