It was the year 2003, December 1st was fast approaching, my daddy had promised to buy me Christmas outfit this year, and the hunt starts by December 1st. There was a two-year ban on buying new clothes for me because my Dad thought I was getting too ‘boogie’. I needed to learn how to be okay without certain ‘extras’. I was excited and looked forward to it. Somehow I had learnt something and now deserving of these ‘extras’. In his words, “I was ready”.
No! I was not ready for what actually hit when December 1st finally came. To think he said it for three years. This was what he meant? Then no, I was not ready. No one is ready for such. Okay, honestly, by that date, he took a trip to Portharcourt. We lived in Warri, he was sick, and needed to travel and be with my mum (there is a story there). So no biggie, it just meant, my new clothing purchase got postponed. He would return when he felt better, and we will go on this shopping spree.
Couple days in, on a nice beautiful breezy afternoon, I lay on the floor directly under the ceiling fan, with the house door wide open. The natural air, coupled with air from the fan, worked synergistically to offer a soothing feel to my troubled teenage soul. Lost in the thoughts of the dreams (no visions) I have been having for a while, I was jolted back to reality by a familiar voice.
My paternal uncle had come to visit. “Didn’t he know my Dad was out of town?” This was my thought, as I heard him say hi to the neighbours. His very intimidating voice filled the house in no time as he stepped in and said “pack up your things we are going to see your Dad”. Scared, was an understatement for how my brother and I felt in that moment.
This story is not about what happened before that day, during or right after, neither is it really about what happened December 1st. This story is about what happened on a day in December (maybe three weeks after), which frankly, I cannot remember the precise date. It is also about something that happened more recently.
Here is what I remember though, my eyes were filled with tears. I stood there, wondering why my dad was in that casket that was going down. I could feel all the eyes that were on me, and the murmurs of pity towards my brothers and I.
I wanted to tell him so many things. To tell him that I was sorry for being so sassy. That I was sorry for being a very demanding teenager. If I could just have him wake up, I wanted to let him know that I was not mad at him anymore. I would never grumble to cook us another meal, or talk back at him. I would do anything to call him ‘DADDY’ for once in my life. Most of all, I wanted to tell him that no, I was not ready. I wasn’t ready!
No child is ever ready to do life without the covering of their parents. As I cried silently, with the tears rolling uncontrollably, I made a commitment- never again would I let anything hit me so hard. And that day, a part of me died. I was told I had to be strong, me tears were seen as weakness, so I also swore never to cry. For the longest time, almost nothing could bring me to tears,
Like I said, I don’t even remember this precise date, but I was not ready, not just for my father to die, but for the roller-coaster of emotions that swept me from that point on. All those emotions stayed bottled up, until it was almost too late for me, but GOD!
If you have not read about my write-up on “why you should know about the mental health spectrum”, seriously, pause and read it right now!
It was until recently, I realized why I spent so many years, on the “ill and injured” ends of the spectrum, and that was simply because I was uneducated, so was my family. And like them, a lot of us think that when traumatic experiences happen, that somehow, with time, it would all just go away, or that ‘good grieving’ (if there is anything of such) meant, not showing your pain.
We live in this assumption that if the traumatic experience affects us in any way, then we must be weak. This is wrong thinking, because truth be told, like me, YOU were not ready either to be hit by whatever your own experience was/is. And like me, time won’t just make it go away.
But there comes a point, eventually, when you HAVE TO BE READY. Ready to be healed, and that starts with taking inventory to know where you are. It also comes with realizing that grief sometimes is part of the living’s experiences, not something we carelessly and passively leave to time and chance, in hopes of it just going away.
Lately, life threw another curveball, not just at me, but the whole world- with the death of Chadwick Boseman. I cried, it hurt. Don’t ask me why, I never met him, but he meant something to me. At this point, I had now learnt that feeling our pain does not mean weak, it means I am human, capable of love, not immune to loss.
While you may not have been ready for the negative experiences that hit you, if you have ever connected with me, read this thus far, or you have recently shared your experience with a trusted person, then I say to you in my father’s voice- YOU ARE READY!
The sheer joy I felt when I finally admitted to being ready for healing. The times I have retold my experiences to myself, my husband, pastor or others, it helped transition me from one one end of the mental health spectrum to the other. I could finally say “Yes, Daddy, I am ready!” Are you?
It is a New Month, you better be Ready to let a new you ARISE. You deserve to be happy, to be filled with joy, to live and breathe again. We owe it to those who have gone before us, I would love to leave you with this song- “Tell your heart to beat again”.
Welcome to September, welcome to a new YOU.