I didn’t feel anything until we lowered her into the ground…Then all the emotions came. I didn’t process anything until I was by myself, not completely but alone with my own thoughts, among strangers. When my dad and I parted in Frankfurt, I to Cali, he to the east, I began to consider who it was that I lost. What is was that I felt as they sprinkled the dirt over the coffin, “ashes to ashes”, “dust to dust”.
I wished I had spent more time with her, that my Igbo was better, that I had been already married so that she could come, that my family had shared more stories, more memories when we had gathered together.
In the airport, tired, so tired from not sleeping in the last day and half of travel, caring for a baby and mom on the plane, and a slight headache building, I decided to pray, to meditate, seek to live in the fullness of time rather than clock time…and also prepare myself for the next 10 hour flight ahead!
By happenstance I chose this song “Evermore” done by Phil Wickham and part of his christmas album. The song on repeat, I considered the recording I found a few nights earlier after we celebrated her life and laid her to rest…
That night I listened through the various tape recorders I had brought with me, hoping to hear the familiar cadence of her voice. I knew I had recorded one maybe two stories, over a decade ago, I knew not on which recorder or whether they were still in the mini cassettes at home. At last I found it! Mama recounting her life before she married my grandfather, and how it was she came to Port Harcourt. It was a rare story, she was telling in English mostly, with some Igbo mixed in. She wanted me to understand her and kept checking to ensure I heard it aright. At some point someone came in, I remember not who, a woman, in Igbo she asked, how are you my daughter? Have you eaten? she continued in this wise for a little before getting back to the story. I laughed at her antics, running away to her village, caring for her sister’s children at a young age, going to marry a stranger, leaving her family. That night I fell asleep listening to her voice, and weeping, that aside from this tape I would hear it no more, not even quite finishing the hour + of dialogue I had recorded then.
So it was in the airport that this aside came to mind, this unremembered woman who had intruded on the story, who was welcomed to do so. The song was on repeat and as I closed my eyes and prayed I saw this image:
It was so light! So much sun, in the brightness and purity and beauty that had so delighted me as a child and tempted my gaze upward to the sun and likely why I wear glasses now. I felt that peace, that I most familiarly remember after school when I went to Dupont Park and would lay on the grass and look at the clouds and simply be. This glorious peace and vision was present as I journeyed to the heavens, the clouds parting to take me to a wedding. I thought I had the vantage of the guests as I could see the groom, but soon realized I was walking to him, and so must be the bride, part of the bride of Christ! As I approached I became aware of an angelic host and beasts around him and curiously a great multitude attending the approach of this one lady…It brought to mind immediately C.S. Lewis’s description of her :
All down one long aisle of the forest the under-sides of the leafy branches had begun to tremble with dancing light; and on earth I knew nothing so likely to produce this appearance as the reflected lights cast upward by moving water. A few moments later I realized my mistake. Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.
First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers-soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.
“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”
“They are her sons and daughters.” “She must have had a very large family, Sir.” “Every young man or boy that met her became her son-even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”
“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?” “No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more.
I continue down the aisle towards them, towards the bright groom and love of my life, and of hers; The tears now flowing freely I came face to face with Mama, my grandmother, welcoming me to the wedding, a smile of great joy on her face that said “welcome my daughter”.
The song, chosen for its peace but otherwise by happenstance was the score of a more beautiful wedding than I could ever hope! Mama got to attend, but not only attend, came to welcome me there.
We said goodbye here on earth but this vision assured me that she would ever rest in beauty in the light of heaven’s glow. I will see her again one day and we will both enjoy the light of the world, for evermore.