• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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I miss my mum – it has been ten years


I was lying on the couch in my home trying to catch some sleep when my elder sister Architect Eucharia Alozie called. The jarring noise of my ring tone got me awake. I had picked without looking at the screen punching the answer call button as we often do when we are startled. I was in a daze but recognised my sister’s voice. I could not make out most of what she was saying but I remember that the sentences running into each other had a discerning re-occurrence. She repeatedly said Mama, it is Mama and then would go into words I could not understand. As my heart raced past me, I jumped up from the couch, grabbed a scarf and ran into the car.

Something was terribly wrong. I was on my way to the National hospital where my mum lay ill, where we all took turns to watch over her. I had been there the night before and only came home to freshen up. My sister was inconsolable and my mum lay very still on the hospital bed as the nurses were busy preparing her for where only those who have gone before us are kept. I could not find my voice. My voice chord shrank and my world shattered. It was April 4th ten years ago.

My mum, the elegant and very deeply respected Josephine Awawu Amodu, nurse, midwife, hospital matron, hospital administrator was my friend. She was the quintessential mum who would sacrifice the very clothes on her back for you. I could call her about anything, and I mean anything at all. I find it difficult to understand the new generation who are highly secretive and do not trust their parents. My mum was my senior special adviser and she could fix anything, from one of the most delicious meals in the world to a knotty problem. Mrs Amodu had a girlish laughter when she was deeply amused and would throw her head back and guffaw. She also had the most infectious laughter.

So, if she was amused by something, it’s most likely that there will be a chain reaction and everyone around her will fall about laughing. She also had an amazing sense of humour and made everything light with a bowl of pepper soup and her pernickety ways of fixing a gourmet meal when you were visiting. You became the centre of her world. Many of our talks were held in the kitchen. My mum loved to cook, and was often in the kitchen, a disease she has bequeathed to all her children. Food, community, a broth, a well sautéed chicken wing could always make a problem go away, at least temporarily, until you could all sit after a good meal and talk about it.

I miss my mum. She was my greatest fan but was also the greatest fan of all her children. She worried in eight different places as there were eight of us. And was a doting grandmother whose stories for grandchildren were epic

Today I remember my mum as if it were yesterday. Ten years is a long time but I speak about her every so often. And this was mostly unconscious until a friend of mine told me one day,” you are always talking about your mother, you really must capture all her nuggets in a book.” Hopefully one day.

My mum, wise and kind would often regale us with anecdotes, tales and stories that would position the lesson in an unforgettable way. There were always lessons in a story. She was patient and a good listener and would often give and give until she had nothing of her own left. An only child of her Mum in a polygamous home where there was little or no animosity. She was tall like her father, the much-admired merchant of note, Alhaji Lani Boyi and warm like her mother, Mariamo Lani Boyi. In her nurse’s uniform, white and well suited for her frame, my mum would remind us that everyone must love what they do. She was always giving medical advice and tending to the sick, friends, family and strangers alike till she died.

Mrs Amodu was also an incredible marriage counsellor, visiting homes where there was strife and calling for patience. She told me almost every day that marriage is about patience not pride and each partner in the relationship must bring their quota of patience to the table. “You see, you all come from different backgrounds,” she would say, “socialised differently and must both be very patient with one another. Also remember, patience is not a one-way street, not one person being patient and the other being brash. Patience must be an attribute of both of you for marriage to work. You must learn to forgive each other.” A bankable advice.

My parents were wonderful together. Even when they disagreed, you could never tell as they managed it well. She was the epitome of intertribal marriage, an early apostle and became a beacon for both her people and her husbands, bringing them together as only she could. It is to her credit that people cannot tell whether I am Ebira or Igala. I am the latter but I speak both languages fairly well and several other languages, a gift from my mother.

One day, my mum told me the story of one of my father’s friends whom she did not like. “He was always coming to take your father out. And he looked like a mean person.” My father was a gentleman and she did not want him around mean people. As they left one fine afternoon, she tucked some new naira notes in my father’s pocket in the full view of his friend and fetched a hair brush to make him look dapper. “Okay, you look nice now. Enjoy.” When my father’s friend got home, he took it out on his wife. “Always complaining, go and see Mrs Amodu, the way she treats her husband when he is going out. You, always nagging.” In the end, the friendship waned. She chased him away with too much love for my father, it was unbearable. It was pretty hilarious.

I have so many stories about my mother, that if God wills it, I might just be lucky to write that book that has called my name for ten years.

I miss my mum. She was my greatest fan but was also the greatest fan of all her children. She worried in eight different places as there were eight of us. And was a doting grandmother whose stories for grandchildren were epic. And when my Dad died and then my sister, she found it very difficult to cope.

Mrs Amodu made me the woman I am today. She was tough, you could not mess with her, but she was also kind and that formed us. I miss her stories, her wisdom, her advice, her strength of character and that meal that made all your problems go away. But we know where our loved ones go.

I celebrate my mum today, her legacy, her gifts and values of family, honesty, kindness, empathy, faith, integrity and charity. May her gentle soul continue to rest in peace, Amen.