The day I heard the name, Onwubiko (Death Please), I wondered what measure of loss would motivate anyone to bargain with death, to plead, and appeal to it to do something different from its thieving nature. I wondered what would make anyone that helpless, what sort of grief those who gave the name encountered to inspire that.
As a child, death seemed so far-fetched. Like our “when will you marry games.” We would skip singing with glee on our faces this year and next year, knowing in our hearts that it was not any of these. Death was like sex- the sacred topic no one talks about.
The first time I felt death’s sting, death took a relative. We weren’t so close, but I loved him. I remember sitting in the Church during his funeral service and wishing he just stood up from the coffin and walked out of the Church, like, Lazarus from the bible, but he didn’t.
The second death strike took one of my teachers, Mr. Awodi. He was slim and jovial. As I write this, I remember that Mr. Awodi had his days. Some days he was as gay as a lark, and on others, he was lost and locked up in his world.
One time, after Valentine’s day, my friend and I started to tease him, asking him who his Val was and how he spent his day. He laughed and said he slept throughout the day. He said he took overdosed on some drugs and slept for days. We laughed.
We loved to tease him. He loved to tease us back. We would ask him when he would marry, and he would laugh and say when he found his type. We would ask who his spec was. He will start with an exaggerated “ah” and go ahead to explain that his spec must be curvy and beautiful with a good heart. Someone who understood humor, and we would “hmm” and “ah” only to come back and ask him again. It never got old.
One time, Mr. Awodi was away for a while but returned. When he returned, we circled him, professing how much we missed him and demanding answers. He told us that he was sick and went for surgery. He said the surgery was successful and that he was back now. We resumed our teasing, and he continued his.
Then, one day, while we were on Holiday, I received a call from my friend, Mr. Awodi was dead. Because he was young, his family wanted to bury him immediately. It made no sense.
When school resumed from the Holidays, his funeral banners were everywhere. I couldn’t stand it. I hoped to God that he would show up one day, say he defeated death, and laugh. I hoped he would place his hands on his tiny waist and ask us how he could have died without marrying his spec, but he didn’t. Weeks turned to months and months to years, and as the banners fell from the wall, the world picked up its pace, and the earth started to rotate again (not like it ever even stopped).
It was like after Mr. Awodi, we all saw death as what it was, not evitable, not sacred. We saw it as death, a thief, and then death seeing no need to disguise, stole, and stole, till we were all schooled by grief, and then it started to birth fear.
I feared death for the longest time but not anymore. Now, I know that in addition to being a thief, death is a lie. Its hold is temporal. I know that I will be reconciled with those I love one day because of what I believe.
I know many people say that they want death to be the end of everything, but I am not one of them. I have lost so much to hope for nothingness after.
I have lost so much love to let death have the last say. So, if I can hope for anything, I will hope that someday, I’ll be lost in the love I lost.