AUTHOR: OGECHI ALABI
Iyke asked Nkem if the body could be deposited in the morgue. She told him to do all that needed to be done. He went to get all the documents ready. It took some time. Uloma sat with Nkem trying to console her. Nkem was not responding to her because there was no bond between them. When her friends arrived, they wanted to take Nkem away but Iyke insisted that she should wait until she signed off and then she could go.
It was a sad period. The pain was unbearable for Nkem. She couldn’t talk to anyone. Her friends stayed with her until the burial. It was one of the causes of the dispute. Demian’s family said they needed two weeks to bury him. They wanted to bury him in the village. Nkem refused and told them Demian wanted to be buried in America within a week. There were arguments which were not necessary. Demian’s father insisted that his Opara cannot be buried outside his homestead.
“That would mean his son can’t visit his grave anytime he wants to. He has to travel to the village to see his father’s gave. If that is what you want, I am fine with it. Whatever you say.” Nkem said to them.
Iyke added, “We never considered that he has a ten-year-old son who was very close with him and looked up to him.”
“The son the mother will whisk away from us as soon as Demian is in the ground. If we ever get to see him we will thank God.” Demian’s mother added.
Ada replied aggressively, “That won’t happen. We will go to court on the matter. She is an unfit mother, she puts her career before her child. She can’t take him out of the US.”
Iyke was tired at this point. “You are more concerned about taking Dominic, who just lost his father, from his mother. You want him in America and want to bury his father in a place he would not have free access to. Interesting. Demian gave Nkem the right to decide. I suggest we bury him in America for the sake of his son. Concerning Dom living in America, we can talk with Nkem about it.”
Eventually, Demian’s father gave in for the sake of Demian’s son. They insisted on Dallas for the burial. This defeated the purpose but Nkem remembered the letter Demian wrote and agreed for them to bury him there. It was after the burial they would talk about other matters.
Demian’s parents left for Dallas with the body. They wanted to leave with Demian’s apartment keys but Iyke refused. “Nkem lives there and she has control over the apartment. Why are you being difficult when she is accommodating your demands? You stayed in his house while she and her family stayed in a hotel. Is that right?”
“I don’t care. I asked your father to open Demian’s bedroom so we can take some of his valuable items but he refused. We need to know what he had and safeguard them,” his mother suggested.
“That would have been trespassing. He lived in the apartment with his wife who vacated her home to make you comfortable. I hope you didn’t take anything from there.”
“I didn’t before they call the police for me. I don’t trust that girl.”
“She was your son’s choice and his widow now.”
“I still don’t get the whole idea of him being married to her. Didn’t the divorce go through?”
“I was there and so was Chidindu. They got married again and she is legally his wife. They were too in love to stay away from each other. Didn’t you notice Demian was very happy before his death? She made him happy. She showed him love and he reciprocated. It was beautiful to watch. Nkem is an amazing woman.”
“I don’t agree with you. We will talk after the burial.”
Nkem was still beside herself with grief. On the day of the burial, She gave Iyke the suit Demian insisted he wanted to wear to be buried. Everyone moved to Dallas for the burial. It was in Dallas Funke bought a black dress, black gloves, black shoes and a hat for Nkem. They got her hankies and brought out her favourite sunglasses which were a gift from Demian. Her mother arrived just in time for the burial. The number of people from her side was increasing. She was surprised when her work friends arrived for the funeral and two of her bosses.
Nkem sat on pew with close friends around her. Uloma sat with her mother-in-law and the other family members. Nkem’s friends were surprised at her. Nkem’s mother and two brothers were with Nkem.
The service began and was over without Nkem hearing whatever was said. She couldn’t even speak at the service. Iyke spoke for her. Everyone could see how devastated she was. They left the service to the cemetery. Nkem remembered being given a shovel to pour sand on the coffin which she did. She turned back and standing right behind her was Uncle Tobi. She couldn’t believe it. She wanted to react but he gave her a sign. After the internment, Uncle Tobi walked with her and Nkem’s other family members and friends towards the vehicles. There were refreshments at Demian’s parents’ house but most people weren’t interested in going there. Most paid their condolences and left.
Uncle Tobi asked Nkem to join him in his car as they drove to the hotel they were all staying in so they could talk before she meets with her in-laws. He told her he had spoken with Iyke and he believed he would ensure all Demian’s wishes are met. He drove with her while others went in other cars.
“Get yourself together. The war is about to begin. Where is your son?”
“He is with my mother.”
“Call her and ask her not to release him to anyone. Do not allow anyone to walk all over you. You are legitimately married to Demian and you know your rights. Have you spoken to your lawyer?”
“You need to. We need to prepare ahead of them. I remember a man I met some years back. He told me one day, ‘eye wey dey cry dey see road.” You don’t mourn helplessly. There is time for mourning. A time will come when you will be left alone. Your friends will go back to their lives, family members will disperse and you will be left alone. What will you do then? This is the time to be wise. Be on top of the game and negotiate with you and your son in mind. Funke sent me a copy of the letter Demian left you. That letter is important and I sent it to Amy to see if it can be used in the negotiations. I believe he also has a will and his lawyer must have it. It is either you find his lawyer or announce his death. His colleagues were at the funeral; we need to know his entitlement from his job. There is a lot to be done.”
Nkem was thinking. But she was not interested in what Demian had; she never was. Uncle Tobi was not having that. He said, “Demian has a son who has a right to all his father owned even though he gave them to you. He did that so you will fight for his son. He planned for his son’s future and no one can take that from him.”
“Do whatever you think is best. I will authorise you and Iyke to speak on my behalf.”
“Iyke? Isn’t that Demian’s brother?”
“Yes, he is. He has our best interest at heart; I trust him more than I trust my sister. Uloma can’t be trusted. She will sell me out to gain favours from our in-laws.”
“That’s bad. I will have a chat with her. In the meantime, I will attend to the issues. Chidindu has to introduce me to the family and we will take it from there. Please talk to the lawyer.
Iyke made everything easy. He insisted that Nkem was legally married to Demian and therefore was entitled to all he owned except otherwise stated in a will. He told Uncle Tobi and Chidindu not to bother getting involved because he could handle it. And he did. He moved Nkem back to her apartment.
When the matter was fully settled, Uncle Tobi left for Nigeria with Funke and Zainab. He had a one-on-one conversation with Nkem before he left. He assured her of his continuous support and told her to call him if she needed anything whatsoever. He told her she would feel better with time. The way he spoke to her was so soothing that she hugged him tightly and said, “Demian is gone. The man who knew how to love me is dead.”
Uncle Tobi didn’t respond because his response, at that time, would have been inappropriate. He wiped her tears and told her she had the best years of Demian and the last years. She should remember he loved her even in death and that he planned for her and their son. It was better he went to rest.
Read – Count the stars with me episode 61 – 62
It was later Nkem found out Demian was in severe pain. The trips he made out of state were hospital admissions. He didn’t want Nkem to know he was deteriorating. He encouraged her to stay longer in Nigeria so he could take care of himself before she arrived. He did all that for her. That was when her healing began. She came to terms with the fact that he needed to end the pain and rest. The only person that knew about his challenges was Agnes. His death hit her the hardest.
Nkem stayed in the US for three months before returning to Nigeria. She was better now. She threw herself into her work. Dominic had made more friends in the estate so he wasn’t short of company. Nkem’s mother came to Abuja to stay with them Her friends didn’t abandon her. They contacted her every day which she appreciated. Her life had returned to normal.
Nkem’s mother asked her what her grievance is with Uloma. She had observed that Uloma stayed with her in-laws instead of her grieving sister. She claimed Uloma said Nkem held her friends in higher esteem than her. Nkem told her mother the genesis of their issues and how Uloma took sides with her in-laws against her sister.
“I thought both of you were over the issue. Is that why you blocked your sister? Your only sister.”
“Yes mama, I don’t want to have anything to do with her.”
“What of her husband?”
“I like Iyke.”
“Forgive your sister and move on. Don’t let external forces affect your relationship with your blood sister. Unblock her and talk with her.”
“I have heard, ma”
Nkem had made up her mind not to do it.
“Also, concerning Dominic. What are your plans?”
“I will put him in school here. I have a maid who can help me tend to him. He will stay with me.”
“Why did you bury Demian in America when his son can’t see his grave whenever he feels like it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Think Nkem. Send this child to Dallas to his father’s people and he can spend the holidays with you. You can visit too. Why not consider it?”
“I do not want to be separated from Dom. He is all I have and treasure from Demian.”
“Think about it. Your in-laws will stop calling you names and you can live your life without disturbance.”
Nkem thought about it. She didn’t want Dom staying with his grandparents and they say negative things about her. She didn’t want that. She discussed this with her ‘sisters’. Funke kicked against it but Zainab had a different opinion. “They lost their son and Dom can replace him in their lives. Grandparents love their grandchildren, especially those who have lost a parent. All I will say is make it legal so they do not kidnap your son and keep him away from you”
“This scares me,” Nkem said.
“I think Zainab is right. He will be well-rounded in a home where there is a man and wife, not just a mother. I would have suggested leaving him with Uloma but she took sides and I am disappointed in her.” Esther added.
She also discussed it with Iyke, Chidindu and Uncle Tobi. Iyke didn’t think it was a good idea because his family can be erratic. Uncle Tobi thought it a brilliant idea but he insisted she talked to Amy about it. Chidindu was ok with whatever decision Nkem took.
Nkem prayed about it and finally, she called her father-in-law. After exchanging pleasantries, she told him what she had in mind. The man cried. They were tears of joy. Nkem told him the lawyer was sending the agreement. Once both of them sign, it is notarized and submitted to the court, she would bring Dominic after the holiday was over. She talked about Dom’s school and he had desired a change. This was a big one. Demian’s father agreed to her verbal demands. Amy sent the agreement.
Demian’s mother called to thank Nkem when he arrived. She was so happy. She still had Iyke and Uloma’s twins. She had most of her grandchildren with her. She promised Nkem she would abide by the rules and that she could come and pick him up at any time she desired.
With Dominic gone, there was a vacuum in her life. His presence helped her stay sane. At a time, she was overwhelmed with grief and loneliness. She called Uncle Tobi and told him, “I am drowning.” He left what he was doing to meet her. She was a mess when he saw her. He knew she needed to see a psychologist. He took her to see one. It took ten sessions to help her get close to normal. She had some bad days but she was getting better and the bad days were getting less. Talking to Dom helped her too.
After mourning Demian for one year wearing only black, Nkem bounced back. Gradually she became her bubbly self again. She moved out of Demian’s apartment. She gave most of his clothes to charity after family members had picked what they wanted. She put up the apartment for rent and moved their other personal effects into a storage unit.
She also gave out most of the clothes Demian left in her apartment in Nigeria. She desperately needed to move on. She told Uncle Tobi she wanted to move out because her apartment reminded her of Demian. She wanted to move to a different country if it was possible.
“That’s not how it is done. We will make small changes. There is an estate close to where I live we just completed, I will give you an apartment there. The change of environment will do you a lot of good. That holiday that was cut short, I mean the ones with your friends, it is time you guys go again. I will sponsor the trip. Ever been on a private jet? One of my friends has hit it big and has a PJ. He can squeeze you guys in. Go to a holiday location. Go crazy, let loose, have fun, meet guys, and make out; you are still human. Live your life.”
“Not a bad idea. I will talk to the others.”
Funke and Esther were available for the trip but Zainab couldn’t go. She had something coming up and couldn’t leave the country yet. The trip was for two weeks so she promised to join them later. Efe paid for their hotel rooms and their holiday packages. They had a card to spend without limit. Nkem was shocked. Esther didn’t act as though they were super rich but they were. They lived a humble and quiet life which Nkem admired about them. They didn’t drive the best cars or spoil the children. They both wanted to lay low and enjoy the fruits of their labour.