I love August. Can you guess why?
Laughter is the last one to creep back in after a season of grief. And even when it does, it always does its moving back in an unconvincing manner. As if you are the returned prodigal son, and laughter, the brother you left behind who is now reluctant to share its inheritance of joy with you.
Grief is different for everyone. Some people are able to get laughter on their side much easier and faster than the rest of us. Some people don’t even try. They spend the rest of their lives smiling noisily, chuckling even but never able to regain that bubbling warmth that starts from your toes, inches up your spine, feeds off on the goodness of your belly before announcing itself to the world as laughter.
I might be one of those people that will never laugh again. It has been 2 years and in every sense of the matter, I am healing nicely. I gave away the last of your things a month ago; your ‘Things Fall Apart’ because I was tired of trying to figure out if I led you to Okonkwo’s fate by buying you a mere book, your Bible because I don’t believe in God anymore, your clothes because the J’adore scent left them behind a long time ago.
I have kept your book of hymns though and everyday, I read one or two verses just as the darkness begins to creep in.
Your mother had the terrible luck of being the one that found you. It should have been me. I still wish it had been me. Maybe I would have been able to save you. maybe I would have been able to breathe back life into your cold heart. Maybe I would have been able to apply all those lessons I learned in the Army. But it wasn’t me that found you. You made sure of that.
In spite of being the one to find you, your mother has since gotten her laughter back. I have even seen her throw her head back in pure delight a couple of times since you left this world behind. I have marveled at how she has been able to get her laughter back. I have often wondered if it is a mere echo, your mother’s laughter, and not the real thing.
I walked into the Catholic church she still goes to yesterday. The choir was singing ‘Good Christian Men Rejoice’ as I drove past and it reminded me of the Christmas in Yamoussoukro when we had stood in front of the Basilica, hand in hand, and let the music heal us.
Your mother still sings in the choir. I thought she had stopped but there she was amidst the other singers bellowing out faith that left no room for doubt. I wanted to leave before she could see me, before their faith could infect me, but the music chained me to my seat till rehearsals were over. I stood up as she began to make her way to the pew where I sat.
‘Sit down, sit down’ she ordered and I smiled through my tears.
I obeyed and let her cradle my head for the millionth time as I mourned for her lost child.
‘Ifeanyi, you are still crying?’ She asked as my tears soaked the purple silk blouse she was wearing.
‘If you are still crying, what should I now do? Me her own mother? The one who found her? You think if tears could bring her back, we all wouldn’t have cried oceans? You have to stop this at once,’ your mother ordered and for the second time that evening, I was reminded of being in the Army.
When my tears had slowed to a trickle, we talked about other matters. I told her about the new job. She told me about Chinasa getting into Yale Law and we agreed that you would have been so proud. We laughed as she described the way she danced when the news came. I should rephrase. Your mother laughed and I smiled noisily. I watched jealously as she laughed, listening for evidence of an echo. I found none.
She told me your dad has had no more strokes and shame caressed my soul because I could do better than second hand news and should have stayed in touch with your family.
‘Ada was special, Ifeanyi.’ Your mother said as we walked to her car. ‘People like that, they walk into our lives bringing all these joy, and radiance. And then as suddenly as they walked in, they walk out, forgetting to leave something behind for the ones they have left behind. But if there is anything Ada taught me, it is that love covers all wrongs, yes even the wrong of death. 1 Cor 13.’
I kissed the older woman goodbye and stopped by the church’s store where I bought my own Bible. Your’s had 1 Cor. 13 ripped out so I must have missed that part out.
‘Love covers all wrongs’ It read indeed.
‘Even the wrong of death’ your mother had added.
I read no hymns last night and let darkness creep in unattended.
‘Love covers all wrongs’ I said to the darkness when it assailed me with nightmares. ‘Even the wrong of death’ I assured it when it stayed resilient.
I woke up to dawn and sunshine this morning. And for the first time in a long time, I have hope for laughter’s return.
Song of day: John Legend – I love you Love