My Father’s Laughter

Christiana Udoh on Loss

It is too early for me to write about my father’s death, a loss that has forced me to grow forward and backwards in two months. These tears, inevitable as they might be, have come too soon.

Growing up, Father’s ill heath constituted our family’s reality. I knew his drugs the way that I know my siblings’ names. His vulnerability was the familiar foe that wreaked havoc on our emotions and finances, and yet bound us together, compelling compassion, sacrifice, and devotion. My siblings and I learned long ago that like love, family is a cherished rose with undesired thorns. You can’t enjoy the former without embracing the latter.

In November 2016, I went home after Father had surgery. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t what I found in the hospital ward. My father resembled an old, manhandled corpse that was still breathing. He’d turned fearful and violent because of a complication that had robbed him of his senses and memory. On most nights that I spent at the hospital, I felt like the helpless creature in a horror movie. But there was nothing unreal about the pain and fear that squeezed my heart and kept me awake.

Each time I gave him a bath or fed him or did any of the things he could no longer do for himself, I hoped that he understood and remembered what he meant to me.

As dusk fell on New Year’s Day, I sat by his side, his frail hands in mine, whispering his favourite Psalms and willing his breathing to normalize. He fell asleep as we waited for the nurse. So when she checked him and said he was dead, I said she was wrong. She had to be wrong because he could not be dead. Not after how hard we’d fought. Not at fifty-eight. Not before my siblings and I and our mother were ready to let him go.

In the weeks that followed Father’s passing, I went about life feeling nothing, wanting nothing. It seemed as though I had already exceeded my quota of emotion, even grief. Everyone thought I was in denial. How could I be? The man I loved most, the first one I ever loved, had died in my arms.

My sister, Joy, often asked, “Have you cried?” Each time the answer was the same. Father was dead and I felt nothing.

The casket saved me. The beautiful white wooden box that held Father’s body caused my benumbed heart to thaw. At his funeral, I watched, helpless and horrified, as it was lowered into a dark, lonely pit. Then it vanished under a heap of earth, and my father was forever out of my reach.

I screamed. And screamed. Because life is unfair. Once the dam broke, the tears would not stop flowing. I mourn Father’s dreams and my plans for him that will never see light. The fear of losing my father that’s haunted me for two decades has been replaced by angry disbelief. How can the world move on without him? Night and day remain constants, and the sun still holds everything in place, except my heart.

Charles Caleb Colton wrote that death is the liberator of him whom freedom cannot release, the physician of him whom medicine cannot cure, and the comforter of him whom time cannot console.

I do not ponder Colton’s words, lest I find them to be true. I fear that I might be seduced by the universe to betray Father and move on. Sometimes I am alarmed by guilt because I want to move on too.

Some nights when I sleep, I hear Father laughing. He loved to laugh, a deep low rumble, which made us feel that all was well. I don’t know what amuses him. Is he happier now? I find it comforting that Father is laughing again. It fills me with hope that he is in a better place, not out of my reach. What he meant to me—the way he loved me, the lessons I learned from his life, and even his death, the privilege of being with him in the end—no one, not even death, can take from me.

I welcome sleep each night, eager for Father’s laughter. His soothing chuckle cascades into my days like a music loop, reminding me that one day, it will be his turn to hear me laugh.

© Christiana Udoh 2017

 Christiana Udoh loves to capture life in creative scribbles. She is a budding media management professional, freelance writer and editor, and happy family girl who relishes her roles as beloved daughter, trusted sister, and adored aunt. She won’t trade her Lee Child/Lisa Kleypas moments for anything, except maybe a bowl of coconut flavoured ice cream. She hangs out on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/christiana.udoh

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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