By Mohammed Abdullahi
Yesterday, the Fidau prayers for the repose of the soul of my dearest mother, Alhaja Rafat Ajeigbe Amope Abdullahi held in Ilorin. Earlier on Wednesday, the bell tolled and mother crossed over to the great beyond. She was laid to rest on the same day in accordance with the dictates of the religion of Islam. And with that final act that separates the living from the dead, a very important part of our lives was buried, I and my siblings.
As it happened in such circumstances, my seven siblings and I cried our hearts out. Even the one we believe to be the strongest of us all couldn’t stop the river of tears that flowed from his eyes. Our lost was huge and irreplaceable. We have lost not just a mother but a prayer warrior, a stabilizer and the only constant supporter and backer in our lives. We all grow up to witness the toil and sacrifices of this woman of strength and steel. She farmed, she baked and she hawked, all to support our father in their joint desire to give us a life better than theirs.
While the departure of our mother was, indeed, a painful one, we are comforted by the rich and abundant memories of her good deeds and the sweet testimonies that trailed her departure. We would forever remain grateful to God for giving our mother a rich and impactful life. Alhamdulilah.
I was in Kaduna when I received the news of her passing mid-afternoon on Wednesday. I was having my lunch when the information reached me, and a meal that was initially sumptuous suddenly tasted like a bile. I left the restaurant and sneaked to my room where I wept like a toddler. Indeed, I was profoundly sad as it should be expected at the passing of one’s dear mother, but the memory of our last time together is the reason why this pain of loss has been most excruciating.
My mother, a lover of children, had always wanted me to have more kids. Having been blessed with three adorable kids, I always argued with her that the Nigeria of today does not support the idea of a large family. My mother, a firm believer, would always respond that only God caters to the needs of all living souls, that God is capable of providing for whatever I and my family will need to survive, no matter our number. For five years after the birth of my last child, this argument went back and forth between me and mother. And when I finally listened to her and fulfilled her desire, she died a little over one month after the birth of the child she had always wanted me to have.
Exactly a week before her death, she had called me to come pick her to see the new baby. When I brought her to my house, my wife and I left her and the child alone in the room while we went to the market. When we returned and she was about to go, she admonished my eldest child to face her studies and to be obedient. What we didn’t know at the time was that she was bidding us farewell. Unknown to me, that was the last time I would ever see my mother.
May be I will get used to life without my mother, may be I will be able to surmount the pain of this irreversible loss; but missing the opportunity to share her last moments on earth with her is a pain that I will carry forever.
The last time I spoke to my mother was on Sunday, a day before she was taken to the hospital where she did not make it back alive. She assured me she was fine and even prayed for me. What I did not know was that the grim reaper was already lucking in the corner waiting to snatch the soul of my dearest mother. As a mother who hid her pains while tending to those of her children, it is not impossible that mother was in pain while talking to me that Sunday. The fact that she died three days later meant she didn’t just want me to worry.
As the last child of my mother, we shared a special bond that made her confided in me on so many things, atimes finishing with “… I’m telling you this because of a day I will not be here.” That day came earlier than I thought. My mother was just 76 and, like I told my elder sister, I had prayed and hoped that she will live long. But God knows best.
I cannot even begin to share the many life-changing experiences I had with my mother. She was the unlettered woman who knew the value of education. She was the protective mother who never downplayed discipline. She was generous, accommodating and forgiven. Mother was also quite industrious and respectful. She was quite appreciative, showing the same amount of gratitude no matter how little or large a favour you did to her. To my mother, it makes no difference whether it is #1,000 or #1 million you gave her, she will still show so much gratitude. All these fine attributes are what she now left for us as a legacy to protect and cherish.
In 2018, in keeping with my mother’s attribute of showing gratitude, I wrote a small poem titled, ‘Thank You, Mother’ in which I expressed appreciation for all her care and sacrifices over the years. I will end this tribute by reproducing the poem.
Thank you, Mother
For being the purveyor of true motherhood
For showing me early the ways to excellent character
For moulding me in rare humility and truth
For given me the strength to carry on in spite of my own doubts
For given me the exceptional love that makes all the difference, a love that is rare to find
I’m proud of you today,
Because you bore me at a time it was pure sacrifice to bring a child to the world
Because you are the only one who truly care for me with no conditions
Because you tenderly nurtured and nourished me even when you don’t know what my destiny holds
Because you have always been the light on my path, amidst the torturous darkness of this world
Because you have supported me with incredible strength through the unknown and unpredictable life
How would I have known the sweetness of a mother’s love without you?
That is why even without riches or fame,
I always look for ways to keep reminding myself of your importance in my life
That is why I named my first daughter IYADUNNI, because it is truly a sweet thing to have a good mother like you.
I named my son IYAGBEMINIYI, because you have uplifted me and rescued me from so many shameful and embarrassing situations
All my bravado were all because I have you in my life. Without you, I will be lost!
You are the finest gold in my life, and that is why my last daughter goes by the name IYANIWURA ( mother is gold), although you are more precious to me than gold and silver combined
I am still doing what you taught me – to work hard and belief in God
I just wanted you to know…
That I will never lose my faith in your love
That I will continue to hold those fine characters you bequeathed to me
That I will make myself a son that makes you proud
That I will fight for you, whether in good or bad times
Because of the deprivation suffered by your generation, you will never be able to read my thoughts in print, but you will read them on my face
I will radiate the very essence of your character and carry a part of you with me everywhere I go
Come what may, my love for you will endure.