Adaeze, his sister, taps me on my shoulder to ask for his car keys again. Its the third time she has asked since Ken took his last breath an hour ago. I did not dignify her with a response the first two times and I am not going to this time, so I turn around and through my tears I stare at her for a few seconds and look away. I am now sure she has no emotional intelligence because she asked a fourth time as if she had been unaware of the hidden message in my stare, and so this time I tell her where it is and my tears amplify.
I was given very strict warning against this Yoruba – Ibo marriage by so many people but Ken promised me there is nothing to fear. He promised me that we had moved into the 21st century and those archaic traditions no longer applied. Whenever I reminded him about what I had seen in movies happening to widowed women, he got really upset with me and always asked “are you praying for me to die?” There he had me, I always pushed away those thoughts and found consolation in his promises.
Dear Ken Chimela Elechi
After 8 long days, it is the day we are finally laying your body to rest. I was informed that it is your family’s tradition for you to be buried in the village on the 8th day, but I suspect that is as much a lie or as archaic as some of the things I have heard in the past couple of days. All I feel is the heart break from your death and broken promises; and shame from all of the dehumanizing and ugly experiences I was put through. “Ken, I hope you’re seeing the results of making a promise you cannot keep”.
On getting home around 9pm on that day, I found all your sisters with your two of your uncles in the living room and now I knew where they went with your car after they suddenly disappeared from the hospital. Your office, my office and our bedroom was turned upside down and your sister Ginika started shouting “WHERE ARE THE DOCUMENTS TO OUR BROTHER’S HOUSES?” and that was how I found out what they were looking for and also that they had not found our secret safe. When I try to explain to them that I had no idea where they were, they start to make sentences that imply that I killed you. How could they even think that? I married you knowing you were a type 2 diabetic patient, and the doctors had just explained that you had a severe case of Myocardial infarction.”
After all the drama, I was informed that we had to leave for Owerri the following day to commence your funeral rites. The way they ganged up on me, I knew I could not object because the next thing they will resort to is to call me names in your language which I don’t understand or , the one that hurts the most, claim that I killed you. The following day, I was ready when they told me to be and the first thing they did when they saw me was to tell me I was in the wrong attire. Apparently, your sister had gone out of her way to sew me the only acceptable mourning uniform in your town, a black cotton wrapper and buba, and I was expected to be grateful for this. I watched as your sisters unpacked my suitcase removing all of my toiletries as they told me that I would not be bathing for the next 8 days while I morn you; and felt disgraced as they making snarky comments about some of my underwear. When they were done they told me that I had to remove my hair extensions, because I looked like a “prostitute” not a woman who had just lost her husband, but the interesting thing is your sister Ngozi had on hair extensions too. By the time they were done, I was a shadow of myself in an all black attire and that is the best I have looked in the past 8 days.
As soon as we got to Owerri, I was officially initiated into the Owerri widows club when they came to shave my hair. I had never cried as much and as hard as I did on this day, since the day you died, leaving me a widow; and when my mother died, leaving my sister and I, orphans. I did not cry for the loss of my hair but for the fact that I felt I had lost a connection to you. You described my hair, in its jet black richness, as a combination of gold and graphite, and you even hinted a couple of times, that this was what attracted you to me in the first place. I have not slept in 8 days, I have dozed off from the exhaustion I feel from crying all day and having to sit on my mourning throne – a very low stool, with no back support, all day. They believe that this is the only way your spirit will rest in peace and so I would not mind doing this and more, but for the three-month-old seeds, you sew, growing inside me.
After 7 years, we finally get what we have been searching for and you will be missing when they finally come. You did not tell your family because your sisters have not left out barren from the list of abuses rained on me daily, and I am glad you didn’t because they may have done something to hurt them . I have never been more determined to keep them alive, so determined that I ate whatever Dolapo, my sister, brought me in the toilet, when I took bathroom breaks from my mourning throne, during the 5 days hunger strike you family made compulsory for me. I have come to know your family as united in wickedness, I am surprised you came out the gentle, loving man you were. Can you believe that your sisters have even allowed your Father’s cousin – Mama Nnena, who you hated so much and maltreated you to sleep in our master bedroom in the Owerri house?
Last night, I was finally allowed to step out of the Owerri house. I was given a towel and a bucket of water and under supervision by your sisters, I used the towel to wipe you clean, each time soaking and squeezing the towel in the bucket of water. As they watch, there is an argument going on in your language behind me, and I soon find out it is about whether I should be made to drink or bath with the water in the bucket. When I am done, they have reached a conclusion, and it is that I bath with it, after which I sit with your corpse until it is taken to the burial ground. I am reluctant initially, but then they tell me not do as they have said is to admit to killing you.
Here I am Ken, I have been through hell and back for your soul and spirit to rest in peace. Now that we are finally going to bury you, the hell has to end as your body enters the ground. I have told Dolapo to pack my things, I leave this place today. Remember the promotion I was up for a couple of months ago that involved moving to South Africa, yes! that’s what’s next. But before I go back to work, I am moving to Lagos for the rest of my bereavement leave and I am going to be renting out our residence in Port Harcourt – before your family send me packing. As for the house in Owerri and in Abuja, they can have it. I have also decided to change my last name from Abolanle Elechi to Abolanle Ken-Elechi because I love you and I want my kids and I to continue to be associated with just you.
For the first time since you told me of the safe when we first go married, I looked inside it that day before we left for Owerri. I found the documents for all your properties and the agreement you made with your business partner, Chris, to transfer 30% of the company’s monthly profit to me, and in the event the company is sold, that I should be given 50% of the profit made from the sale. When I get to Port Harcourt to pack out of the house, I will post your sisters the documents for those two properties which I have given to them. I will also be instructing the bank to transfer all the money in your personal accounts to your sisters and uncles accounts, dividing it evenly while I keep what we have in your joint accounts.
I love you and I will continue to love you. I don’t see how I will ever stop loving you having known you for 17 years and been in love with you for the last 12 years. Thank you for being patient loving and caring. Most of all, rest in peace but never leave my side.
I fold the letter neatly and put it in the inside pocket of the dark blue suit his sisters have insisted he wear. “Oya, its time to go to church” Sister Ngozi said as she adjusted the upper one of her two piece wrapper and a gold necklace, Ken bought for me sitting on her neck. ‘They told me I we were supposed to wear the black mourning outfit, but I guess that was meant for only me’ I think.
Do you think Abolanle could have made better decisions? let me know in the comment section below