In Memory of Maria, My Dear Mother
It was a beautiful day that did not manifest anything extraordinary. The weather in Iwara, Iwara ajila, on that fateful day was on an even keel. The humidity was accommodating in its friendliness with its manna of moisturized, colourless, odourless, gaseous air, the kind the lungs always longed for. The sun was yet to show its face as it peeped from the bosom of the East, obviously scared of what was to happen in few hours. Whatever the sun knew, it did not reveal, as it emerged with reluctance, striding lackadaisically in its morning softness across the scraggy sky topography. The wind was mild in its march across the space, self effacing in its velocity, but noticed by us all as it gently caressed everyone, as if consoling us in advance. The leaves on the trees on the sides of the house, gently rumbled, deafening in their anticipatory wail which they mumbled unobtrusively, as if intent not to disturb the peace shrouded in the momentary quietude of the environment.
My Mom sat on a sofa in the long passage that cut through the house, clutching a pillow, looking stoic. She was surrounded by some of us, as we all tried to pull her out of what appeared to be deep thoughts. It was after breakfast. As I planted a kiss on her forehead, she exuded a sort of calm, radiant and glowing dignity. Her beauty stubbornly seeping seamlessly, from the encumbrances of age, refused to be shrouded in spite of and by time. She was obviously ruminative. I stood before her for some moments, observing her and wondering what was going on in her mind. “Moomi,” I solemnly called out as I requested, “e w’oju mi.” With a degree of gradualness, she lifted her head, raised her eyebrows for a moment and then allowed the eyebrows to set, not closed. She looked at me for several moments, saying nothing as she widened her lips. She was just looking at me, penetratingly, with a high degree of concentration. A short but brief smile emerged. She seemed to be at peace with herself. She appeared satisfied and contented. She seemed ready actually.
My first cousin, Folake, widely known as Iya Ojo, noted that this was why she has been asking me to come home and see Mom more often. “Seeing you around gives her a lot of joy. She is always asking for you and you can see that she is very happy,” she had interpreted Mom’s smile directed at me. Without interrogating her interpretation, I nodded in agreement, unable to utter a word, as my fears had my tongue tied. I was afraid that my Mom was slipping away. The day I had always dreaded seemed to be knocking at the door. And I could do nothing to keep it at bay. I was terribly bothered. If my tummy was not shaking, definitely, something was shaking in my tummy, as I tried to cover my anxiety with a façade of macho, in order not to contaminate the atmosphere of serenity and the seeming joy of everyone present.
It was evident that others around did not feel what I was feeling. They did not see what I was seeing. I sensed that my Mom’s time was near, but not as near as it eventually came to be. It had been closer than I had anticipated. It had come earlier than I had wanted at 85 years. It was evident that I was never prepared for it. There was no way I could ever have been. Inside me, there was a turbulence that others around me were not aware of. I was groaning in pain as I found myself paralyzed by fear of the imminence of inevitability. My life with her flashed through my mind, over and over and over. The days of joy; the days of want; the days of celebration; the days of pain; the days of solemnity; the days of supplication and the days of gratitude to Eledumare, the God of my fathers. Like thirty second commercials, chapters of memories flickered and flickered and flickered.
Thus, when the following morning came and I learnt she passed, despite my suspecting that her earthly end time was lurking, I was still taken aback. I was too hurt to cry. I was too shocked to shed tears. I was blank. Yes, blank. Just blank. Completely blank. I felt lost without being aware of it. I could not even mourn. Or maybe what happened to me was a form of mourning. But I was lucky, my wife, my Princess, my Queen, my own Arinpe Ade, omo a fi ai sowo la, omo apana jare, yee e le’la ule, ke i je k’eru ba t’oko, was with me. In her usual way, she took control of things that had to be done, while simultaneously consoling her oldest baby, deactivated by grief and paralyzed by a monumental loss.
My dear mother, a ravishing beauty, with solemnly alluring eyes was gone. My dear Mom named Oromini (literally meaning - she that is gorgeously beautiful) and celebrated by all and sundry, as my Dad’s Atupa Palo, (Living Room Light or Palor’s Light) because of her outer beauty. My Mom, who was even more celebrated, especially by my paternal uncles and aunts as a result of her inner magnificence and marvelous heart and her character, was gone. My Mom, Oromini soro, f’ojo gbogbo dara bi Egbin was gone. Yeye Ropo as she was fondly called by my paternal relatives was gone. Mama Titi as she was fondly called by her friends and well wishers in Itire - Mushin axis was gone. Iya Alakara as she was fondly referred to by her loyal customers in Lawanson was gone. Sabi as my many maternal uncles and aunts fondly called her was gone.
My dear mother was not only beautiful, she was also delightful, charming, magnificent and exquisite. She had an unadulterated beauty that was translucent of her warm heart. She was kind, accommodating and doting on all. She was a beauty and pulsatingly so, that even her detractors admitted and acknowledged her as being exceptional. My paternal uncles and aunts would never stop telling me how beautiful my Mom was, physically and in character. They would regale me with several stories of her kindness, accommodation and generosity. They made it a point of necessary course to explain the nexus between my Mom’s Iwa (character) and Ewa (beauty) and felt that she was a special creature to have combined the two. At a point, I felt there was a conspiracy on the part of my paternal relatives, to make me understand and appreciate how beautiful my Mom was, going by the way and manner, the frequency and intensity, as well as the duration of how they all spoke about it to me. When some (not all) of my stepmothers spoke about my Mom’s beauty with tinges of fondness and admiration, and may be probably, with a degree of restrained jealousy, I knew it was a real deal. Well, I could see it with my own eyes too!
During a brief moment of reflection, my late dear father, Asabi ulu, Oye yo were, eni egbe ri t’eni, eni egbe rii yo, had told me that when he was trying to marry my dear mother, the Heavens wanted her, the World wanted her and he wanted her too. My father believed very fervently that if it was not because of the influence and good reputation of his own father, Fatunagun, Ebire amujelegbe, omo olugbo moroosogun, omo ajisomo, ki yeye re maa s’eru, who made that fateful 3.00am trip from Oko-Igbo now Ayetoro with three others to plead with my maternal grandfather, he would not have been lucky to have my beautiful mother as his wife. Yes, my dear mother was very beautiful. She had a beauty that even age could not wither. If you need any proof, just look at me!
As a child, I can’t remember making any serious demand from my dear mother. But I could see and feel consistently, her undying desire to give me the basic needs a child would require. Now, as a parent myself, I could imagine the silent pains she must have endured in her bids to provide for me, especially when she did not always have the means to accomplish this loftiest goal. Despite this economic challenge, what radiated through to me was unalloyed and untainted love, affection and protection. The overwhelming love she showered on me drove the inconsistent absence of needs into subconscious until later years when I had to gallivant through the vicissitudes of life paving my own paths.
What I shared with my mother as we variously lived at Odo-Iro, Ita Balogun, Ogbon Idio, all in Ilesha and later at Alekuwodo in Oshogbo as she meandered through the foggy forest of survival remain indelible in my memory. It was a period of unadulterated love and affection that even the shattering reality of want and need could not mitigate. Later at Ogbon Iwara in Iwara, the umbrella of affection became bigger as my maternal grandmother, Obi Adewumi (nee Haastrup), Obi omo atuloko, ab’epo yee l’ori ebo, offered the respite that gave my mother the break she needed. My maternal grandfather, Micaiah Ojo Adewumi, Iyun baba Ileke, proved that love could overcome any challenge.
Having lost two sons, 9 and 11 year-olds, on the same day, four years before I was born, it was not difficult to fathom the depth of my dear mother’s dedication and commitment to my survival in all ramifications. That she named me Oluwaremilekun was very instructive. Throughout, she never shortened my name to Remi, as others did when calling me. She always called me Oluwaremilekun. In a way, it was to show continuous and endless gratitude to Eledumare, arugbo ojo, the God of my fathers, for giving me to her.
From the burning troughs of the deserts routes in the Northern part of Nigeria that she traversed faithfully with my late father as Osomaalo, via the rusty streets of Ilesha and the calming terrains of Iwara, to the muddy terrains of Mushin and Lawanson where I proudly hawked Akara in the mornings and Ipekere in the evenings during my vacations, my dear mother, Oromini s’oro, f’ojo gbogbo dara bi egbin, oun ti nwuni kii sun ni, was driven by the unmitigated passion to ensure that I and my siblings never lacked.
My dear mother’s endurance, hard work, commitment and dedication was attributed by my oldest paternal uncle, the late Pa Olamikan popularly known as Baba Oke-Iro as the foundation of the wealth that enabled my father to marry several other wives. He fervently believed that without my dear mother’s hard work, my dear father would not have been able to engage in such indulgence. Baba Oke-Iro, the man who accurately predicted the date and time of his own death during a Sunday service at Oke Olorunkole, should know better because he raised my father from age 5 after their mother, Omoyeni, died suddenly in Ayetoro.
My dear mother represented everything you would want in a mother. She was a gentle and loving soul that could not hurt a fly. Even, when she has been deeply hurt by others, she would not seek revenge and advise us to let go while expressing the undying belief in the ability of Eledumare to fight and right the wrongs. More often than not, she has been vindicated and has had the last laughs. She possessed a large heart that has a space for everyone that had contact with her. My dear mother’s love was simple but profound, obvious but deep, unsolicited but given, infinite but definite, affectionate, certain and reassuring. My dear mother’s love was joyful, blissful and soothing. She was caring, giving and enduring. She was reliable, dependable, stabilizing and calming.
A prayerful lady who believes she could turn around the world with prayers, my dear mother often spoke confidently that her children would always encounter mercy and kindness, because she has shown same to the countless sons and daughters of others she never knew or met. The depth of her faith was like a protective sheath, which she telepathically extended over us, her children, wherever we might be or wherever we might go. She was always grateful to Almighty Eledumare for His mercies. She never stopped talking about it. She never stopped praying without ceasing. She never stopped telling us how wonderful Eledumare has been and could still be. She never stopped asking us to get closer to God. She believed. Yes, she did.
It was a very difficult thing to say a final and permanent goodbye to someone you truly loved and still love. It was a tough thing to contemplate, not to speak of experiencing. But I had to do it. Bid her good bye, physically. And, eventually, I cried. I cried like a baby to the surprise of many who watched me since her passing. I cried. And I cried. Tears streamed down my face like a furious river steaming down the hill to escape discomforting captivity. I heard my wife saying, “Finally, finally.” Yes, finally, I cried. But I did not think that ended the mourning of her passing. No I did not think so.
Mourning a very dear person is not a one or two day affair. It is a life-long thing. But one thing I am sure of is that this farewell is not limited to the physical. It does extend to the realm of the mind. The horizon of this farewell extended to the ambit of memory. For me, it would be a lifelong thing. For her grandchildren, it would be a life-long thing. For those whose paths crossed with my dear mother, it would be a life-long thing. For those who had the grace to drink from her milk of human kindness that flowed from her heart till the end, it would be a life-long thing.
May be as my father noted during that brief reflection, the World and the Heavens have always wanted to engage my dear mother and marry her. My dear father had his chance. The World could only drink from the petals of kindness that her heart brought forth and thus had its chance. It is now the turn of the Heavens. May the marriage with the Heavens be blissful. Amen
Mòomi, Sàbiolá Òrómìnì s’orò, Sùn un re ò.
Sàbiolá Òrómìnì s’orò f’ojó gbogbo dára bí Egbin,
Oun tí nwuni kìí sún ni,
Omo Olúkìtìbí, omo òjò rô gborogboro,
Omo òjò rô gbà'mefà,
Èta ti ará ayé,
Èta ti ará òrun.
Omo òtìrìpà kàn j'ókô le sèlégétìrégé.
Omo mèfún, ará ilè Ìwàrà,
Omo olójà mejì kí àn ná l’órìjó.
Kí an bá ná t’Ayégbajú,
Àa ná t'Ìwàrà olà.
Omo Olú tó se bi erú obé,
Mo re’lé Ìwàrà,
Mèfún ulé Ìwàrà,
Omo Olóni à súré bù mun,
Òni à súré bù mun,
Àjòjì ò gbodò fi w’esè
Àjjì ó bá fi w’esè
Á d’eni ebora
Mòomi, omo Òjó, Iyùn baba ìlèkè,
Iyùn baba ìlèkè Omóparíolá, sun un re o.
Mòomi, omo Òbí,
Òbí omo atùlókò, àlélú Oya,
A b’epo yee l’órí ebo.
Abiyamo tòótó, sùn un re ò.
Mòomi, aya Oyè Àsàbí ìlú,
Àsàbí ìlú, Oyè yò wèrè.
Oyè yò wèrè, eni egbé ri, k’égbé t'éní
Eni egbé ri, k’égbé yò
Omo Olúgbó mòróòsògún,
Kí Yèyé rè máa s'erù,
Kí Yèyé rè máa s'abiyamo.
Mòomi, ó d’d'àrìnnàkò, ó d’ojù àlá o,
Ìpádé tùn di ojó àjínde o.
Mòomi, jàre, kí o bá d’órun, má j'òkùn, má j’ekòló o.
Oun wón bà nje l’ájùlé òrun ni kí o máa bá won je.
Ò d’àbò o. Ò d’ìgbà o. Òrómìnì, Sùn un re ò.
Adieu, my dear magnificent mother.