Grief will let go eventually…

In memoriam: Emmanuel Amaechi Chukwu, 1946-2019

In memoriam: Emmanuel Amaechi Chukwu, 1946-2019

15th April 2019, ordinary day! I had just finished from the usual afternoon academic session of my residency program and was getting set for happy hour when Nneka sent over a whatsapp image of our father’s medical test result. He had been unwell for awhile. A glance at that image and knowing what those figures meant, I felt the tears well up and in that moment, an impending doom sank in. ‘It can’t be’ I said. Then, I immediately shared the news with a Medical Consultant and a mentor. He noted that his own father’s test values weren’t as bad and he passed on shortly afterwards. I was distressed but still I needed to speak with my parents because I felt they would understand my interpretation of the result better than whatever the doctor at UNTH would have said to them. Happy hour was cancelled.

I spoke with my mother, a retired nurse before speaking with my father. They had left the doctor and I had to salvage whatever new information they had gained. My father sounded distant and only kept saying “ok” to whatever I had to say. I couldn’t quite place where my mother was. It was a very bad result but I chose denial. I denied it first to myself and I tried selling same to my parents…hopeful for a miracle and the rhetoric that ‘it is not that bad’. There was a grace to my denial. I got home and researched all I could about the condition and spoke with the experts, still ‘it is not that bad’

It was that bad! Things went downhill from there. He was admitted and the first round of treatments commenced. I travelled to Enugu shortly afterwards. I still remember the shock I tried so hard to hide when I set eyes on my father. He noticed. I remember pleading with him to eat more and try to be optimistic that he’d get better.

The phone calls became frequent. He was refusing food, he was in pains and had difficulty sleeping. I asked for a chest X-ray and once I heard the findings, he had another admission. Further tests and the results were not encouraging. The statistics gave him a few months. Still, I refused to believe that my father would be among that figure. I refused to accept that! There was hope and I regularly communicated that to my siblings. I thought we had time, I thought it was not yet time. My denial, this refusal to really look was my refuge.

Nneka went to visit. She ran out of the ward at UNTH when she first sighted him. She had never seen her father in that state. The second admission was particularly difficult. I had an image of what things were like, still that image dissipated each time I spoke with him on the phone. He sounded strong and asked that we do not worry about him. My sister found it difficult coming back to Abuja and like she said on one of her calls “Ujo na atu m” (I am scared)

Wednesday, 16th October, 2019, my mother called and for the first time, she broke. She was crying and lamenting that things were getting worse. I asked her a couple of medical questions and then I spoke with him. The response to my barrage of questions was a tearful ‘Arinze, o nwero’ (Arinze, its nothing). The doom returned and for the first time I contemplated my father’s demise. Was it imminent? I did not know. I started making travels plans.

Friday, 18th October, 2019, whilst in my consulting room, my mother called again crying and with the commotion in the background, I knew it was imminent. I took permission from my superiors and started racing down to Enugu, one thing on my mind; to get there before his eventual demise. I spoke with my father for the last time on the phone, pleading that he hangs on that I was on my way. He was barely audible but he said ‘jiri nwayo’ (Take it easy). I was only half way home when I got the call that he was no more.

In that moment, I numbed out. The calls started flying in and out. I didn’t want my mother to be alone, so I reached out to friends and family. I informed my siblings and called their close friends to check in on them. I remember occasionally cussing and screaming out as I drove those lonely miles to Enugu. I felt an overwhelming guilt and regret… why was I so certain he would pull through? The smugness of it all! Did I do the best I could? I am a medical doctor, could I have stopped this? Maybe asked for a comprehensive family history, identified the risk factors and done an earlier screen? No? Maybe I shouldn’t have lied to everyone but told them how bad it was so we could prepare ourselves. The guilt still gnaws at my soul. I felt viciously uprooted and had this pain yanking at my chest. Then I knew what a heart break felt like.

I got home exhausted. The sitting room was filled with faces I couldn’t remember. I stood by the door and stared only at my mother. She looked older than I could remember. She cried as I reached out to hug her. I was too tired for any emotion. My voice was hoarse from my screaming. I went to my father’s room and saw the changes made as in a medical ward and the many medications lying around. I laid on his bed, recoiled myself in my grief and on his clothes, then, it hit me…I am now fatherless. I cried!

Early the next morning, I drove down to the morgue and requested to see his body. It was not usual but I explained myself and they made an exception.

The Tectonics of Grief

It sickened me, when I reached out and touched you and all I felt was the cold.
In that moment, emptiness arose and engulfed me in its wretched arms.
I called you but you weren’t there. I cried, and you didn’t console me.
I didn’t contemplate your demise until it was imminent and I was not prepared for the grief that followed.

Let me tell you something about grief…it is dark, unwholesome and an unpleasant bed fellow.
It arrives unannounced and steals most precious memories.
It belittles joy and wrestles hope to the ground. It is brutal!
It drains the moment and leaves you empty.
Grief has no purpose.

Months after, I still battle with grief.
On a bright morning, in the middle of a clinic session, late at night when I can’t sleep
I feel its gnawy hands encircle me and I allow myself mourn.
I never feel better afterwards as I prepare for its next visit.

But as I daily chose to remember my father as he was…
A good father, husband and brother.
A provider, a counselor and a good man,
I realize that my defense against grief is time.
Wait it out…Grief will tire and let go eventually.

Adieu Daddy! We are alright. Continue to rest in peace.


I am now here!
In this moment, unwavering and decided.
I am not there!
For that place is gone, fleeting and forgotten.

I am not yesterday!
The word for done, dusted and drought.
The memories of bridges crossed,
Are not visions for paths to be forged.

Time serves her meals to all.
No morsel more, no morsel less.
Now when the plates are cleaned and time is up,
Some with bellies filled and others a’ starving.


This is art my friend, this is art!
The way with a woman, a dance, a fight, a war.
Don’t call it love my friend, your soul is at stake.
A call to worship the second god!

The curve of her lips, the smile of a silent sun.
The swell of her breasts, that feeling of abundance.
Don’t call it love my friend, your soul is at stake.
The call to adore the unknown paradise.

Your dream fades, the sun awakes.
Her smell remains, the weight is gone.
Please call it fear my friend, succubus was here.
A call to the end, the earned demise.

I met a girl…

I met a girl, a lonesome girl.
She wears a smile, a fearsome smile.
Her pain shines, you will feel it swirl.
She tells a story, it is easy to miss.

I met a girl, a hurting child.
She calls your name, her voice you’ve heard.
The rules she scorns, she pays no mind.
Her will is strong, it breaks the wind.

I met a girl, she looked like art.
No song was written, no love was shown.
A taste of her, the rumblings start.
Misunderstood, her ways confuse.

This girl I met, she wears all black.
The color of grief, the look of despair.
I hold her hand, she drifts into the dark.
I met a girl, that girl was pain.

The Broken

Waves upon a rock, a raging fire!
“Keep your head”, he said! A gentleman, a steely heart, a practiced smile.
Do you know the color of my blues? Do you know the sound of my noise?
The dance of a million dreams, the fear of many tomorrows.

Show me the answer, the question is unasked.
Show me the mystery, believe I will understand.
Where was the turn made? Where did the tracks fade?
The lost cries out and the hills echo in mockery.

Drums are calling, the sand is warm.
The dance is strange and the trees are swaying.
A stranger cries in the night, who knows the tragedy?
A virgin pot is broken on its first trip to the stream.