We were in the village for one of those really short Christmas holidays, and my brother was carrying this really cute toddler when I came in. I went over to give the little one a cuddle when I saw that he was scratching my brother’s arm, like really scratching him. My mom came and yanked the child when she saw blood on my brother’s arm, made us all laugh. Found out that the little scratcher was my cousin, one of the three adopted by my Aunty Nwabechie.
Aunty Nwabechie was a widow, the Principal of a secondary school in one of the towns in Anambra, and so I always wondered why it seemed like each year we came home she’d have adopted one more when things weren’t very smooth for her already. But she did. The last time I was in the village she had three adopted children, and her own daughter, Chinyere. And you’d never know which was which, my aunty was good like that.
It was Chinyere’s birthday and my brother went to write on her Facebook wall. And instead of birthday greetings he sawRIP all over the place. One of the messages said she and her mom died in the Benin/Ore tanker+Dangote cement truck explosion on the 5th of April. So he rang my dad. Wasn’t a hoax.
Chinyere, Olunna, Nmesoma, Ebuka, and my aunty Nwabechie died in that fire, they were on the way back to the village from Lagos. Everyone. An entire family. The name. Why do these things happen? Everyone died?
Last time I chatted with Chinyere on the phone she asked me for a blackberry and I told her I’d get her one. Didn’t get a chance to give it to her. She was in her final year at university. I feel horrible about that.I could have given her o, Chinyere come and take mine. Just come back. All of you. Please.
Fire. What a horrible, horrible, horrible way to die. The fear, the anguish. Nmesoma wasn’t more than five. I wonder how scared he must have been. I wonder about all of them. Did they hug themselves goodbye? Did they have time? Or was it all terror?
What a waste. I know how difficult it was for aunty to pay her fees at some point. I know. Was it all for nothing?
How do I even cry? Have I cried enough? How do I be strong when my heart is full of pain? Where do I shelve this pain? How much can one person deal with at once?
This is too much. One disaster too many.
They couldn’t even find their bodies to bury. You’d think that for a family that just got wiped out they’d at least get a decent funeral. Fire doesn’t think that way, didn’t leave anything.
Do I blame my people for hiding it from me? I wouldn’t have been able to take it then. I can’t take it now. How does one take these things? Is there a way? I’m all cried out.
Do I question God? Aunty was one of the most devout people I know. God sees all and knows all, did He see this one?
Je nke oma aunty, Chinyere, Olunna, Nmesoma, and Ebuka. Goodnight.
I don’t know what to do. There’s got to be more.