The Sunday Gentleman [Chapter 20]

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Chidimma’s eyes sparkled with unshed tears as the burial date of Arinze was announced.

Duties were shared and her only responsibility was to share wrappers to the Umunna which she did during the vigil.

They fought over where Arinze would be buried, but Chidimma insisted with full authority that he would be buried by his company in Lagos, near his legacies and not in the village.

“He was the son of the soil! That can never happen!” Uncle Fidelis said aloud, shouting and panting around the house.

“You people should watch and see whose words the government will take! I want my husband to be buried in a place I will be able to visit him, not in Aba where he comes from.”

“What kind of a woman did Arinze marry? Tufia kwa! You people are allowing a mere woman to make decisions over the burial of a man like Arinze Okorocha!” One of the kinsmen said disgustingly, spitting away imaginary saliva.

Chidimma walked away. Her body was hurting and she was falling sick and looking pale by the day; vomiting and running temperature.

“You are a strong woman,” Naomi said as she hugged her.

“ Reverend Adenuga and his wife Rachel are here to see you,” Ngozi announced abruptly.

Chidimma quickly wiped the tears in her eyes and rushed downstairs, hugging Lady Rachel who was in black attire, ready for mourning. “Oh my dear Chidimma, we are so sorry for the loss of your husband. We never knew you were Arinze’s wife. He had been a secret philanthropist all the while he was alive.” She said in plain English.

“Sister Naomi told us yesterday in church and gave us your address, we had to come to see you.” Reverend Adenuga said.

Chidimma forced a painful smile and pointed at the chairs, “please sit, thank you for coming…” she said softly.

All through the week that led to the Burial day of Arinze, Many people visited from all over the world to pay their condolences to the family.

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In the early hours of Friday, Chidimma drove into the lonely road that led to the mortuary where her husband was kept. She ordered the attendant that she wanted to bathe her husband for the last time.

She had come with his favorite body shop wash and cream. When his body was brought into the shower room, Chidimma stared at his handsome face and held it firmly. She wasn’t afraid, she wished he could open his eyes and stare at her. She held his stiff dark hands and wished they could move. She poured the soap on his body and began to wash it, scrubbing every part of it and wishing he could just grab her hands and kiss it.

The cream smelt of fresh Moringa leaves. She applied it on her face and rubbed gently on his. Her heart chattered when the scent of his cream lingered in her nose. Then she placed her face on his belly and wept softly. The attendant rushed in, “madam, The ambulance is here to carry him.” He said. She nodded at him and wiped the tears in her eyes.

Driving back home for the funeral service she could see hundreds of cars parked outside her house. When she alighted, Ngozi rushed at her. “Ma, Ma, you left without telling any of us, we were so worried.”

“I am fine,” Chidimma said as she walked into the house that was filled with strange faces of people she’d never seen before.

She wore her black lace attire and as Naomi zipped her dress, a knock came softly on the door.

Ngozi opened the door, giving way to three women who had scissors pointing out in a medium-sized calabash pot.

“Nwuyem, we are here to perform the isiku.” Older women dressed in a white overall said authoritatively in unison.

“They are the Umuada,” Ngozi whispered.

“Such a tradition is outdated!” Naomi said firmly.

“Young woman, leave us!” One of the women commanded. Chidimma turned to Naomi and nodded at her to leave. Ngozi and Naomi walked out with tears in their eyes.

Chidimma lowered herself on the floor and spread them apart. She removed her headgear and threw it away. She began to sob as the scissors ran through her. Then the scissors scraped every living hair on her head.

“You are lucky that the isiku tradition doesn’t let women drink water used in bathing their husbands anymore. You would have had a taste of it.” One of the women said. Chidimma gulped. She rose to her feet and walked gently to the mirror, staring at the pale face, her misty eyes, she whispered as she ran her hands over her smooth head.

“Dim, look at what they did to me, they took away your glory.” She cried out. When the women left,

Ngozi and Naomi rushed in. They gasped at Chidimma’s head and then stared at each other.

“You don’t look that bad,” Naomi said.

“How I look doesn’t even matter anymore,” Chidimma said weakly.

“You need to take milk before the lying-in-state procession.” Naomi said as she held her hands, “Ngozi, go and bring milk so that she can drink.” Ngozi rushed out and came back again with a glass of milk, Chidimma gulped down and then ran to the toilet, vomiting everything she’d taken in.

She could hear the loud volume of the Ambulance. She stood to her feet and Ngozi flushed the cistern, while Naomi led her to the lying in state procession. When the white color luxury casket was brought in by the hefty men in suit, Chidimma closed her eyes.

When the coffin got open, she could hear screams and yells from Ezinne and her daughters.

“Arinze mama! See heya you have turned your mother into. See me, see me o…”

There was a mixture of tears, sorrows, and agony at the moment. And when the priest walked in with the altar boys, everywhere became quiet, only the soft sobs were heard.

“Father of all, your power brings us to birth; your providence guides our lives, and by your command, we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in your presence, their lives change but do not end.

I pray in hope for the family of late Arinze Johnson Okorocha and for all the dead known to you alone…” the priest went on as she led the prayer for the dead.

And after the long procession, the coffin was closed.

A long procession was taken to a big field where the burial ceremony was conducted, and after the burial, a long convoy of over thousand of cars led to the company site, where Arinze was buried. Chidi mama fainted many times, the fourth time, Doctor Edem ordered that she should be admitted to the hospital immediately.

She was too weak to even say her tribute, and in her heart even though she had said it many times as she was being carried into the car.

‘My darling Arinze, many times I have woken up at night to not find you in bed; not that you have gone on your usual business trips, but you have gone to the world beyond. I am not aware of where it is if only I know. These days have been utterly empty for me. I have been so numb, that I often completely forget what is happening around me. I feel like I have been cut off from everything. I am now standing alone. I feel guilty that I didn’t do enough to save you. I would have stopped you, my heart asked me to. I wish that we would have gone together. A part of me is gone. Will this pain ever go away? The pain is unbearable and my heart won’t take it, I might die soon.

Obim, I will miss your kisses, your touches, and every part of you. But I still feel it. I still feel a part of you inside of me that I will never ever let go. And each time I think of you, I know that you are watching over me. You were so protective, loving, caring, you were the most romantic man I knew. I will live with you in my heart….”

**********

“She is pregnant.” Doctor Edem announced in the ward. There were tears in his own eyes as he took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped it. Naomi rose to her feet immediately, staring at Doctor Edem, “Are you serious, Doctor?” She asked. He nodded at her as more tears fell from his eyes. He had been a family doctor to Arinze and his wife for the entire year they had been married, and this moment was emotional for him.

Chidimma finally opened her eyes, aware of what the doctor had just said, her eyes blinked several times but there were no tears any longer. She held her belly and rubbed her hands over it. Ngozi held her hands and clasped in hers.