My sister, my daughter
When I bought my apartment in November 2001, my youngest sister was the sole beneficiary, her name appeared on all the forms even though she was never aware of that fact.
She was for me not only my youngest sister but as there was a 17-year gap between us, there are ways in which I considered her my daughter too. Yet, I was like an absent father to a daughter I knew I had but never bonded with.
When she was born, she arrived home on the day I was leaving for school, I did not attend her naming ceremony and for that my father and I got into a physical where he head-butted me out of rage because I did not rise to expected familial responsibilities.
Away and unaware
I had left home at 10 for boarding school and the time I spent at home after that was for holidays apart from the 16th year when I was a student at the Lagos State Polytechnic before I moved to Yaba College of Technology in late 1982.
In many ways, I was unaware of what was going on at home, siblings fell seriously ill, some were admitted to hospital, another had an operation, I was oblivious of everything and only heard after the event whenever either of my parents deployed an accusatory put down to gain some leverage, I was a problem teenager who got them annoyed about most of what I did.
In hurt and blame
After I left Nigeria, in snippets of conversation I would hear of my sister’s condition, her undulating health status and the complaint that she was not giving enough consideration to her health. That was confirmed when I was able to obtain a full diagnosis from the doctors after her health deteriorated rapidly in mid-2015.
I had begun to mourn my sister and my daughter from that point, not out of resignation but in understanding the gravity of the diagnosis and the prognosis. I still hold the view that in a way my mother bears some responsibility for the way things turned out. We have not spoken and we probably would never speak because of this.
Respecting her choices
From the moment I was acquainted with the situation, I did communicate with my sister through other means apart from speech. It appeared some decisions were being made on her behalf that she was not happy to follow, she did not want a kidney transplant even though that would have given her respite and there was a time she suggested moving abroad to continue her education, giving her the opportunity to have better medical treatment.
At a time when she appeared despondent, I shared my own story about how I lost everything after cancer and invariably that included what she would have been a beneficiary of. I respected her being adamant about the choices she wanted for herself. Then when I was told that she was beginning to think of dying, I resigned myself to honouring that decision and so a few weeks after that she died.
For a memorial beyond the memories
My brother and third sister made the burial arrangements and she was committed to earth that same day somewhere far from home and unmarked. Tradition dictates difficult accommodations for grief, for she was survived by her parents and many older siblings.
A few days ago, I asked if a tombstone was being put over her grave, the response I received broke my heart, and at the point, I knew I had not even begun to grieve the passing of my sister. I do not think I understand or appreciate the gravity of the loss and this is from a distance in all ramifications compared to people saw her everyday, as her health declined and life slowly ebbed out of her tormented body.
I took the day off work and returned the next day pre-occupying myself back into work to weather the loss without pausing to emote and reflect. I busied myself to take my thoughts off it and have not given myself the time to consider until I started writing this blog.
I think of my mortality too, times when I wonder if I would be discovered before the maggots have had their wicked feast on my remains. Yet, even if there is nothing after death that I could either do or feel, I would like something to exist as a token of remembrance that I passed through this world noticed for more than a day. I would like that for my sister too because we never said goodbye and after she had gone, I did die a little.
My first sister and her church members made the burial arrangements, I did read that my third sister bathed her body and they all were pall-bearers at the end. As the blog read, I only so much about what is going on in my family.