“Gbenga didn’t you take some time off work?” Onyinye asked her husband as he was getting dressed for work. He went to work yesterday and she assumed he would request a bereavement leave for the next one week. She had taken 3 days off from school to spend time with her husband and her in-laws.
“No I didn’t…I’ll take time off during the…burial.” He stood in front of the mirror and combed his hair. He needed a haircut; he had been too busy to go to the barber.
“Gbenga I took some days off…we should go and spend some time with your dad and Mosope.”
“Well, that’s nice of you but I’m going to work….I have a deadline to meet.”
Onyinye stared at her husband in disbelief. “Gbenga your MOTHER died, even your boss would respect that.”
“I don’t need you to remind me.” He picked up his briefcase and left the room.
Her husband was unbelievable. Left to her, they should have stayed at her in-laws house instead of rushing back home on Sunday. They had barely spoken to each other since they got back. Yesterday night she tried to talk to him when he came to join her on the bed to sleep but he shut her up by telling her he was tired.
Anyways she was going over to spend the night with her father in-law and Mosope whether Gbenga liked it or not. It was still so hard to believe her mother in-law was dead, the same woman who was very busy entertaining them two days ago.
She remembered the first time she met her. She had been dating Gbenga for almost a year and he told her he wanted to take her home to meet his mum. She was reluctant at first because she was only 22 and Gbenga was just 23 and they hadn’t even spoken about marriage. Mrs Lawal was so nice to her, hugged her when she met her and gave her a gift when she was leaving. She smiled as she remembered what she told her when Gbenga wasn’t within earshot.
“Don’t let him touch you my dear. Did you hear me?”
“I raised my son in the way of the Lord but that doesn’t mean I can vouch for him. Keep yourself till you get married…it’s your pride.” It must have helped because she kept her word even though she and Gbenga were just church goers and not committed to God. She didn’t surrender to Jesus till after they got married.
Over the next few years they continued dating and eventually got married, her mother in-law still remained an affable woman. Every time she called her, mummy always prayed for both of them before hanging up; she would surely miss her. It was such a shame she would not be around to hold her grandchild.
She got up from the bed and knelt beside her bed to pray for her husband, her marriage and the entire Lawal family.
Gbenga hissed and deleted the paragraph he had just typed. This was the third time he was starting the report again. He had to hand in this report tomorrow and he didn’t want anything to affect his appraisal. His office phone rang and he answered it.
“Gbenga please come into my office.” His manager said.
He left what he was working on and went to his manager’s office. The office comprised of a big mahogany table, a big leather chair his manager sat on and two chairs across him. On the left, a shelf held some books and his ‘employee of the year award’.
His manager was an ordinary looking middle aged man whose brain made up for what he lacked in looks. He was sitting behind his desk reading a newspaper with his pot belly bridging the gap between him and the table. There was no way he would let himself look this way when he got to this age. “Good morning Kenneth.” He greeted.
“Morning Gbenga, sit down.” Kenneth lowered the newspaper and placed it on his table. Gbenga did as he was told and tried to think of a reason why he had been summoned. The report wasn’t due till tomorrow or did he make a mistake?
“Gbenga your wife just called me.”
He swallowed hard. How did Onyinye even get his number? “My wife called you?”
“Yes she did.” He took off his glasses and placed it on the table. “I’m sorry about your mother’s death, please accept my condolence.”
“Thank you. I-”
“Look, why don’t you take the rest of the week off? I’m sure you will need the time.”
“But Kenneth I’m working on the Akin Taylor report which is due tomorrow. I’m fine, trust me.”
“Young man, hand in that report as soon as you leave my office and I’ll get someone else to complete it.” Kenneth said in a no-nonsense voice.
“Can’t I work on it till-”
“Gbenga, just hand in the report. My prayers are with you and your family.”
“Thanks.” Gbenga got up to leave. He was furious with Onyinye; he would give her a piece of his mind as soon as he gets home.
As he was leaving, Kenneth said: “Gbenga you need to slow down, no need to kill yourself over this job.”
“Okay thanks.” He mumbled and shut the door. He went back to his office to tidy up what he was working on before handing it over to his colleague and left the office.
As he drove back home, Gbenga allowed himself to remember.
To remember memories he had blocked away since Sunday. He remembered his dad’s scream that echoed through the house when he found his mother on the bathroom floor; how they had driven to the hospital and the shock that went through his body when the doctor pronounced her dead. He remembered storming out of the hospital building and walking around aimlessly for such a long while his legs ached.
His mother was gone.
He fought back tears as memories came pouring in one after the other. His graduation day- how proud his mother was because he graduated with first class and won several awards. She was on her feet cheering him as he was called to collect each award. The day he got married – she had called him that morning to pray for him and give him advice, the precious moment when they had their mother and son dance, how she had tears in her eyes as they danced; and most recently the morning of her 52nd birthday when they went to a studio to take professional pictures.
He wished he had spent more time with her because she always complained she hardly ever saw him. He bit his lip in regret and allowed the tears to spill. An impatient driver honked because he was driving slowly and abused him as he drove past.
But God had been merciful to him. He gave him a chance to see her just before she died.
His heart went to his father, they were so close. His parents painted a model picture of marriage. How was his dad going to live without her?
He was blessed to have a wife who loved him dearly, yet he wasn’t treating her well. In his quest for success and promotion, he had neglected who mattered most to him.
Onyinye locked the front door about to leave for her in-laws house when Gbenga drove in. It wasn’t even noon yet and he was home. It had to be because of the phone call she made earlier. She didn’t know what made her call Gbenga’s manager but she knew she needed to. Luckily, she found his number on a complimentary card in Gbenga’s old wallet. Kenneth confirmed her fear, that Gbenga hadn’t mentioned his mother’s death at work. She knew he was mad at her and prepared for his outburst.
He parked but didn’t come out of his car. She waved at him and was about to escape facing him when she saw his head bent over the steering wheel.
“Gbenga open up.” She said and tapped his window.
He unlocked the door and she saw his eyes were red. He had been crying.
“Ohhh Gbenga.” She bent over and hugged him.
He held on to her and wept. He let out all the emotions he had bottled up. “My mum is gone. Oh God why?”
“Sweetheart I’m soo sorry.”
“I didn’t even spend time with her, Onyinye I was never there.” He sobbed. “I only saw my mother three times this year.”
“Gbenga it’s okay.”
“What sort of man am I? Sweetheart I’m so sorry, I’ve been a terrible husband.”
“Gbenga I’m sorry too and I forgive you.”
He cupped her face and looked intently at her. “I’m so sorry, I love you so much.”
“I love you too Gbenga.” Gbenga held his wife and kissed her.
Mosope rushed into Gbenga’s arms as soon as he walked into the house with Onyinye. Brother and Sister held on to each other tightly.
“Mosope I don’t know…I still can’t believe it. When we walked in I was expecting to hear mummy’s voice you know.”
“How are we going to get through this? I’m not strong Gbenga.”
‘Mosope, God will strengthen us.” Gbenga surprised himself with the words that just came out of his mouth. He just mentioned God. He was sure he was a total stranger to God because he couldn’t remember the last time he really spoke to God except when he went to church and that was just because it was a routine he had been brought up with.
Gbenga released his sister and greeted some relatives and church members who were at the house. His aunt, his mum’s lookalike who come all the way from Ibadan came out from the kitchen and hugged him.
“Gbenga pele, oye Olorun” (sorry, God knows why.)
“Ese ma.” (Thank you ma).
He asked of his dad and Mosope told him he was in his room. He left them and went to his father’s room.
“Good afternoon sir.”
His father was sitting on his bed, leaning against the headrest; he looked like he had aged between Sunday and today.
“Gbenga good afternoon, how are you?”
“Fine sir.” He replied and sat on the bed. Father and son sat in silence for a while, both lost in thought. Gbenga was remembering all the times he came into this room to talk to his mother, he had never been close to his father but he and his mother were quite close. Tunji was thinking of when to fix the burial, he wanted to get it over and done with.
“Dad, how are you?”
“Son, I can’t say I’m fine cos I’m not but who am I to question God ?” he paused. “He is called Kabiyesi (the unquestionable) for a reason. The bible says for everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to… die. The bible also says- ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.’ I know your mother is with the Lord now, that’s all the comfort I have.” He smiled. “You should have seen the peace on her face.”
“True dad, I thank God mummy was a believer.” As he said those words, Gbenga reflected on his life, if he were to die today, he wasn’t sure he was going to make it to Heaven; he had to make his way right with God.
Mosope joined them and they talked about burial arrangements. They agreed to have a quiet burial ceremony next month.