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BN Prose: The Death of Obiageli by Arit Okpo



She had lived a long life.

The old woman thought this as she peered at the quiet street below her. She had lived a long life. Sometimes it seemed that she had lived so long that the past began to seem like the present, and the present became as hard to hold on to as the past. Sometimes, she would be dozing and then be startled awake by the voice of Chukwudi, her husband. She would turn creakily to her side to meet nothing but emptiness, and then she would remember that Chukwudi had been dead for 15 years. Her Chukwudi, her dashing husband; he had been good to her. He had taken care of her and given her 8 beautiful children.

That was another thing that startled her too…sometimes she would hear the voice of her children, as clear as the song of the bird on the railing in front of her. Today it might be Ebube…asking persistently for his lunch, or Chukwuemeka, crying because Okey had beaten him again. Sometimes it would be Chinyere asking her whether she should pound yam or make Eba. She would hear her children’s voices, and for a minute she would forget that her children were all grown up, with their own children…her first 2 children even had grand children.

The old woman thought about these things as she peered again at the street below her. She did not know what she was looking for these days; maybe it was to reassure herself that she had not yet died, even though sometimes she did not know what she was still living for.

She shifted in the chair. She had been there for a long time. The young children who took care of her had brought her out because she had asked to feel the sun. The cold came too easily these days. So they brought her out, grumbling and complaining as they did so. And they left her there. She had waited in vain for her breakfast, but morning had given way to afternoon and nobody had come with any food for her.

The old woman remembered that this had happened before; whether yesterday or last year she did not know. The young man had brought her outside and left her there; left her there till night fell and the cold seeped into her bones. She had dozed off, sitting in her chair, her old head falling onto her chest. It was morning the next day when the boy came out to bring her inside, he had forgotten he said, but he did not seem sorry. He had taken her inside, and for a long time she had not asked to go outside again. The cough had started after that, this painful cough that hurt her chest and sapped her strength.

The old woman wished that her daughter was there, so that she could ask her to take her back to the village. If she was in the village, she could sit down and send the young girls to cook for her and fetch her water and help her to bed. But she had not seen Ndidi for a long time now. The last time, her daughter had come into the room, smelling of perfume, with her nails painted red – Ndidi had explained to her that she was traveling to see her children overseas, and that the house helps would take care of her. She wanted to ask Ndidi to sit down and chat with her for a while, to tell her about her husband and her children, but Ndidi seemed to be in a hurry.

She was always in a hurry, she never had time to sit down and tell her about her life anymore. The old woman remembered when Ndidi was small, how she would always wander into the house with a funny looking pebble, or a strange flower, or with one of her many questions. Ndidi loved to ask questions. Now her daughter was the important wife of a rich man, and whenever she tried to talk to her, Ndidi would brush her off with an apology and a reminder of how busy she was. She wondered what had happened to her daughter, she missed her curious little girl; she did not know who this impatient woman with the red fingernails was.

The old woman thought about these things as she peered again at the street below her. She thought of her parents. Of her strict mother, quick to beat her for the slightest error. When she was beaten, she would run to her second mother, her father’s other wife. Her second mother would dry her eyes and rock her to sleep. She had a happy childhood; her mothers loved her father and treated each other like sisters. She was her mother’s last born, the apple of her father’s eye.

Day became night as the old woman pondered. She sat outside on the little balcony and watched as cars drove by and people chatted in the street. She saw her daughter’s security man go to the house opposite to pass the time. She watched the shadows lengthen and saw when the lights on the street came on. Sometimes she dozed off, but something would startle her awake. The old woman sat and waited, but nobody came.

Night became day, and then night again. The old woman did not know how many days she sat there, waiting, but still nobody came to check on her or to take her back inside. She was weak and the cough stabbed her in the chest every time she took a breath. Her bladder had become full and one time when she coughed, unable to hold it anymore, she relieved herself. That was when she wept, painful, struggling tears of shame. Was this who she had become? She, Obiageli, her father’s pride, her mother’s joy, the most eligible maiden in her village. The memories started again, one after the other, almost too quickly to catch hold of, stories told in the moonlight as a child, the first time she saw Chukwudi, the celebrations when Chukwudi came to make her his wife, the birth of her children. She traveled through the years of her life, relieving every moment. Suddenly, she was tired, very tired.

Human ears could not have heard her voice, so low was it as she said “Let me come”. In case they did not want to agree, she whispered again, “Chukwudi, my husband, it is enough, tell them to let me come”

As she spoke, the wind ceased to blow, the crickets stopped chirping. The night was quiet; there was not even the rustle of a piece of paper in the street. In the stillness, Death came. She looked up and saw him, her Chukwudi, her handsome husband, come to take her finally. The old woman smiled, and her smile was the smile of a young maiden who has just fallen in love.

Obiageli died alone and un-mourned on her rich daughter’s balcony.

Her daughter’s 2 house staff, each supposing that the other would care for her and unwilling to be cheated, had decided to take advantage of their boss’s absence and sneak out for a holiday.

It would be 3 more days before her body was discovered.

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  1. Ella

    July 30, 2013 at 9:19 am


  2. Remilekun

    July 30, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Beautifully sad….Brilliant!

    • Dee Nina

      July 30, 2013 at 2:05 pm


  3. eniola

    July 30, 2013 at 9:41 am

    That’s the word. Brilliant write up, Arit. Sad though. 🙁

  4. Fizzie

    July 30, 2013 at 9:43 am


  5. Joy Ojo

    July 30, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Touching story. It depicts the life of most of us, we never have time for our old ones. God bless them all, because they truly nurtured us.

  6. Eniola

    July 30, 2013 at 9:47 am

    This is so beautiful, I’ve great pride in Nigerians.

  7. Tess

    July 30, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Very sad…hopefully we will learn lessons. Beautiful writing Arit, well done!

  8. Zion

    July 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

    My mother who sat
    and watched my infant head
    when sleeping on my cradle bed
    and tears of sweet affecttion shed,
    my mother
    When pain and sickness made me cry
    Who gazed on my heavy eye
    And wept for fear that I should die
    my mother……..

    I lost my mother when I was barely ten. And so I was brought up by my aunty. Growing up was NOT easy at all, though I am now an adult, I still miss my mother sooooo much.
    But in all I give God the Glory for His goodness and I know He will perfect His workS in my life.
    And so those whose mothers are still alive, please take good care of them. Shalom

    • uh-huh

      July 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Amen to that….i lost mine when i was barely 6….didn’t know her, raised by my dad who is a disciplinarian, but loved us all. that’s why i hate mothers day, i’ll send cards to my friends moms and my aunt’s but i never go anybody’s house if am invited for a mother’s day lunch or dinner. sorry that’s just me. like u say, thank God! for everything he does, there’s a reason for it.

  9. Ibinabo

    July 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

    wow! nice piece. well done, Arit.

  10. Mousepad

    July 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

    chai!!!! too touching and brilliant!!!!

  11. Intoxyka

    July 30, 2013 at 10:24 am

    sigh….beautiful writing, sad plot. I hope we never get too busy to be with our parents. We should never forget the times they answered our silly child-questions, rocked us to sleep, bought us gifts, winked at us as they left us as school, threw us that birthday party, listened to us rant about teachers, works and boyfriends and finally whispered to us at night while we slept how much they loved us. We should not scorn them when they are too weak to take care of themselves because one day, we too will be like them……*stops typing. Picks up phone to call mum*

    • Bebe

      July 31, 2013 at 12:12 am

      Preach. And more importantly, we should remember that we too will one day grow to a ripe old age, if God wills it. I’m learning to devote time and attention to the elderly, they deserve it.

  12. theeto

    July 30, 2013 at 10:27 am

    hmmmm jeez, this is like a wake up call for me especially……. i am always in a hurry an time i visit my dad…. and he keeps saying “i am lonely’…… GOD!
    i need to retrace my step.. knowly fully well that days remaining cant be as long as days spent…. buh i do love my father!

  13. obi

    July 30, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I couldn’t breathe as I read this piece, so touching and a sad reality of how most people treat their parents when they grow old and weak and maybe sick. it jolted me back to reality cos my mum came to spend some time with me and I realized just now that I really need to make out more time and talk with her cos she is getting quite older and older with each passing day that my heart wrenches each time I look at my once ever young mum now 71, I feel so sad

  14. oSinakachi

    July 30, 2013 at 10:44 am

    “We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish but God changeth not” our hope should be on God cos man always fails woefully.

  15. Ann

    July 30, 2013 at 10:50 am

    This actually made me cry. Arit thanks for sharing. This reminded me of my grandma; will really have to make out time to see her. And God let me take this time to thank you for the wonderful parents you gave me, for their unconditional love and support all through these years and help me also take care of them so they’ll know their sacrifices in raising me has not been in vain. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN

  16. koko

    July 30, 2013 at 10:54 am

    hmmmm dear daddy i love u i miss even if im always in a hurry im sorry i wld change…very on point write up…..i miss my mummy ma….sobbs…

  17. Lara

    July 30, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Well done Arit. Well written.

  18. Funmi

    July 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

    What i understand by this write up is the negligence of our aged ones. Our parent nurtured us, why cant we take care of them in their old age????. Too bad. I also see this as a wake up call for all of us reading this to take care of our parents. Shikena

  19. saratu

    July 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

    fantastic story. Very moving

  20. Ready

    July 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    🙁 Firstly, this was beautiful. We forget our old people were once vibrant young people who took care of themselves and us among other things. But we get older and life begins to happen to us, and it gets harder to make time to care for them. Thankfully, my parents are still quite young but old people ways are creeping in already. I hope to learn to be more patient in answering their questions, assuaging their fears, and spending more time caring for them.

    • Eve82

      July 31, 2013 at 4:28 am

      You couldn’t have put it any better. God bless our parents!

  21. truthspeaks

    July 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I cried. Very poignant. ….this emphasizes the importance of cherishing our elderly loved ones in the dusk of their lives, spending quality time with them, recognise they are still human (feelings and all) and accord them the same respect as we showed as children. Well done

  22. Kamal

    July 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm


  23. C S

    July 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    This is a very good story to learn a lot. Some of us are opportune to marry rich men but never have time for our old parent, today in U.K, tomorrow in America. Look at this old woman that died on her rich daughter’s balcony. Yes the house girls took d advantage that their boss didn’t call or monitor them and abandoned d woman and she died alone and un-mourned on her rich daughter’s “balcony”. shame! Someday, sometime they will get old and need assistant, if u are treated this way will u be happy? May God have mercy!

  24. Fusion OAU

    July 30, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    this is incredible!!!!!!!

  25. Myne Whitman

    July 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Very sad, but thoughtful too.

  26. nnenne

    July 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Beautiful!!!… such a well crafted well written story. Brought tears to my eyes…. Thanks Arit for sharing, Wowwww!

  27. menoword

    July 30, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you very much for all your kind comments, it is a sad story, but I’m glad you all appreciated the story behind the story. God bless

  28. chi-chi

    July 31, 2013 at 11:28 am

    reminds me of my great grand mum.. she lost her husband in the year 2000 and she has some sort of memory loss. At times she can’t recall who my dad or her great grand children are. my grand mum left her in the care of some of our relations who I know sometimes behave like the househelps in this story. I pray I meet her when i get back home.

  29. momohslaw

    July 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I had to stop my meal to read the story. After i finished the story i lost appetite cos since papa died we had bn so busy struggling to survive dt we v paid little to no attention to her and of a truth she’s lonly that she has to go stay with her elder bro for days sometimes weeks. Nice write up arit

  30. momohslaw

    July 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Brilliant post

  31. milly

    August 1, 2013 at 2:54 am

    On point! Most of us forget that when we get too busy to look after our parents ,our children will do same to us, you reap what you sow.
    Do not ever trust domestic staff with old people,as the heart of Man is wicked, even if you have domestic staff, not even distant relations should be trusted, it’s always safe to have your parents live with you or visit them frequently even if they have domestic staff, as we do not have old people’s home in Nigeria and its not even at culture.

  32. bellaswan

    August 1, 2013 at 7:26 am

    and i wept my eyes out

  33. Daisy

    August 1, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Very nicely written!

  34. Meez

    August 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Wonderful write up , brought tears to my eyes though…

  35. Aderonke

    August 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Beautiful story…but sad!

  36. Alexia

    August 2, 2013 at 8:05 am

    called my mom immediately after…Thanks Arit, for reminding me to show her love while I can!

  37. Adaeze

    February 10, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Beautiful Story, Weldone Arit

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