20 years ago today, life as I knew it changed, irreversibly.
I was only seven years old, but when we got the news that you had been in an accident, I just knew in my heart that I’d never see you again. I don’t know how, but I just did.
The mind is a funny thing, I had been ill before, but the realisation of something I couldn’t share, couldn’t explain made it drown in despair and so I became even more ill.
By the time they gave us the news of your demise, it was a confirmation of my very worst fears. I remember running upstairs, bawling my eyes out.
And then I remember the guilt, because I remembered begging you not to go on that ill fated journey. I remember crying, insisting that you be the one to take me to the hospital. But you pulled my nose and promised to be back soon, so even though I whined, I let you go, not knowing it was the last time.
So I cried for our loss and cried for my guilt. Perhaps if I had thrown a bigger tantrum, you’d have postponed the journey and you’d still be here with us. After all, I always got my way with you, I had your mumu button, and I knew how to use it. I blamed myself for letting you go out that day.
The last look I got of you is your cold and lifeless body lying in the living room of the Ijebu house, with something that looked like cotton wool stuck in your ears and nose. The rest of that day is a blur.
Then life changed, a lot. We had to readjust; we gave up so many luxuries that we had taken for granted. Domestic workers were reduced to the barest minimum and suddenly, we had to ration our spending. We wanted the same things we had always had but we suddenly could not afford them.
I had to go to boarding school, where half the time, all I thought about was you; the other half, I spent reading. My imagination grew wild, very wild.
Sometimes I’d think I had been a naughty girl and so you were trying to teach me a lesson by pretending to be dead. Sometimes I’d think you faked your death because some evil people were after you, so you needed to pretend they had succeeded while you dealt with them. Sometimes I thought we had buried you in error, that you weren’t dead, but we thought you were… and that miraculously, you’d survive and dig your way out.
Name the scenario, I thought it up.
I think it took me some three years to come to accept that you were gone, and it only took even more grief, before I came to the acceptance of your demise.
It’s two decades now, but I miss you daddy. Every single day. You were my hero, you still are and I love you even more now than I did as a child.
I have grown up and I’ve seen a fraction of how much wickedness is in the world and I am convinced, more than ever, that you are one of the few good things this world had.
I am so proud of you, always and forever. You were a good man, the very best. I can’t even count how many times people have heard my surname, asked if I was your daughter, and then told me what a wonderful man you were. And it makes my chest swell with pride, each time.
I have had people offer me assistance just because I am your daughter. I have had people walk up to me at parties to say I look familiar and when I introduce myself, they gush about being happy to meet me, your daughter.
20 years is a long time to have not heard from you, or see your smile or hear your bubbly, rumbling laughter or have you pinch my nose and tease me. I miss you daddy, I miss you a lot.
I hope that you’re proud of the woman I am becoming. I have made some mistakes but I have tried so hard to remain the daughter you were proud of. I hope I have made you happy, because without a doubt, you have made me happy. I try to make you happy too, and I can only hope I am succeeding.
You lived for a short time, but your impact is everlasting. Thank you for everything you did for us and for the world. Knowing what I know now, fathers like you are rare and I am so lucky to have had you.
In another world, another lifetime, an alternate existence, I’ll still be your girl. Even if it meant being fatherless at seven again, one week as your child is worth it.
This is probably a waste of time because you can’t even read it but I have so many things to say to you. so many, I had to get some of them out.
I hope I still make you happy like I did back then. I hope you can still look at me and smile. I hope you’re proud of those you left behind. I hope I am doing right by you.
I’ve missed you at my graduations and I know I’m going to miss you at my Nikkah and Aqeeqah. I know I’ll never stop missing you.
May your sins be forgiven. May we be reunited in the great forever. May the sadaqah we do in your name be accepted. May Allah be pleased with you. May you reside in the gardens beneath which rivers flow.
– Love always,
Your little girl.