Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is still grieving the death of her father, James Nwoye Adichie, who passed away on Wednesday June 10, 2020.
James Nwoye Adichie was Nigeria’s first professor of Statistics. He studied Mathematics at Ibadan and got his PhD in Statistics from Berkeley.
In a tribute to him posted on Facebook, she shared in details the events leading up to his death. Also speaking about their plans to record his stories of her great grandmother.
She spoke of her pain; how she cried for days till her side muscles ached, how she screamed and pounded things, and how much she misses him. She shared a video showing some memories of her and her father.
Mourning his sad passing, she wrote:
And just like that my life has changed forever. June 7, there was Daddy on our weekly family zoom call, talking and laughing. June 8, he felt unwell. Still, when we spoke he was more concerned about my concussion (I’d fallen while playing with my daughter).
June 9, we spoke briefly, my brother Okey with him. “Ka chi fo,” he said. His last words to me. June 10, he was gone.
Because I loved my father so much, so fiercely, so tenderly, I always at the back of my mind feared this day. But he was in good health. I thought we had time. I thought it wasn’t yet time. I have come undone. I have screamed, shouted, rolled on the floor, pounded things. I have shut down parts of myself.
“The children and I adore him,” my mother wrote in a tribute when he was made professor emeritus. We are broken. We are bereft, holding on to one another, planning a burial in these COVID-scarred times. I am stuck in the US, waiting. The Nigerian airports are closed. Everything is confusing, uncertain, bewildering.
Sleep is the only respite. On waking, the enormity, the finality, strikes – I will never see my father again. Never again. I crash and go under. The urge to run and run, to hide from this. The shallow surface of my mind feels safest because to go deeper is to face unbearable pain. All the tomorrows without him, his wisdom, his grace.
We talked almost daily. I sent him my travel itineraries. He would text me just before I got on a stage: Ome ife ukwu! Nothing else mattered to me as much as the pride in his eyes.
I saw him last on March 5th in Abba. I had planned to be back in May. We planned to record his stories of my great grandmother.
Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger. You learn that your side muscles will ache painfully from days of crying. You learn how glib condolences can feel.
My father was Nigeria’s first professor of Statistics. He studied Mathematics at Ibadan and got his PhD in Statistics from Berkeley, returning to Nigeria shortly before the Biafran War. A titled Igbo man – Odelu Ora Abba – deeply committed to our hometown. A Roman Catholic with a humane and luminous faith. A gentle man and a gentleman. For those who knew him, these words recur: honest, calm, kind, strong, quiet, integrity.
I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe that I am writing about my father in the past tense. My heart is broken.
Thank you to my darling brother Chuks Adichie for this video. Daddy’s kindness lives on in you.
Watch the video shared by Chimamanda below.
Check out some photos from the video:
Photo Credit: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie