Death is the painful last part of Life and the sorrow it often brings may give the living a chance to live right and do right.
Many have said again and again that life offers us all second chances. Some even say no one ever fails or loses without getting another chance to redeem himself and seize the opportunity.
And, from the Scriptures I know for sure that Heaven gives humans second chances, and sometimes third.
In my case, both Death and Chance visited at the same time.
I was with my mom in front of our house, we were separating chaff from beans that Wednesday evening when my mother’s phone rang.
When she picked and shouted a very painful and long ‘Ah! Jesus!’, I knew for certain that someone had died.
My mom dropped the bowl of beans from her knees and stoop up. I also dropped the seeds from my hands and looked at her with beseeching eyes.
As I noticed the tears set slowly on my mother’s eyes, I willed myself to be patient and wait for the call to end before I allow the tears that had quickly welled up in my moist eyes to spill.
‘Maybe it is not death’, I hung on to the hope, but I knew it could only be death.
My mother then began telling the caller about how death doesn’t take the bad ones, only those who are good.
‘She was always good to me. She was always good to me, she was…’ Her voice trailed off as tears muffled the words.
I couldn’t stand seeing my mom in so much pain.
I left the chair and went to stand beside her to support and comfort her.
I placed my arm around her as she rounded off the conversation.
When she ended the call and put away the phone from her ear, I guided her to the chair she sat on before the call.
‘Mommy, what’s it? Who is it?’ I squatted beside her with my hands still around her.
She turned her face towards me and mentioned the name,
‘It is Sister Adeyemi, she died this morning.’
I knew the name quite well but I had to be sure.
‘My Lord!’ Sister Adeyemi? Mommy Ruth?!’
She nodded her head slowly and confirmed it; Ruth’s mom was dead.
I felt the loss and the pain, but not enough for me to cry.
But as I looked at my mom, with her eyes still wet from tears, I was moved to tears myself.
A single tear streamed from the corner of my left eye.
‘Sorry mommy…’ I tried to comfort her but words failed me.
My mother had always been close to the woman since we were kids.
Even when they split the congregation of our church into two branches, and Ruth’s mom had to move to the new branch, their friendship didn’t split with the congregation.
And to me, the woman was always good. All the memories I had of her were pleasant ones. I never greeted her once without her responding with big smiles.
I returned to my seat and tried to comfort my mom with words of hope of heaven and the blessedness of dying saved from sin.
‘She was always a good woman, mom, she rests in a better place…’
My mom nodded again and again as I spoke sentence after sentence to soothe her pang of loss.
When I fell silent, my mom heaved and said, ‘It is well’.
She stood up and entered the house, leaving me sitting alone in the cool breeze of the evening.
It is funny how easily we often move on and shake off the news of death.
I sat in silence for a couple of seconds and took up the beans to resume picking.
‘I should call Ruth.’ I thought long and hard on what I’d say before finally deciding to do so.
I scrolled through my phone and dialled her number.
Immediately I placed the phone to my ear, I heard a confident ‘The number you have called is not available.’
I tried three more times and got the very same response. It was only then that I began to doubt if she still used the number.
So I called Jide instead.
As I waited for the phone to ring, I cleared my throat a couple of times to be able to speak with him without sounding too concerned.
‘Hello Jide…’ I spoke when he picked.
‘Guy, I’m still busy at office o’, he quickly responded, in a low voice.
‘Busy? When it is almost 6 pm?’ I wondered.
‘Guy! This is Lagos…’
‘Let me call you back abeg’ he added.
I wasn’t going to wait for him till he had a freetime- if he would ever have any.
‘I called to tell you that Ruth’s mom died this morning.’
‘Dear Lord! What?!’ The guy was obviously hearing it for the first time.
He seemed to settle down after the news- his words were no longer rushed and I was able to speak on.
‘Yeah. My mom just told me some minutes ago and I tried calling Ruth’s number but I guess she has changed SIMs.’
I regretted telling Jide I had Ruth’s number as soon as the words left my mouth.
I tightly closed my eyes and hoped he wouldn’t ask how I got the number in the first place.
But the news was too painful for him to be concerned with phone numbers.
‘But I spoke with her two days ago and she only said her mom was sick…’ Jide explained.
‘I thought it was nothing, I never knew it was this serious.’
‘Really? You spoke with Ruth two days ago?’ I was more concerned with the apparent continued communication between the two of them.
‘Yeah, we speak often and chat almost daily but she has not been responding to my messages since yesterday morning.’
‘I guess that would be because of her mom’, he continued. ‘Ah Lord! And that mommy was always good to me.’
‘I called her on her last birthday and she just laughed and laughed when I sang to her.’
As Jide went on and on about the memories he had of Ruth’s mom, I closed my eyes and winced as it dawned on me that Ruth had indeed, moved on from me; and that Jide had taken charge.
‘Are you still home?’ Jide’s question jolted me back to reality.
‘Yes, I’m still at home.’ I answered, wondering if he would be travelling down.
‘Ruth should also be there. She told me she would be travelling to stay with her mom the last time we spoke.’
‘Oh! So Ruth has lost her mom…’ Jide said again and his voice shook and broke.
Hearing the pain in Jide’s voice slowly made me begin to come to terms with the fact that things had changed.
‘I hope she is alright, please I want to end this call and speak with her.’ Jide excused himself.
‘It’s okay, do that.’ I responded.
‘Thanks, later bro…’ But before he could end the call, I quickly cut in and reminded him again,
‘Please, can you send me Ruth’s number too. I’d like to call her and send my condolences.’
‘No problem. I will do that.’
‘Later then. May God keep us safe.’
‘Amen’, I heard him say before I cut the call.
I sat down in front of my home and tried to think past the pain in my chest.
Whether the pain was from the death of Ruth’s mom or the flourishing relationship between my friend and someone I obviously liked, I wasn’t certain.
I waited for the phone number to arrive but after five minutes, I received no message.
I stood up and went to my room after dropping the bowl of bean seeds in the kitchen.
I called Jide again but his line was busy.
‘I suppose he is still speaking with her.’ I reasoned.
As I waited for the message that should carry the phone number, I made a decision to purge my heart of every feeling and longing to see Ruth.
I promised myself I will not betray any emotions if, or when I see her eventually.
It was almost 8pm before Jide finally sent the phone numbers with apologies.
I saved the number on my phone and backed it up on my mail account, as I did all my contacts.
Then I called Ruth.
It was just over a year since we spoke but it seemed like a decade had passed.
When I dialled the number, I closed my eyes and prayed for strength as I waited for her to pick.
‘Hello Victor.’ She spoke before I did and the unmistakable sound of anguish I heard in her voice broke my heart and filled me with a strange longing to console her.
‘Hello Ruth…’, I was finally able to respond.
The knowledge that she, in fact, had my number all the while didn’t bother me.
‘How are you?’
‘My mom told me the news this evening.’ I added before she answered.
‘I’m very very sorry. Very sorry.’
I heard her sniff and continued.
‘May God console you and your siblings.’
She said a soft and low ‘Amen’ and sniffed yet again.
‘Thank you.’ She added and I could clearly hear the pain in her voice.
It took all the will and strength I could muster for me to hold back the tears from my eyes.
But when she started to describe her mother’s last moments in the world, I couldn’t resist anymore.
‘…we all thought it was just Malaria, but it wasn’t… They said she was…she was…’ She couldn’t finish the sentence before she lost the strength to say more.
I couldn’t hear anything from her end but I knew she was crying again. I was too.
‘I’m so so sorry, Ruth.’
I didn’t know what else to say.
I wanted to take her pain away altogether but no one could.
‘I’m sorry’. Those were the only words I could say. And I said them over and over again.
When I realized she might not be able to say anything more, I spoke after a pause,
‘I will come and visit you all tomorrow.’
She managed to say ‘Okay, thank you’ and I waited for her to cut the call.
But when I saw that after three seconds, she didn’t cut it, I did so myself.
I sat still and continued staring at the phone for a short while after the conversation.
And then Jide called.
‘Have you spoken with her?’ I heard him say as soon as I picked.
‘Yeah, I have.’
‘Thanks bro. I have spoken with her too…’ He said briskly ‘…and she sounded so weak and heartbroken. She even cried while we were still speaking.’
‘It is well…’, I responded ‘…I will try and visit their family tomorrow.’
‘Thank you bro’.
‘I don’t think I will be able to travel down.’ Jide continued.
‘I just closed from work now and we have a very hectic schedule for the rest of this week.’
‘But I should be able to come for the burial.’
‘Do you know when the burial will take place?’ I asked.
‘No. Not yet. I haven’t been able to ask her.’
‘Okay, God help us.’
‘I have to go now, I want to board a bus.’
‘Okay bro.’ I responded.
‘Please, help me be there for Ruth, please. I know you guys are not close but please, for my sake, help me assist her.’ Jide pleaded.
‘I will. Don’t worry.’ I assured him.
‘My mom and I will visit them tomorrow.’
‘Thanks Victor, I really appreciate it. Goodnight.’ He said and cut the call.
After the discourse, I considered the situation I was in and promised myself not to get carried away.
‘I will not make this a case of a cat watching over a fish.’
‘I will not swoop in and pounce.’
‘I will not seize the opportunity.’
‘Out of respect for my friend, I will not allow my feelings take over.’
I promised myself over and over again, but even as I did, something within me told me I will not keep the promise.
‘The Root’, Episode 8.