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December 26, 2005

My Very First Niece: Adieu Chidera Alexandria Nnaji

by Vincent Ikenna Ogbudibe --- Very few people realize that the death of a child is NOT in accordance to God’s NORMAL scheme of things. It is unnatural. God did not mean for a child to go first. A niece buries the uncle or aunt. Not the uncle or aunt buries the niece.

Most people do NOT experience the painChidera Alexandria Nnaji and devastation of the death of a child especially in an air crash like that of the Sosoliso flight 1145 of 10/12 2005. And I truly hope no uncle or aunt will ever feel the death of their niece because they do not deserve it.

The pain and devastation are indescribable … and single persons – and even parents – will never feel this devastation until they experience losing a child themselves.

If you love your child, the death of your child is more painful than the death of any of your loved ones, including one’s own parents. And because of this devastation, I do not wish this pain even to my enemies.

Being the first grandchild of her two surviving grandmas, Chidera’s birth on the 16th day of April 1993 at Aba made her a very special baby to all of us who were privileged to have our first niece, and expectedly she had no option than to grow up in an environment filled with so much love and admiration that we made a news item of her every development – from the appearance of her first milk tooth, through her first day at Early Learning School Aba to sometime in 2002 when she took charge and began to make the news herself.

Cee-mum (as we fondly called her) had on her own initiative written a letter to the Executive Governor of Abia state to complain about the state of the access road to her school with emphasis on its potential threat to her parents’ cars. This ‘naïve’ but bold effort (albeit beyond most expectations) got the attention of the governor who had responded by an official visit to her school to personally acknowledge receipt of the letter and in the process, commend both the parents and teachers for their ability to elicit such courage and environmental awareness in a nine-year old as it were then. The Governor hitherto pledged to fix the road and promptly went ahead to do so to put smiles on the faces of the Early Learning School community and every other user of that road.

I have felt the pain of the loss of a grandfather; have felt the pain of the death of a beloved uncle, and felt the death of my father, even though I was younger. I know how it feels. I experienced it. It is painful, looking at those old kind folks who were your icons; who took care of you; showered you love; went through all kinds of sacrifices and left enormous goodwill to take you through for years and years in the thorny path of life, until one day the child stood on one’s own two feet, and then … there they are, these loved ones, helpless and lifeless in front of you.

My wife, Adanna, describes the death of her father as a deep stab, like a bullet in the heart that pierces the body deeply. The deaths of my grandfather, of my uncle and my father were like Ada’s Father’s death, deep, painful, sad … Then, the pain and sadness are gone. They remain a fond memory of the good things we did together.

Our deaths as uncles and aunts would be something like this. Mostly the fond memories of things we did together; and that as uncles and aunts and as a family, we did what we had to do.

Without sounding to pessimistic and pretending to be too old, I can say that we as parents have become older, and we lived our lives. It is now our Children’s turn to live theirs and hope, as parents, we are doing most of what we have to do as God wishes us.

When we return to our Creator, it is okay because we lived our lives … we have fulfilled our lives.

I am particularly happy that Chidera’s parents, Ngozi and Ossy, would be consoled by the very fact that they did their utmost best for ‘Cee-mum’. I still recall vividly, fond memories of their shared laughter and expressions of love, care and concern, most especially in the last couple of months spanning her exam preparations and subsequent successful admission to Loyola Jesuit College Abuja – the very best school of international standard that Nigeria has to offer.

I had sat with them to do last minute revisions at home in Abuja a day to the post entrance interview and remember very well how I extracted a promise from Chidera afterwards at the dining table and in front of my kids, to pass the interview and set a good example for her cousins and twin siblings to emulate. Needless to say she kept that promise and remained their role model as we would expect, and I am glad I told her that in front of them when we last visited her at school.

Cee-mum’s death — the death of any child — is the death of an unfulfilled life.

The pain of a child’s death is not as deep as a bullet inside you, but many, many knife wounds. One knife stab in the heart; another piercing stab next to the first one; a stab in the stomach, another in the back; another stab in the middle of the chest, another in the back, and another in the stomach, and more and more stabs, until there is nothing left of you to stab and pierce. With each knife stab, a little of your life is gone. The promise of things to come is gone. It is deep, painful, and it hurts beyond any words of description.

The longer a child is with his or her family, the more painful his or her departure becomes. The death of a child like Chidera is even more hurtful because Cee-mum at 12 was not a new born baby, an innocent child who could not communicate, like her photograph with ‘grandma egg’ ( a name she coined for my mum who had formed a habit of visiting her each time with a boiled egg) when she was 2. Nor, was she a six-year old whose life experiences were not yet informed whose death as a toddler would be more painful to the parents when she was a baby of 2.

Cee-mum’s death is even more painful because as a secondary school student of LJC, we could talk to her; and we could exchange ideas because she is more academically exposed and opportune than we were at 12. She could sustain intellectual and contemporary discussions and share the Internet age experiences which her parents and I never experienced at that same age , but she did and could describe to us.

She was almost a teenager, but in our eyes she was still our baby; a part of us that was beginning to become separated and was developing a mind of her own, but nevertheless a piece of us.

We looked at her and saw in her an image of ourselves and unfortunately all the star and leadership qualities in her which became apparent as she grew are now all gone.

We saw her, saw her mental capabilities, saw her physical attributes as a beautiful young girl standing at almost five feet, ten inches at just over 12, and was proud of her in spite of her naivety and her mistakes. And as parents, we always forgave the mistakes of our child when the child was alive. Now that she is gone, we do not remember her mistakes, but dwell on the mistakes we made to her.

To know that she and other innocent kids died in such a heart wrecking air crash in front of their respective families who had come to welcome them on their very first college holidays has crushed us completely beyond any words of understanding because she is now gone. Her death and the harrowing experience of moving from morgue to morgue trying to identify her remains from other charred bodies makes life even more incomprehensible, especially remembering that her other uncle, Nnamdi, even expressed thoughts of picking her up to spend sometime with us at Abuja before her return to the east for the Christmas holidays. As mortals, we reasoned it would be too selfish to deny the parents her very first college holiday, besides Chidera must have been eager to relay her experiences to Toby and Tossy, more so she had left other friends and family members including Ossy’s mum at Aba behind to go to LJC and that meant higher expectations and anxiety to re-unite with them as soon as possible

Gone, are all the things we as a family could have done together. Gone are the things Cee-mum could have done, and the achievements Cee-mum could have made for us as a family, for his Mother, Father, Brother and Sister, and most of all, for herself.

I will never wish – and again I say it – this pain and devastation to my own enemy, if I have any, because the words “devastation” and “pain” have no meaning … absolutely no meaning … until one feels the death of one’s own very first niece.

How do I explain her departure to her cousins; Ugo, Ujunwa, Yadilichukwu, Chisom, Kamsiyochi, Kelechi, Chidubem, Kachisizam and little Nnamdi Nwosu or begin to wipe away the memory of this horrible nightmare from her twin siblings, Toby and Tossy who had gone with their parents to receive her at the airport as a prelude to the many stories they were anxious to hear about life at the college only to be so disappointed by the turn out of events.

How will ‘grandma egg’ react when her uncle Uche returns to Calgary to break this terrible news? Will ‘grandma egg’ still trust Ifeoma when she finds out that she was part of the conspiracy to temporarily blank her out of the news of the loss?

And while Cee-mum s’ loved ones that she left behind are aware that she belongs to God, and that God has decided to take her back, the realization that perhaps we, as family, did not take enough care of her is a lingering thought that haunts us. It is this thought of perhaps of this failure to God, to Cee-mum, and to us, especially the feeling of my failure to her as her uncle, that is crushing me.

Imagine if your child left and went to God before she lived her life, like Chidera did. The imagination of losing a child – and thank God, it is only a imagination – will give any parent a much higher appreciation of the existence of that child … to be more forgiving to the child, and to appreciate, and to openly love the child even more. Imagining is good for one’s soul, before – God forbid – it actually happens, as it happened to us.

It will truly make a relative feel that a child is given by God for the family to take care of, to love above all things in existence, and not to take for granted.

Take good care of your child.

If not … God will take the child away from you, and you will feel the pain of failure to your child; the failure to yourselves which we are feeling, and the pain of so many stab wounds which continue and continue to hurt, and hurt, until the day we enter our graves.

My dear Cee-mum, your death is NOT the price of brilliance, and I promise on behalf of all your uncles and aunts to take better care of you if we get a second chance. We never realized that life is so short.

Adieu Nwa-di-ala m
Adieu Chidera Alexandria Nnaji
Adieu My Very First Niece

Arc. Vincent Ikenna Ogbudibe, Jr. (Uncle)
For and on behalf of the maternal relatives

Forwarded by Uche Nworah

Posted by Administrator at 08:18 AM | Comments (6)

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