I’ve written quite a few posts on the blog referring to Mum, my ‘about me’ post mentions her storytelling as setting the pace for mine and I also mentioned her here.
Recently, on June 29th, 2019, two days after my 35th birthday, my Mum passed on.
Despite the fact that she was sick for a while, her demise was not at all expected. Funnily, after she had gone and I wasn’t yet informed, I put up a post on my family WhatsApp group that “I’m praying” and “It’s well with Mum“. LOL
It is indeed well with her as she had the opportunity to declare the Lordship of Jesus over her life and affirm her forgiveness of everyone who had offended her before she passed on. Glory! (Romans 10:9-10)
So while we do not mourn like those who do not have hope, yet we mourn… because we indeed lost a dearly beloved Mother and a pillar of support.
Storytelling for me has always been an avenue of heartfelt expression and in times of pressure, a form of relief.
At this time, I’m telling the stories as a form of memorial for my Mum and also as a part of my healing journey or coping with her passing.
I’m grateful to the Holy Spirit for his comfort for my entire family and we know that God has caused all things to work together for our good.
This has been a while coming and I’m glad that finally, I’m able to start.
So today, I launch a new category on The Storytela…
Let me start this with a disclaimer… The feminist referred to here has nothing to do with a bitter, angry woman, or someone who hates men. Rather, it refers to someone who believes that women should be heard and not just seen.
Someone who believes that a woman is relevant, the girl child is important, the girl child should have as much education as she desires and she should be given equal opportunities as men.
She encapsulated this with one word – Nwanyibuife – an Igbo word which when translated literally meant that a woman is valuable.
The above might seem trivial or regular to someone but she grew up in an era when a male child was everything (still is in most places today). In homes where educating the boy was valued above educating the girl, where a girl child would be stopped from going to school if there was a new baby while the boys where undisturbed or unperturbed. In days when women were talked down on, looked down on, mistreated and not expected to fight back, and generally considered as properties.
My Mum gave birth to six girls. She had the same dreams for us as her two boys. She told all of us to study hard to become someone in life. She said that we would never lack jobs and declared that we would work in the “highest offices.”
She was never of the opinion that her female children would be totally dependent on their husbands for their upkeep. She emphatically told us to make our money, and stated that a woman who was too dependent on her husband would open up herself to insults and mistreatments. Nwoke akpalia gi; the man would insult you!
My Mum taught us about self respect; Mmadu na-adi nma I kwanyelu onwe ya ugwu; it is good for one to respect oneself. She taught us to carry ourselves well and comport ourselves like ladies both in speech and general disposition.
In the house where I grew up, each flat had two verandahs. The compound facing our back verandah was owned by a man who had lots of sons and male apprentices. As children, we played on both verandahs but as we grew into teenagers, my Mum would not let us spend long periods of time standing or idling away on the verandahs except we were maybe doing chores. She taught us to value ourselves as women, “nwanyi na-adi nma e zobe nata onwe ya” inferring that it was only ladies of easy virtues that displayed themselves like items on the roads or verandahs.
She spoke up and showed us that our voices could be heard. She taught us to fight and take a stand for ourselves, not to be intimidated because we were women whether by society or by anybody.
She had class, she had style, she had poise, she was in tune with her environment, knew the trends and constantly strove to achieve her dreams and improve on herself. She loved books and would read as much as she could in both English and Igbo.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have respect for men, my Mum did. She both respected, helped and treated them well, she was peaceful but never one to be trampled on.
One day, on my way back from University on a quick trip home, I boarded a bus with friends. We were the first to arrive, so I chose to sit in the front outer seat by the window (a place usually reserved for men for reasons best known to the drivers and their male cohorts). When the bus had almost filled up and we had paid our fares, I was asked to shift to the inner seat so the man who had just arrived would sit on my seat. I refused to move and insisted that I either sit there or the bus would not move. The bus driver and his cohorts gathered and started talking, most of their speech derogatory, I ignored them and when they got tired, the man entered, sat on the inner seat and we moved!
Humility they say is great power under control. My sisters and I would always have a voice and one fundamental reason is because we were raised by a woman who had one and used it. #UmuBene
In Ever Loving Memory of our Mother Lady Benedette Ugwunwa Ezeanya Fashion Mazi o! 4th April, 1959 - 29th June, 2019
My Mum had kept to her word and actually drove off to Church without us. Lol.
I can’t count the number of times this happened but as we got older, she stopped allowing us delay her and would drive off on Sunday mornings if we weren’t ready, leaving us to find our way to Church.
We grew up seeing our mother participate actively in Church.
Cleaning the Church was something the women did and it was allocated according to groups, my Mum rarely missed hers, except she was maybe under the weather.
She was an active part of the dance group and also sang in the choir for a long while before she finally stopped. She led in different capacities and mentored several younger Christian women.
She solemnly observed all the “no work” days and would make sure that we don’t cook with meat on the days the Church forbade eating of meat, telling us “Uka mabii anutaa”.
Like most Catholic Mothers, she ensured we were up to date on our sacraments and that we regularly attended the block rosary crusades. We never quite got around to attending the early morning masses but that was something she tried not to miss.
The Catholic Church was a big deal to her, she loved the ceremonial way the Mass was performed and actively contributed to Church administration as a lay member and they formed part of her community. After Mass, she would take time to greet her friends, exchanging short stories with some while smiling and waving at others, “ka anyi na nu”, she would say again and again, a kind of parting greeting indicating that she was heading home.
She couldn’t understand why we would leave the Catholic Church for “Uka warehouse” and “Uka Okpulu decking” (an unpopular way of referring to the Pentecostal Churches back in the 90s, when they didn’t have fancy Cathedrals or Church Venues like the Orthodox Churches).
She would lead us in praying the Rosary, something she did religiously, and also in reciting the prayers relevant for the time period. She had some songs that she would sing during such prayers;
Chukwu oma ka I bu,
Ife oma ka e ji malu gi.
Chukwu oma ka I bu,
Ife oma ka e ji malu gi, Chukwu o!
And we would sing after her, extolling the goodness of God and declaring that he was known for good things. Another one was like a chant;
Omelu ife nyilu mmadu omume,
Omelu ife nyilu mmadu omume…
Declaring that God did that which was impossible for man to do. I think it’s a song from the adoration ground in our village Uke, run by the popular Holy Ghost Priest; Ebube Muo Nso.
I remember it was during one of such prayer sessions that she found out I wasn’t a Catholic anymore. Her brilliant mind put two and two together when I didn’t say the “Hail Mary” after her or the other Catholic prayers.
I had just come back from University the previous day and she called for prayers that morning. She simply asked me after the prayers if I still attended the Catholic Church and I said “no”, not knowing what to expect. She was really disappointed as I had been a very devout Catholic and she blamed my elder sisters who had left before me.
I remember when she joined the Faith Alive prayer group, a group of women intercessors at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity. It was something she was excited about and we would often chorus their greetings; Faith Alive, I’m alive in the Lord! They referred to her as Sis. Bene.
My Mum is a huge reason my siblings and I are committed to the body of Christ, her unwavering devotion, which mirrored that of her father, was an outstanding example we just had to follow.
I remember coming back home on a Sunday morning and seeing her seated in her nightie, I immediately figured something was wrong because she always went to Church. When I asked her how come she didn’t go that morning, she waved aside my question, smiling and saying she would attend evening Mass. I would find out some moments later that her Mum, my grandma had gone to be with the Lord in the early hours of that Sunday morning.
It was a beauty to behold how the Church honored her after she passed. Her burial was beautiful with the array of Priests that celebrated the burial mass. Her beloved nephew, also a Revered Father, was one of them. We all talked about how happy she would have been and I could imagine her smiling and looking on proudly.
In Ever Loving Memory of my Mother, Lady Benedette Ugwunwa Ezeanya April 4,1959 – June 29,2019
Dear Lord, why did you bother creating this world?
This was my sincere question to him this morning as I read Genesis Chapter 1 vs 1.
I had wanted to continue reading from the book I was studying previously but I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to read Genesis. I went like “for real? Genesis again?”
I had been studying the book of Corinthians and was getting inspiration from Apostle Paul’s teaching and ministry. I didn’t think Genesis would inspire me that way, I practically knew the book by heart (we start every year with Genesis and whether we finish the entire Bible by the end of the year is topic for another day)
Anyways, I went to Genesis and started reading it with this “let’s shaa be reading” attitude. After verse 1, I went to verse 2 but the Holy Spirit asked me to pause and took me back to verse 1.
I read it again.
He said, look away from yourself, look at God.
I read it again and asked him to show me what he wanted me to see.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 KJV
I thought about THIS present world. The chaos, the pain, the sickness, the death, the confusion, the suffering, the deceit etc. And I asked, “Dear Lord, why did you bother?”
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth…
I read it again and this time, I saw purpose. I saw intention. God is a creator and he intentionally created a beautiful heaven and earth.
In the beginning, it was all beauty, order, excellence, peace, perfection. No pain, no sickness, no suffering, no death. Then God created man and gave him dominion over everything good he made.
I saw love. God created the world out of love. Just look at nature! Beautifully orchestrated and excellently in order!
I read the notes in my study Bible and a line stood out;
God did not need to create the universe, he chose to create the universe, because God is love and love is best expressed towards something or someone else.
Life Application Study Bible (Gen 1:1)
It all started to make sense. The world as we know it is NOT the way God designed it to be because sin came in and with sin came corruption. God is not the creator of chaos, sickness, evil, death, wars, etc. The devil is!
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
John 10:10 KJV
What the devil stole, Jesus came to restore. Jesus brought us perfection and a beautiful, super abundant life.
Just take a look at nature, and you would understand God’s original intention. A perfect self sustaining world with everything in abundance.
The life we are living now may not entirely reflect this beauty, it’s possible that it might even be a far cry but then God has given us another opportunity through Jesus to experience his purpose and enjoy our life everyday.
How? Accepting that Jesus died for us takes care of the sin nature and gives us the God nature which is righteousness. This qualifies us to take a hold of the good life, which God has made available to all that believe in his son.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
1 John 5:11-12 KJV
So while I’m in this world, I do not have to be subject to disorder, chaos or pain in the world. I live a beautiful life in Christ Jesus, and I’m glad that God took his time to create a beautiful world in the first place.
I understand that I’m created beautiful, I have an inherent sense of order and excellence and I would intentionally allow this reflect in every area of my life.
We were all dressed in white, a few number of us mixed up with the crowd from the village. As much as we tried to stick together, the road stretched out long, winding and narrow like a snake, leaving us to mingle, but then we didn’t mind.
It was a Sunday morning, the feast of Christ the King and one of those few days we were allowed out of school to worship with the Catholic Church at Nise. It was usually a long procession, with Priests in front, the Mass Servers following and then others lined up. They made space for us students in-between.
We enjoyed every bit of it. Well, I did. And I loved the songs and the solemnity of the occasion. One of the songs that stood out so well to me goes like this;
When Pilate asked Jesus are you a King, Jesus said yes I am a King. Jesus is a King, he rules forever. Jesus is a King, he rules forever.
You see, back then as a teenager with absolutely no care in this world, I simply loved the rhyme, rhythm and lyrics of the song. But, recently in this journey called life, the song has come to mean more.
This morning, a friend sent me a write up about trusting God and letting him take charge amidst all life’s concerns and again this song came up in my mind.
Jesus is King, so why not step back and let him take charge?
I can’t exactly remember when I started seeing her but it’s sure been a long while. Five years or so probably.
She was a neighbour, then she decided to get busy by selling commodities, then it evolved to selling bread. My husband would refer to her as Onibread which I guess means bread seller in Yoruba language.
She was warm and always open to small talk. She spoke with Benin accent and was either up early or staying up late displaying her wares in a protected space in front of the compound inside which she lived with her elder brother and his family. She wasn’t young, no, probably in her mid fifties.
I remember we got talking recently about her children, some of who are already done with university and are gainfully employed. I could sense the joy in her as she spoke about her daughter.
I remember the excitement on the street when she started frying Akara, properly fried bean cakes are always a welcome delicacy and the crowd around her stall gradually increased. She partnered with another younger woman and together they delivered to their growing clientele, Mondays to Saturdays.
She was very good friends with my younger son Okem and would refer to me as Mama Okem every time we saw. The truth is that Okem originally refused to say hello to her and would declare that she was not his friend. She persisted with talking to him and stopping to greet him until they became « bestest friends »…
I had become accustomed to seeing her outside her premises when walking down to mine or when entering or alighting from the Car and most times a wave or hello would suffice until recently I got the news that she was no more… Just like that.
That Saturday morning, just like other mornings, people were already queuing up to order for their Akara. Her partner was on her way to blend the beans as usual but stopped by to pick up something and that was when she heard… It had happened suddenly and swiftly. The night before, they had parted ways, full of plans for the next day. The next morning, the story was an entirely different one.
I’m choosing to write because I want to remember her for the warmth and cheer she brought to our street and for the courage to start up little businesses that made a difference. She would be greatly missed, the bread seller on my street.