Me: “Mama, good afternoon ma, kee kwanụ?” (How are you?)

Mama: “Hee! Amarachukwu m, Ami baby m…” (Hey! My Amarachukwu, My Ami baby…)

“Ọ dị mma nwa m” (It is fine my child)

“E nataru?” (You came back?)

“Bịa were oche nne. Ahụ amaka gị” (Come, sit down. You look good)

 

Mama Amegu is my mother’s mother, life hit her with a million blows.

In December 2015, I went to the village. It’ll be the first time mama would be seeing me in years, and it brought smiles to her face. I don’t need to think much to remember her small frame; her intense eyes and coy smile.

She has too much energy for her petite body, a hard worker by choice and circumstance, she is a hoarder and would randomly surprise us with old things that belong either to her or my mother as a young girl.

We often fight her over the things she would deprive herself because she was hoarding them. When life has always taken away from you, you hold on to things to remind yourself, and you hold on because of fear.

In September 2016, I was back in the village. I was surrounded by the familiar earthy brown and grey of Mama Amegu’s compound, looking at pots made of clay and those made of steel and plates that she has loved over the years, each one a feature of a battle won. I sat on her bed with my shoes, committing a crime she rarely forgives.

Just outside, beyond the small wooden gate close to the guava and palm trees, final preparations were being made for her burial. Everything looked and felt different from the woman I knew.

There were too many people, too much food and just too much of everything. The only things that felt familiar were the warm grasp of my sister’s hands and the women dressed in white garments swaying, dancing and clapping in honour of Mama and also, for themselves.