Award-winning Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has, for the first time, spoken about the death of her mother, Grace Ifeoma Adichie, which occurred on March 1.
Chimamanda’s father, James Nwoye Adichie, succumbed to kidney complications June.
In a long post on her Facebook, accompanied by two pictures of her and her mother, the Nigerian novelist asked: “How Does A Heart Break Twice?”
She wrote: “To still be immersed in grief, barely breathing again, and then to be plunged callously back into a sorrow you cannot even articulate. How can my mother be gone forever, and so soon after my father?”
She remembered Grace as a “warm, loving, funny, kind, quick-witted, beautiful mother”, adding she was an “unconditional supporter and cheerleader of her children, fun and funny, source of delicious sarcasm, style icon, so sharply observant she never missed a thing.”
Chimamanda revealed that her mother was the first-ever female registrar of the University of Nigeria and a permanent board member at Anambra State Basic Education Board (Asubeb).
On the last Friday before her death -February 26 – Grace went to work at Asubeb in Awka, Nigeria, but her assistant said she looked a bit tired.
“On Saturday her driver drove her to Mass. Sunday evening she was unwell. She was taken to a private hospital in Awka. We were worried, but a few hours later, she was better, sitting up, eating rice. On the phone I told her ‘We love you, mummy. Try and rest’,” Chimamanda said.
“The next morning, the doctor sent an update to say she was doing even better. But moments later, he took the sudden bewildering decision to transfer her to the Teaching Hospital, she was hastily moved. He claimed the Teaching Hospital had better facilities. ‘Do my children know I’m being transferred?’, she is said to have asked. Two hours after she arrived at the Teaching Hospital, she died. It was March 1, my father’s birthday.”
The 43-year-old said her disbelief about her mother’s death grew with each passing day.
“How does a heart break twice? As the days have passed, my disbelief has grown. This perpetual astonishment of grief: Did it really happen? My mother is gone forever? How is it possible?
“We were planning for my father’s iyipu-akwa, to mark the end of the formal mourning period, and now I cannot believe that we are planning a funeral, again.”
Chimamanda said that after grieving twice, she discovered that there is an emotion more hollow than sorrow.
“There is an acceptance drenched in disbelief. Language fails. Clichés come startlingly alive: the heart is truly heavy; it is no mere metaphor. The mornings so dark you cannot get up from bed, the erratic pulse, the anger, the surprise, the tiny moments of forgetting, the regrets, the doomed attempts at escape. But the pain is waiting. The pain is inescapable. The desperate longing to turn back time, just to see her again, hear her laugh one more time, hug and kiss her. Even if just to say goodbye, even if just to have the chance to say goodbye, to say thank you for everything you did for me and everything you were to me, to say I love you, again,” she added.
She wondered how a life could turn into a memory in just a few months.
“To have loving parents, an entire life propped up by them, and in months to have it all end, so abruptly, with such unbearable finality. O kwerom edi. So much laughter and teasing and jokes, the easy companionship, the stories told and retold, the time spent. Time. Time makes memories. And now that is what is brutally left. The shock. The sense of sinking, of surfaces giving way, of falling through forever. The world feels wrapped in gauze. Everything is hazy and unclear. This is how a heart breaks twice, this feeling of being utterly lost.”