His icy hands were laid on the coffin, tears stuck under his eyes, his voice gone. He couldn’t find it to speak, not that he had wanted to anytime.
The harmony in the voices of the singing congregation added to the pain. It really meant this coffin was going to be led out and buried. Then she could finally rest and he could forever mourn.
“How cold do you want the Milo, Jojo?”
Her voice will interrupt his silent prayer in the bathroom every morning. She would prepare the Milo, drop as much ice cubes as he liked and leave him a note. Often neatly stuck to the fridge.
It was never her expectations of him for the day. She never burdened him with any such. She’d leave him a note of how she loved him or to remind him of some important truths they learnt the previous night from the devotion.
She was full of so much love he never realized she could have been sick.
Of course he knew of her regular visits to the hospital and he knew they were for check-ups. Nothing more. She wouldn’t exactly say what she was being checked for and he never thought to probe any further than she told him. He knew about the starting heat flushes, the restlessness, the weariness, the occasional stomach aches, never the heart attack. And He never guessed.
“You would make a fine man”.
Those were her last words to him.
Primly dressed in his leather-patched suit and neat shoes. She was fixing his tie for him and whispered that. He suggested they go together but she felt he’ll get a bad name amongst his peers. After all it was his day to finally take a bold step into manhood officially thus and he didn’t need any mummies hanging around.
So she sent him away after he gulped down his milo, gave him a long peck and handed him his car keys. It was her gift to him and he knew she’d saved since he was a month old just to let him have it.
He could feel the air of her whisper around his ears.
He held on to the moment.
The sudden quietness woke him. He’s been gone too far and it seemed everything had been hushed awaiting him.
“We would take the tribute from Miss Adams only son please”.
Rev Aqua Kofi Simpson said with a solemn smile to the congregation and led Joe to the pulpit.
He couldn’t tell how long he stood there till Rev. mentioned him.
Joe breathed heavily, flipped open the pages of the book made in his mothers memory and too soon, got to his own hand written words. He got them ready too late and had it glued in the book somehow, rough copies of it thus. Putting the words together made him dig into memories he could hardly even bury and made him think if doing this was important at all.
What will some few words of tribute mean to properly represent her, her love, sacrifices?
She had lived for him after the Lord and kept hidden the diagnosis of heart attack just so he could have all the peace to be the best student.
“My honey is going to be the Valedictorian of Ghana’s premiere university”.
She never stopped mentioning it to him. She said it not just as a hope. She somehow knew. He worked hard for her the very moment he entered as an undergraduate Psychology major student and yet she never saw him walking up to shake hands with Ghana’s most important men because her body was being hurled into an ambulance for autopsy.
The tears fell then, blinded him from seeing the well-spaced letters on the pages of the book, his heart pounding.
How did he keep together till this time? How could he ever keep it together?
He could see Reverend’s compassionate gaze on him, as if asking if he could do this.
He knew he could not even after he’s heard so many times how he is supposed to be a man.
He wanted to break down, swing open the coffin, lift his mum’s lifeless body and go home like she never died.
He looked straight at the congregation. They were all solemn. They were also here to mourn just like him but his loss was nothing compared to theirs.
“You took away the most important person from my life and yet gave me the only thing she hoped to see me become? You are unbelievable God!”
He blurted out in anger before he could stop himself.
He stood, shocked.
He didn’t even know it was coming. He finally said the words he’s been meditating on after he received that call from the Military hospital on the most memorable Saturday morning in his life.
He waited, feet firmly fixed and yet wobbly, for the church elders and well-meaning relatives to whirl him away but no one moved. The pin-drop silence was still there – not a murmur could be heard.
Joe blinked away the tears and took slow miscalculated steps back to his seat.
One person seated at the last row in the congregation started to clap, slow and low and then the whole congregation joined in.
He smirked. Courtesy in Ghana was unbelievable. What exactly were they applauding for?
Rev. Simpson took to the pulpit and smiled graciously to the congregation and then turned to Joe.
He hung his head; not for shame but for what he might have caused Rev. He knew he had created such a huge uprising. He turned his mothers befitting burial rite into a raging error. How dare he question God?
Rev Simpson called him gently.
“We all share in your grief and will we not be hypocrites if we act as though we do not have questions to God just like you do” .
The congregation hummed their agreement, quite expected of a Presbyterian local assembly.
Rev. cleared his throat both to gain his composure and to gain the Church’s attention.
“And so Joe, let these words of truth comfort you as written in the good book; but we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep”.
Joe raised his head, eyes dimly lit as though dust was being cleared away from it, the tears unceasing.
The answers to his questions did not lay there in the scripture but the truth of the words seemed to have showered him with some peace, some settlement. He would meet his mother again. He was sure of it and that meant more to him than all the answers he wanted from God. Someday he’ll stare into her eyes, he’ll hear her call him Jojo again and they will share such joy in the most unbelievable place of all without any pain of her absence shrouding his memories.
And till then, He’ll live in that hope.
To those who mourn the death of dear ones now, let this be your comfort if they died in the faith, if they didn’t still let this be your comfort of the hope available in Christ. To those who are yet to mourn someday, let this encourage your hearts up until that day.