2020 Took My Mum (I)

It feels like an out-of-body experience because how exactly is my mum gone? Years back when the cancer diagnosis came, I thought, "it's mummy now, she'll be fine." She went through chemotherapy sessions like a soldier. Nothing could beat her. She was truly my "madam kukuyaka". But November 19th came, and my mummy was no more.

November 19th

Thursday. It was past 10am and I took a brunch break at work. Like I do every other day, I picked up my phone to speak to mum. I dialed Joy's number. Joy is the help at home with mum. Recently, mum has been complaining of not sleeping well most nights, so I'm mindful of the possibility of interrupting her compensating morning naps with my call. Usually I call Joy, and if mum is available to talk, she gets the phone across.

I call today and Joy doesn't pick. Strange. I call a second time and Joy picks in injury time. I immediately notice the noise in her background and briefly ponder if she was home. We exchange greetings and I ask about her whereabouts. She mutters something incoherent. I mentally shrug and ask her to please give mummy the phone.

She says she needs to tell me something but doesn’t know how to say it. I am like, "go ahead". She starts to talk, then stops. At this point random things are going through my mind. I am thinking a kidnap hostage situation, medical emergency, many things... but death doesn’t even cross my mind. Then she says I should try and remain calm. I get irritated and tell her to come off the theatrics and speak immediately.

Mummy is gone

Those were her exact words. I froze. It felt like I literally had ice cubes placed all over my skin. It was a blur. I was a machine going through motions for the remaining work hours. I didn't speak to any colleague. Coincidentally, the two colleagues who could have noticed my robotic mood were both on their annual leave, so it was easy to go through the day without being asked "what's wrong?".


I felt like a week old chick, out on an open field with no mother hen. I couldn’t wait to get home into the confines of my apartment. As soon as I unlock my door, I bolt it behind me and sink into the floor. The only people I wanted to talk to and have around were my siblings. I just felt only those she was also "mummy" to, would understand the pain and vulnerability.


Self awareness is one of my strengths. I am aware of how much I don’t care for public sympathy. And I’m always practical about my importance in other people’s lives. I understood my mum was going to be another social statistics to most, so I felt zero needs to share my loss. I just felt it would be desecrated. I’ve seen people react to the news of death. One second we are "eyaa-ing", the next second, we’re chortling to a joke somewhere.

Friday. I lived without living and didn't allow myself to feel, until the weekend...



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Nnenna Dee Onwukwe

Nnenna Dee Onwukwe

Life: motions, spurts and stops, through my -5 lenses