Chimamanda speaks of ‘cruel grief’ after father’s death

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, has said that the death of her dad has profoundly changed her life and that “grief is a cruel kind of education”.

James Adichie, an emeritus professor of Statistics and Mathematics, University of Nigeria Nsukka, passed on June 10 in Anambra after battling a brief illness.

He was 88 years old.

“Sleep is the only respite,” Ms Adichie said in a piece she published about her grief, Saturday, on her Facebook page. She lives in the U.S with her family.

“On waking, the enormity, the finality, strikes – I will never see my father again. Never again. I crash and go under. The urge to run and run, to hide from this. The shallow surface of my mind feels safest because to go deeper is to face unbearable pain. All the tomorrows without him, his wisdom, his grace.”

She narrated her final moment with her dad and how significant he was in her life.

“June 7, there was Daddy on our weekly family zoom call, talking and laughing. June 8, he felt unwell. Still, when we spoke he was more concerned about my concussion (I’d fallen while playing with my daughter).

“June 9, we spoke briefly, my brother Okey with him. “Ka chi fo,” he said. His last words to me. June 10, he was gone.”

Continuing, she said, “Because I loved my father so much, so fiercely, so tenderly, I always at the back of my mind feared this day. But he was in good health. I thought we had time. I thought it wasn’t yet time. I have come undone. I have screamed, shouted, rolled on the floor, pounded things. I have shut down parts of myself.”

The last Ms Adichie saw her dad was on March 5 in Abba, she said. She said she had planned to be in Nigeria in May. “We planned to record his stories of my great grandmother,” she said.

Ms Adichie was, however, in constant touch with her dad. They talked daily and she usually sent her travel itineraries to him, she said.

Stuck in U.S.

“We are broken. We are bereft, holding on to one another, planning a burial in these COVID-scarred times. I am stuck in the US, waiting. The Nigerian airports are closed. Everything is confusing, uncertain, bewildering,” Ms Adichie said.

Nigeria, like other countries of the world, is battling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria is 27,564 as of July 3, according to data released by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

The Nigerian government has just lifted a ban on interstate travel.

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But in some parts of the country, the ban on public burial and other forms of public gathering is still in place, to halt the spread of the virus.

“My father was Nigeria’s first professor of Statistics. He studied Mathematics at Ibadan and got his PhD in Statistics from Berkeley, returning to Nigeria shortly before the Biafran War. A titled Igbo man – Odelu Ora Abba – deeply committed to our hometown. A Roman Catholic with a humane and luminous faith. A gentle man and a gentleman. For those who knew him, these words recur: honest, calm, kind, strong, quiet, integrity.

“I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe that I am writing about my father in the past tense. My heart is broken.

“Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger. You learn that your side muscles will ache painfully from days of crying. You learn how glib condolences can feel,” Ms Adichie said.


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