The media personality’s mum simply disappeared as the story goes
I think it was on one episode of New Dawn that I first picked it up. Or maybe it was on her blog. But I know that Funmi Iyanda’s mother disappeared, for lack of a better word.
She went out and was never seen again. Few weeks ago, Iyanda published The Marriage Diary where she touched on the matter.
However I was jarred by the simplicity of her narrative in The Theory of Death. If you missed it, here’s the gist: it is an imaginary chat between present day Funmi and the mother she lost at 14.
Her mother left home and was never found again. Not her, not her corpse. She simply went out and never returned.
If you cannot read everything at once, you’re not alone. I couldn’t. Every other paragraph, I took a break to pause and sigh.
It is a brave, sad, moving tale of loss and resignation. Brave
because talking about things this personal takes a fair bit of courage
to do (and we know Funmi Iyanda has plenty of that).
The sadness of it need not be explained – a 39-year-old mother of
eight vanishing from the lives of her family is not what most people
will experience in their lifetime.
And it will move you because it is not normal, and children had to resign to embrace their maddening loss as the new normal.
Below, we highlight some of the most haunting lines from Funmi
Iyanda’s hypothetical heart-to-heart talk with her literally departed
mother. She’s referred to by her given name, Yetunde and her replies are
by age 39. I used to be sure I’d not make it to 40 either so l did
everything like time was ticking away.
teenage years I wondered what it was like to be burned alive, seeing so
many lynchings on the streets in Lagos didn’t help. I used to stand by
and watch mobs set some randomly accused young man ablaze, I never saw
them lynch women. I would watch the doomed man struggle then go limp as
he loses the futile plea with the flames. The gnarled blackened corpse
always seemed to point upwards accusingly.
intellect is not male or female, it just is. I told her that it’s
ignorance or deliberate mischief that make people assign masculinity to
clarity of mind and forthright speech in women. I let her know that
intelligence is taught, as is ignorance.
child you sort of eavesdrop on adult conversations, to be honest you
don’t even have to because they just talk as if you are deaf. I imagine
we must have been the last thing on anyone’s mind in the circumstance
beyond ensuring we were fed, cleaned and sent to school. School became
different because I was the kid who’s mother’s picture had been
published on the missing persons’ page of the Daily Times. The teachers
were kinder and the kids crueller, nobody was normal.
been in the Molue that caught fire on that functionally useless bridge
in Jibowu, adjacent to old kalakuta republic. They said the driver had a
jerry can of fuel in his compartment and had struck a match to his
cigarette causing an explosion. A few people escaped but most others
were burned beyond recognition. Nigeria has been problematic for a long
together listening to the adults talk. It was a theory I sensed they
didn’t fully believe because the search for you went on for another year
with many false sightings yo-yoing our sanity. By the way, we never got
your insurance pay-out because they didn’t believe the theory of your
prefer the explanation of ancestral consciousness in epigenetics.
Ultimately it is me. I have no real interest in religion, you didn’t
seem to too.
didn’t. I was Christian but I visited seers, Muslim Alfas and
Babalawos, you probably remember me taking you to a few.
Young Yetunde Arigbabu with her purse
you and I would have got on, had you not died. I don’t know if you would
have continued with your open religious fluidity because things got
really difficult in Nigeria and almost everybody’s mother became deeply
religious and polarised as a survival requirement. With you dead, I grew
up without any female influence or pressure to be female in any
particular way. I also made my own belief choices without coercion. I
wonder what you would have made of my choices and how many of them I
could have made without going into loggerheads with you.
you turned out to be a bit of a one off. I don’t know what l may have
become had l not died but you are remarkably similar to me in many ways.
One of the other things I remember from before you died was a sense
that you had high expectations of me, you always treated me like I was
intelligent. All those years when I wasn’t sure you were dead, I wanted
to be sure I met your expectation in case one day you walked back into
our lives. It never occurred to me not to go to university or make
something worthwhile of myself. I was not going to become a teenage mum
or anything stupid like that as I used to say.
so, it took facing the possibility of death to show me I really like
living, mostly I like being alive. So now, at the worst moments I do
have a deep emotional pool to draw from because I am convinced of my
love of aliveness and desire to keep living creatively and
rational and I’ve always been attracted to rationality, primitive
thinking annoys me. On the other hand, I didn’t want you to have
suffered death so I hoped you might still be alive.
on those left behind but I meant that l didn’t want your death to have
been painful, for you to have suffered before death.
theory of your death was difficult because it involved suffering. For a
long time I’d visualise you trapped in that bus screaming. I’d see the
flames burn your face and your head explode, it was physical agony for
the pain I sensed you may have felt at the realisation of certain death,
knowing you had young children at home. I often thought I heard you cry
to God to have mercy on your children.
explosion didn’t give me enough time to think so my spirit did not
agonise the way yours has for so long my love. Death is not a suffering, life is and only to make us alive to living.
Yes I died but I am not dead. I am here talking with you. I was always
here whilst you were away. I will always be with you.