by Kingsley Iweka
Fading away like the stars of the morning, losing their light in the glorious sun;
thus would we pass from this earth and it’s toiling, only remembered by what we have done.
They say your whole life flashes before you when you die. I wonder what flashed before those who had barely lived when they left, or were forced out of life. Just like my little angels – Kaine, Kambili, Kosiso and Kelechi. My twin girls would have been two years old next month. Kelechi was barely five months old. I imagine only bright light flashed before him for he was spotless. I and Noah had big plans for our special bundle for their birthday, ‘dual sim’ we called them. We decided to bring them down to Nigeria for the first time. If only we knew.
I remember Mama telling me to cover Kelechi properly because it was really windy as we walked to board the flight at the Abuja airport on our way to Lagos. I looked at my sweetest angel, Noah’s clone, sleeping calmly in my arms. I imagined him a pilot some thirty years after. I smiled. I turned to Noah beside me, the man I hoped Kelechi would become. I took his hand in mine as we boarded the plane together; his eyes fixed at my feet as they ascended the stairs. I pretended not to notice. I resisted the urge to fake a fall and have him dive to catch me immediately. I chuckled instead. I remembered then that he had not eaten, getting us ready for this trip made sure of that. I made a mental note to make sure he ate as soon as we arrived at the Lagos airport. Lagos traffic can be very terrible at times, so waiting till we got home was a risk I was unwilling to take. If only we knew.
Only the truth that in life we have spoken, only the seeds that in life we have sown;
These shall pass onwards when we are forgotten, only remembered by what we have done.
A noise woke me up. People were mumbling loudly, looking out their windows. Some were crying already. I turned to Noah and the girls sitting next to him, his hand stretched out to them as they slept. It took me a while, but I saw it; veiled thinly by a certain calmness. I saw fear in his eyes. Not the kind I was familiar with. Noah realised my recognition. He nodded slowly, his eyes spoke softly to me, “be calm baby, be calm”, they said. I turned to Mama clutching Kelechi tightly and mumbling prayers silently. Her eyes were closed. I finally understood where Noah’s sublime nature came from, growing up with just his mother. I looked out the window and I saw Lagos. I knew it was Lagos because the buildings were tall. Then it hit me. We were not supposed to be so close to the buildings.
The shouting increased and startled the girls. They woke up frightened and began crying. I grabbed Kelechi from Mama, but she didn’t stop mumbling nor open her eyes. She just rocked on her seat that refused to rock.
We were moving faster now; I could feel it and I could hear it, loud thuds like rapid pounding. I could feel us descending too. The shouts, the prayers and screams were deafening, I couldn’t hear the silent sobs and prayers of my heart. I looked at Kelechi; he was calm and still asleep. I wondered how that was possible; Noah, surely. I wanted some of his calm. I held him closer and drew some. He gave me freely and immediately I couldn’t hear the thuds anymore. I realised the thuds had been my heart beating very loudly. Now I couldn’t hear it beat anymore. Everywhere was brighter and I remembered my wedding day. I turned and I saw Noah, he was smiling at me, dressed in white. I was about to smile back when I felt a sharp pain at the back of my head. I closed my eyes and leaned forward involuntarily. When I opened my eyes again it was all white around, quiet and I felt the pain no more. It was gone; and so was Kelechi and everybody else. If only we had known.
Who’ll sing the anthem and who’ll tell the story, will the line hold, will it scatter and run;
Will we at last be united in glory, only remembered by what we have done.
— In memory of all those who died in the Dana Air plane crash on the 3rd of June 2012. I remember especially, Maimuna Anyene and her family; may the peace denied you on earth, find you in heaven. You are remembered.
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