Madam Queen

George Alily

If Roses Grow in Heaven

If roses grow in heaven,
Lord please pick a bunch for me,
Place them in my Mother’s arms
and tell her they’re from me.
Tell her I love her and miss her,
and when she turns to smile,
place a kiss upon her cheek
and hold her for awhile.
Because remembering her is easy,
I do it every day,
but there’s an ache within my heart
that will never go away.
By Dolores M. Garcia

For most of my life, I have dreaded this day. Most people do. How do you begin to write a eulogy for one’s Mom. My mother, popularly referred as Queen, passed recently and would her committal on Friday, 19 January 2018.

My thoughts are void and my feelings are indescribable. Feelings that make my heart sore and my whole being shut down. This is because Mom meant everything to me. She is my insides. My guts. My confidence. My humanity and my strength. My sensitivity, my compassion, my loyalty and even my laughter. Mom was beautiful, both inside and out. She was elegant and graceful, a lady of style and angelic personality. I adored her. She was, of course, my first love and the love of my life. Not surprising, when I sought a life partner, I tried to replicate her, at least tangibly.

Mother was born on 17 August 1925 into the family of Samuel and Diana Nwannediya Iroha Nwaogu of Ogbor-Uvuru in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State. She started her primary education in All Saints Primary School, Ogbor – Uvuru and continued in Banham Memorial School, Port Harcourt. She also had other formal education in various disciplines. She married Major Felix Ohawady Alily and they wedded in Teshie Accra, Ghana, where her husband was then stationed as an Instructor at the Military Academy. She was raised Anglican, but became Catholic in marriage. In her new faith, he was devout and strong. Being married to a military officer, She traveled extensively within Nigeria, parts of West Africa and the United States of America. She was multilingual, and spoke her native Igbo, English, Hausa, some Yoruba and Twi.

Mothers have special bond and place with their children. Being primary care-givers and imbued with maternal instincts, a mother’s love is peace. Peace as a sanctuary and in being. And in the words of Erich Fromm, a mother’s love need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. It is just there, innate. There is an endearing tenderness in the love of a mother that transcends all other affections of the heart. A mother’s touch shapes our persona, our relationships and interactions with others all through our lives. Losing a mother is therefore like losing one’s soul.

My first memories of Mom was that of overwhelming warmth, cuddles and love. As a kid, and to still to a large extent today, I am finicky with food. Mom would always cater to disparate needs. Most times, our dining table looked like a buffet of sort. As a parent today, I wonder how she coped.

Mom lived for her children. She was fiercely protective and caring. She would sacrifice her own happiness for ours. For her generation, she was strong and assertive. With Dad as a partner, they complemented each other. They were strong role models. While Dad had a tough mien and ran a tight shift, Mom was a soothing balm. Even during the civil war when Dad was away, Mom’s presence shielded us from all the trauma around. She made a very loving and safe home for us. She taught us to be self-reliant, strong but compassionate.
Like most Moms, she was a little of everything, and pretty good at them all but one. She was an awful driver. Anytime she drove us, we literally signed our death warrants. Maybe she relished our anguish as she crisscrossed vehicles and whizzed through junctions. I could swear, I always noticed her chortle. Today, I look back at those moments with nostalgia and deep loss.

Mom was not a woman of nuance. You knew it if she disliked something. I must say that she made a bad job of hiding what she did not like. A proper and organised woman, who felt things should be done the right way. I guess we all imbibed this virtue from her. Mom was also a strong women, both physically and mentally, despite her svelte frame. This became evident when Dad passed and she had to pilot the affairs of the family. However, an incident during the Civil War remained ingrained in my memory, apart from the many air raids attacks when she will shepherd us into bunkers for safety. This was in the course of our relocation as displaced persons as the war approached our village. I was then barely nine years old. As was the situation during the war, we could clearly hear fire-fights as the Federal troops closed in. When it was became apparent that our village would fall, she assembled us all including my grandmother for what seemed like a long long trek to Amaimo, where we remained until the end of the war. I can vividly remember on our trek back, my youngest brother, Buchi, almost drown when we were crossing a fast-flowing river. At this time, the bridge had been blown. A volunteer who was ferrying him across slipped and fell into the river. My eldest brother, Ogbonna, dived and saved him. As we yelled and panicked, Mom remained focused and on top of Buchi’s recovery process. Today, as I reminiscences, my siblings and I remain ever grateful for her example and tutelage.

In her twilight, Mom occasionally struggled to remember things, but had this clever way of being rhetorical in the way she phrased her responses or questions to cloak dementia. In the last few weeks, we witnessed how her health deteriorated. A once hyper-active lady was unable to do the things she took for granted, and she was visibly frustrated. But her spirit was always there. We knew that Mom cherished her independence and resented being confined or dependent on others. She resented the idea of aging, especially as it impacts mobility. I do not think Mom was afraid of death, but apprehensive of the unknown.

Thank you Mom, for all of your selfless and tireless effort to give us a good life, and the absolutely amazing memories. You were my guiding light and the best inspiration a son could have. You will remain in our hearts forever.
I miss you, Mom, and trust me, I will be fine. I love you more than infinity.

––George Alily is a retired Naval officer