Losing a loved one is never an easy thing to experience. No matter what age they were when they died, there’s just a feeling of finality that, amidst other feelings, tells you clearly, “You won’t see this person ever again in this life.”
We asked some Nigerian men to tell us how it felt when they lost their dads. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Ridwan, 24
What I felt was literal pain. I couldn’t explain it, but I just knew I’d lost someone dear to my existence. I was 23 when I lost my dad, and It felt like my being had ended at that point. It’s worse because I couldn’t be at the funeral. I was writing my final University exams. I believe the pain is going to last forever because I don’t know what it feels like to be happy again. I have lost every sense that makes me feel other emotions and at this point, I’m just existing.
2. James, 32
I haven’t felt as many emotion at once as I did when my died. He died this year, in the middle of the pandemic. He was 96. First of all, I must say I felt relieved. He died after a very short sickness, so I was relieved that he didn’t suffer so much. It would have been hell to watch him suffer so much pain.
But as the first child of a man with quite a number of children I also felt really challenged. I would literally pause and ask myself, “How can I fill such big shoes?” I think I’m doing a great job so far.
I also felt really challenged, though. In his time, my father was a really big man, both in Lagos and back home. But all his finances were gone and it was my responsibility to organise a funeral worthy of the man he was. That one gave me so many sleepless nights.
3. Ehis, 23
First of all, I didn’t know what to feel. Then, I got really angry at God. I know that death is inevitable, but if it was going to happen, why didn’t it just happen at once? Why all the struggle, stress and suffering? It’s worse because he was getting better, then he just suddenly died. At that point, nothing could make me happy, and it wasn’t because I was sad. It was pure anger.
All the anger didn’t let me get into my feelings enough. It became toxic, and people couldn’t get through to me because I was “Trying to be a man.” I am the firstborn. I felt lost and confused. I was a just 20-year-old, whose dad was alive, so I didn’t have to bother about anything, but suddenly my dad was gone. It was just me, my younger siblings, and my mom.
I wasn’t a hustler, so it was a reality that suddenly dawned on me. I had to be the man of the house now. All the plans I had for my life just changed. My dad was also quite popular in Nigeria. His name had gotten me a few favours. Sometimes, his name still gets me favours, but now that he’s gone, that probability is less. I couldn’t be a baby anymore. Whenever I hear people talk about their fathers, I just smile. I miss him so much.
My life would have gone on an entirely different path if he was alive, that’s for sure. He would have put some sense into my head. He’s been gone for three years now and I don’t really have anyone to be my “guide”. I’m doing it all on my own. My mom has her own stuff to take care of. It’s annoying. The other person I could call my dad was my best friend’s dad. He died too. It’s just us now.
4. Theo, 21
I was in University. I used to stay with my sister sometimes, and some other times with my friend. It was a weekend, so I decided to go back to my sister’s and I met my dad there. This was the first time he’d ever come there, so it was strange. My dad and my sister are Chelsea fans, so they spent the day watching football. Chelsea won.
He left around 10pm that day. We stayed at Ajah, so it was a long journey back home for him. We didn’t have a car either so he most likely took some buses.
Fast forward to a few hours later, when my brother-in-law woke me up around 1 am, “We gotta go, man, he’s having a stroke. Get dressed man we gotta go!” I’m pretty sure we did 200km/h on Third Mainland Bridge,
The road leading to the house then was bad and we couldn’t drive the way. We sprinted what’s usually a 10-15 minute walk from the estate gate to the door of the apartment. I walked in, and there was my old man, having another stroke, body shaking like an earthquake I can’t explain it, but I rushed to his bed and held him up. I knew he wasn’t going to make it, I could feel his life slipping away.
45 minutes later and the ambulance we had called still hadn’t come. They were at Lekki. We were at Ajah. And they were using my fathers life to catch cruise.
They finally came and we had to sprint back to the estate gate to direct them. This time it was my mom and I. She was begging Heaven with all her being but that night Heaven was silent and the angels bowed their heads in absoluteness.
A few minutes past 2, the ambulance was outside now, but they didn’t bring enough men to lift him on the stretcher. My dad was a giant. Not the tallest, but a giant.
2 ambulances guys, my brother-in-law, and I carried him on a stretcher. It would click that I was only carrying his dead body then.
As we put him into the ambulance, and one of the guys missed his step. My father’s body bounced on the stretcher. His eyes popped open, our gaze clashed, and in that instant, the severity of the current reality fell on me. I saw his pain, his regret, his will to live, his inability to stay, and I knew, this was the last time I’d ever look in my father’s eyes.
My brother-in-law and I started our sprint back to his car, to drive to the hospital. Before we reached the car, he got a call telling us not to bother. Dad was gone.
Time stopped, I can’t tell you what I felt in that moment. Maybe my vocabulary isn’t broad enough to put into words or I still don’t know what that feeling was.
They took him to the hospital all the same, and we drove to pick up my sister. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her, she was always the closest to my father.