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THE HERCULES OF MY WORLD
Life is a series of experiences that changes us. Just like the rain, it chills us to the bones and yet, it is strangely comforting. Like the famous North Star, my mother has pointed the way for our family in the darkest of nights.
Her warmth has spread beyond the stormy clouds; an anchor in the swirling abyss of the sea of life. For years, I had taken for granted that light that burns still, despite the strong winds. I was a chick refusing the cover of mother hen, believing that I could brave the hawks. I pecked away angrily at a love I did not deserve.
Looking back, I realize that I have come this far because I stood on the shoulder of a giant. I remember the storms we weathered together, the experiences that struck a chord in my heart, the tears behind closed doors and the acceptance despite my mistakes.
Hercules was a hero idolized for his physical strength. However, the greatest gods are not born; they are made in the furnace of affliction. My mother’s strength lies not in her muscles but in her heart.
She is much greater than Hercules for she is silver purified in the furnace of pain and suffering. In the year 2004, my father died leaving my mother with four children to handle. My brother had just gotten admission into the university, I and my other brother had just started senior secondary school and my sister was barely two years old.
My Mother struggled to make ends meet with her meagre pay and long working hours. A few weeks after my father’s burial, she asked my brother and I if we wanted to change schools. I didn’t know at the time that paying our school fees was giving her cause for worry.
With time, she found another job that paid better but it was only going to last six months. If she took it, she would have enough to cater for us all but after six months, she’d be jobless. It’s often said that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush but what if the bird in hand is too skinny to feed a person, wouldn’t you rather take your chances with the one in the bush?
My mother took a leap of faith for her family. She did catch the bird in the bush and it turned out to last more than 6 months and even till date. Life got much better but fate was not done with us just yet.
Few years after my father died, my mom became sick. It started gradually; certain changes we ascribed to grief and stress. She stayed in bed more often, usually too tired to carry out her usual chores. She went out less frequently and complained more often of the cold.
Soon, she stopped eating solid meals. The nights were spent vomiting; her once robust frame now thin and racking with cough. Despite treatment, this illness dragged on. She wobbled when she walked, taking slow laborious steps and stopping occasionally to catch her breath. Every morning, when she got ready for work, my eyes would get teary as I gazed upon her thin frame. I would plead with her to stay home but she would smile and say, ‘if I don’t go to work, where will I get money to feed my children?’ No matter how weak she felt, my mother was up before dawn every day, getting ready for work with sheer strength of will. She did everything she could, sometimes at great personal cost, to ensure we were comfortable.
Love is a language that defies all barriers, changing even the hardest of hearts. My teenage years were mostly spent in anger and solitude. However, this began to change a few days to Christmas in December 2006. My mother had put in so much effort to get me some new clothes. She was greatly displeased when I informed her rudely and without mincing words how much I disliked the clothes.
I had planned to apologize the next day but as early as 5 A.M, my mother was at my bedside with tears streaming down her face. She apologized for assuming she knew my taste and imposing her choice on me. I was speechless and broken. That was the day I was changed; it was the beginning of healing for both of us. There were many more episodes that strengthened our bond. Her unconditional love transformed our family.
Presently, my mother is a peer educator. She goes to schools, churches and organizations to educate young people about living right, sex and choices. It still amazes me when I realize the number of people who know her. She was a children’s teacher at church for many years. It is amazing to see her singing along with the children.
She’s not just a mother to me; she’s a mother to many. I’ve had people come up to me and tell me I have a wonderful mother. I just smile because I know. She has been a counsellor to my friends; always willing to take them under her roof. Last year, she gave a presentation at a national conference of radiographers in Calabar.
Whenever I think of her, I see a woman who defiled all odds to touch the stars. A woman who believed that with hard-work and faith, anything is possible. She is a like phoenix. Her two sons are Engineers with a first class in Petroleum Engineering and a second class upper in Electrical Engineering respectively.
Her first daughter is rounding off her medical programme early next year and her last child is in Junior Secondary School. My mother has worked hard to make an impact in her family, society and everyone she comes across. The world is filled with mothers of every kind but in my corner of the world, Lagos, Nigeria, is the finest woman God ever made.
Marion Itohan Odigie is an undergraduate student of the University of Benin, Edo state, Nigeria. I am Christian and Esan by tribe; the third of four children born to Dr. and Mrs. Odigie.