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The united nature of loss – When they leave us, By Ngozi Bell

A breath, a sigh, a vacant look, deep thought, a smile that frames a face but not the heart. The trouble of hope snatched by hopelessness. The tearful romance of deep loss with the need to perform and be normal. Grace was once happy, cheerful, full of humour and everything in between. She seemed to have big plans and planned to be around for a long time, but did she? Did we even know her or see her, hear her or understand her? Was Grace really with us as we thought she was or was she somewhere else knocking ferociously, speaking loudly and fast and often. Playing the fool, laughing harder than anyone else, trying to engage frantically so we could see her, acknowledge her, know her? Did we miss it all?

Now reading what she wrote about those moments, what she thought about her friends, what she wanted most, it is clear we did not hear and would not have heard because we were incapable of understanding

Now longingly I reach out for her, wanting to hear her say those things again, sure that this time with the perspective I have gained I would hear the anguish in her outreach and feel the pull of her needs. 

That is the nature of loss, it arms you with insight, you feel the wiser, if only I’d done this or said this. I should have worked harder at that relationship or spent more time with so and so. I should have made more effort on this and that and the list goes on. The truth is we don’t know which adjustments would have made the difference, and the reality is, we will never know. Loss comes to take in exchange for a vacuum. It fills the heart with nothing and can attain such heights, giving up nothing while aggresively causing its courier to ascend into realms of elevated despair where loss is all in all!

When they leave us, they make us bereft of some of who we are, we lose in parts; parts of desire, hope, joy, security, parts of the team, and sometimes even parts of destiny.

Typically, loss comes harder when its nearer or deeper or more dependent, but what buttresses this hardship? Is it the fact that we no longer see our loved one, or that we don’t know what is about them or do we feel left behind, sorry for ourself or for them? As time goes on many adjust and the hurt is less and faintly there, till it is not. This is true for some but not so for others, sometimes the guilt of loss only grows deeper, and the mourning endures and increases with time.

Grace is gone and I will not tell how, just know she is gone and it hurts, it really, really hurts! So what remains, what can we do ? Let us make a list and see what we know:

  1. We must call on Grace’s loved ones and be there for them now, the days to come, months and even years;
  2. We must learn from Grace what she said, did, tried to say or tried to do, even if it seems we have no use for it;
  3. We must rely on each other, depend on one another, engage with one another after all, the biggest pain in loss is the missing, so let us engage one another and bask in our continued presence;
  4. We must study life and living and hope and hoping, living out life and filling out hope as presently as we can – it means we should make our joys- joys, our sorrows- sorrows, our pains -pains, our treasures – treasures and so on. No short cuts, but in the same vein we cannot live perpetually in any of those places; they only ask to be used as authentically as possible;
  5. We must lean on others, learn of ourselves, and remember to live out the present, acknowledging the past and giving a nod to the future;
  6. We must discover in ourselves and for ourselves why we are here, what we have to do, how much of it we have done, how much should be done or be left undone and so on;
  7. We must ponder why we knew Grace, what was the purpose of us in Grace, and fulfill it if we can.

Now the list above was never intended as the list, but a list, there are things that will try to stop us from doing, sometimes it is uncontrollable despair, sometimes it is a hurried attempt to move on, my universal position is to avoid all extremes.

The Plight of the Despondent

When Jane left, she created a void like no other. I remember that day like it was yesterday, it was surreal, first there was the moment before the call, the call and the moment after, nothing else made sense after that and for years to come much was still bungled in the recesses of my mind. Jane was special in every way, wonderful to a fault, good enough to forget; so gracious you’d take advantage of her. They say some people are too good to be here, while I don’t know what that is intended to really say, I do get the sentiment. There are some that are so pure you wonder how come you got them on your side, why they got a raw deal when they deserved the best, why they are overlooked instead of celebrated. They are the yardstick for unfairness of life. The very emblem of what hope looked like in the flesh.

Jane was like that, cool, beautiful, kind, smart and very able; she was life and living in all its essence and yet she is no more. Jane’s leaving made me despondent!

I have seen despondency; it is like a dirty wet rag which you are forced to lie on though you know better. It sears the soul and vexes the spirit; it makes joy feel untenable and a simple bruise unbearable. Despondency makes lack abundant, darkness welcome and hope flee. It decorates your time with waste, designs your thoughts with grief and saturates your quiet in agony. It reminds you that once there were 7, or 4 or 2 and now 1 is no more and therefore you can no more be. 

Turning aside to Doug, he left ages ago, when leaving was not even cool. In the silent of the night after years of on and off parades in joyless pain. Doug, the big brother to his siblings that never really was, a life plagued first with ease and then with complications, as he grasped at life, like the wind it happened, slowy slipped away and he was gone. The pain of Doug’s leaving was translated in shock, why him, how him, not him…but it was him all along, all alone on his journey to the beyond. Doug’s leaving brought fear and questions, the fear fully dependent on the questions and the questions on the fear. Everyone gasped like life had pressed rewind and we all needed to reset. I still remember where I think I was and what I think I felt, most of all I was afraid, horrified, and sorry. I think though that for the longest, she settled on anger, as she missed her dearly beloved Doug.

Anger is like a firecracker, you have to light it to experience it, it can come in flaming showers, in cackles of crackling fire or peels of unending heat. Sometimes anger shows off like a bonfire at other times like a flame of devastating heat that threatens to destroy, melt away and scorch anything in its path. Such was her anger, you could feel it, hear it and even smell it. 

She looked with intensity, objecting of everyone’s sympathy. Had they loved him enough like they profess now, they would have cared for him, now they show up, it’s too late and I have no need for them her eyes seemed to say. There were days she would howl asking for Heaven to thrust him back here for her. Eventually she opted to memorialise his life in the stories she told whether you knew him in life or not, you were going to know him now. I remember meeting her and hearing her talk of him and all I could think was how does she do this. How will she keep this on, but as suddenly as I thought it, I knew the answer. It has been years since. She is again resplendent, emersed in the issues of life but beneath her eyes I see the pain but just beyond that I see a flame lit with warmth and love and the knowing that hers now is his, just as much as his was fully hers.

Grace, Jane, and Doug have made it out; the times of refreshing has come and as one light extinguishes a new one emerges. The difference now is that this new light cannot be perceived with the naked eyes it must be seen from behind the eyes, in the inner man, the place of the knower, in the seat of the sighted!

It is better to go to the house of the mourning! Adieu again Grace, Jane, and Doug 

About Ngozi Bell

Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work

experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).