I preserve my time with people as events and more importantly, places. Goodbyes have become a permanent fixture over the years: migration, graduation, death, etc. Distance soon turns friends into strangers. Easy pleasantries become quadratic equations: “I haven't seen x in while; I should probably check up on y." And the people I (we) shared laughs and tears with, become vestiges of good times: the good old days. Nostalgia.

I collect these experiences as places because even when the nuances of the stories and moments slip out of my hands, I do not misplace the where. It means that when the what and how escape memory, there is a place to build from. A foundation to lay old bricks upon. A road map to a house of lost treasures and old possibilities.

When my mum passed on in May, I rushed to recollect our last time together, the last place we breathed together. It was on her 50th birthday and she was being discharged post-surgery from a hospital in the States. How poetic. She was frail but cheery, flashing a smile to the extent the pain would permit. Cancer be dammed. This was recovery. I did not think a hospital room in Maryland would be our last place. It was. When I think of November 2015, I'll remember that place.

I did not see her until February or March: via Facetime. I was in my room. She was in hers, an ocean away, asking about my wellbeing. “How are your friends?” as though she knew any of them. Her room is now a landmark in my memory.

I had a strange dream as a kid. A type of apocalypse had happened but mummy and I remained, alone in the world. Frightened. But we had ourselves. I fail at recalling the rest of the dream but I remember that we stood at the front of her shop in Iba, waiting for something to happen. Anything.

She turned up at 8pm for my first visiting day at boarding school. Visiting hours ended moons ago. Lagos was 2 hours away. I thought they had forgotten. There was a mix up, I think. I can’t quite remember. We sat at the front of my school’s chapel. Coke or Fanta and meat pie in hand; the wind gusting against our faces in the silent darkness.

The last time I saw her, we were at the funeral service, hours before the internment. She was resting in the casket. Her quiet yet striking beauty beaming as much in death as it did when she was alive. Her body decaying and soul on a journey. That she was “going to a better place,” brought me little to no consolation. Every time I heard it, no matter how true it rung, it fell off my skin like dead hair. How could the place be better without me? Without us?

But of course, she has a place in my heart (our hearts). And perhaps that is everything. Perhaps it matters that even as the upper bulb of the hourglass empties and memories become blurrier, the places we lived, left and loved ourselves, are etched as footprints in the sands; guiding and teaching me how to put the pieces together; how to repaint over and over, the marvellous picture of our time together.

Author: Tomi

I write

31 thoughts on “Places”

  1. This brought tears to my eyes. You have written this so softly- as if the memories you have are delicate and must be taken care of.

    I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be.

    Thank you for this lovely work of art. I really enjoyed reading it. The someberness of your emotion carries through the entire piece 💛

  2. Those places never change and true…the imprints last forever.
    I pray anytime pain or a pang arises, that you know and feel a great soothing…even if it’s one you can’t explain.

  3. Thought of the songs in Sufjan Steven’s Carrie and Lowell after I read this. I pray that these memories remain, and that they eventually lead to joy.

  4. I’m sorry to read about your loss Tomi. I pray it becomes easier to bear, the tears or pain that memory evokes in the early stages giving way to smiles and laughter at a later date.

  5. This is so delicate, I feel like I’m carrying a baby in my arms while walking on hot coals. You have let your readers in with so much ease. May your heart heal and may your smile be genuine.

  6. Thank you dear son for that beautiful piece on Mummy, you mum, my love. It is well…….

  7. Happy birthday to you and I pray that the Lord God Almighty will continue to uphold and keep you. You will reach your divine goal, purpose and destiny in life , you will not be forgotten, forsaken nor put to shame in the name that is above all other names. I blessed the name of the Lord for your life, He kept you for a special purpose and assignment. And I want say that in all that you have been through, seen and experienced in life I believed that you still have a place in your heart that bless the name of the Lord at all times because He is good, faithful, dependable and reliable. He kept you and stayed by your side through it all. I pray that at no point in your life will God leave you, in your journey of life you will never be stranded, confused nor ashamed in the name that is above all other names.
    I wish you happy birthday many more glorious years ahead and once again I thank God for your life who has kept you and love you so dearly you are apple of God’s eye remain in His unfailing love.
    Sunbo and kemi.

  8. Weldone done Tomi. What a nice write up . I could be so emotional and this write up got me to extreme because I know what it feels like to live on memories. God will crown all your efforts with success. God will be with you, daddy and your siblings. Just hold on to those memories. Mummy lives on……

  9. I did enjoy the piece till the last word. Very fluid and emotional. Well done Tomi. May the Lord grant her eternal rest, comfort you and the entire family. Wish you the very best in your endavour.

    From the Taiwos

      1. Thank you Cousin Bidemi for finding time to check Tomi’s works. Blessings.

  10. I’m so sorry man. I was coming on here to say I hadn’t seen any of your posts in my email in a while. I’m torn apart reading this.
    I sincerely wish you, and your family all the strength you need to pull through this.

    I want to be able to talk to you so please email me

    Ife Oyewale.

  11. You probably don’t know me but I have been seeing your picture on IG being celebrated because of your graduation so I decided to come visit your blog.
    I’m really really sorry for your loss, I pray your family finds long lasting peace.

    P.S: Your writing is beautiful 🙂

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I do know you. You attended CRC for a while, right?

      Thank you so much for the condolences, Amen! and thank you for the compliment on my writing 🙂 🙂

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