Fragile Things

I’m not sure why the tears came. We weren’t terribly close. We were friends, yes. For that, I will always be glad. But we weren’t terribly close. We’d shared messages of encouragement. You’d offered to help me once when I needed something urgently sorted out in Nigeria. I helped you edit a few of your poems. You laughed at some of my jokes. I discussed India with you and offered some advice. You’d congratulated me on my little successes. Occasionally, I’d ask how you were doing and every word you’d send in response would radiate enough hope and faith for two. So I’m not sure why the tears came last night.

Perhaps it was because the first time we met in person, you’d hugged me like we were old friends reunited after a lifetime apart. Perhaps it was because we’d shared drinks and laughter together at Churascos or because you’d been on stage behind me while I embarrassed myself singing Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’, singing just as loud, living just as carefree in that moment. Perhaps it was the glow on your face when I came to pick you up from jet-skiing or the fact that we’d loosely made plans for more adventure next Christmas. Perhaps it was that T-shirt you had or perhaps it was because your struggle always reminded me of my mothers, only I was sure you would prevail. Perhaps it was because of the fire you carried with you. A searing hope that burned bright, daring the darkness to extinguish it. Perhaps, because it was impossible to meet you without catching that fire.

If anyone ever had hope. If anyone ever had faith. It was you. This morning, walking to work, the tears came again. I’m not sure why. I’ve had so many people I love dearly taken away by death’s cruel hand. I thought I had become desensitized. I thought I had learned to accept these kinds of things with calm and resignation. But then there came to me, an image of you in my head, a powerful one. There is a scene in ‘The Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring’ where the members of the fellowship are being chased by a giant, horned demon of flame and terror nearly thirty times the size of any man – the Balrog. At a point, Gandalf, the wizard stops running, turns to face the Balrog and during their battle cries out valiantly “You shall not pass”. This morning, in my mind, that was you. That has been you for as long as I have known you. You faced the cancer that plagued you with more grace, courage and strength than anyone could be expected to. You, a small, seemingly fragile thing, stood your ground and told that demon to his face “You shall not pass”. You fought gallantly, bore your load gracefully, you held him off for as long as you could and you did it with no weapons in your hand save an unshakeable faith and a perpetual smile.

I don’t know why the tears came. I don’t deserve to cry for you. That is an honour reserved for your family and close friends. They who knew you much longer and much better than I. I wish I could say something to them, to comfort or encourage them, to tell them what a wonderful daughter they had – one who embodied everything good and resilient there was about the the human spirit. But having been in a similar place to theirs before, I know all too well just how hollow such words can be in times like these. But it was over words we first bonded. Before I met you in person, all we had were these words – typed and transmitted afloat this vast internet sea. So words are all I offer now in your memory and to your spirit, because my tears are nothing but useless, fragile things.

For Dolu.