Chimamanda Adichie’s father, Professor James Nwoye Adichie, died on Wednesday June 10, 2020.
Today, the author breaks her silence around his passing with a moving, deeply personal statement on his death.
She talks about the grief of losing a dearly beloved parent, how raw the pain is, and the frustrations of being stuck in the US, unable to travel to Nigeria due to COVID-related restrictions. She also shares loving memories of her time with him.
Please read and offer your heartfelt condolences, if you wish, in the comment section.
And just like that my life has changed forever. June 7, there was Daddy on our weekly family zoom call, talking and laughing. June 8, he felt unwell. Still, when we spoke he was more concerned about my concussion (I’d fallen while playing with my daughter).
June 9, we spoke briefly, my brother Okey with him. “Ka chi fo,” he said. His last words to me. June 10, he was gone.
Because I loved my father so much, so fiercely, so tenderly, I always at the back of my mind feared this day. But he was in good health. I thought we had time. I thought it wasn’t yet time. I have come undone. I have screamed, shouted, rolled on the floor, pounded things. I have shut down parts of myself.
“The children and I adore him,” my mother wrote in a tribute when he was made professor emeritus. We are broken. We are bereft, holding on to one another, planning a burial in these COVID-scarred times. I am stuck in the US, waiting. The Nigerian airports are closed. Everything is confusing, uncertain, bewildering.
Sleep is the only respite. On waking, the enormity, the finality, strikes – I will never see my father again. Never again. I crash and go under. The urge to run and run, to hide from this. The shallow surface of my mind feels safest because to go deeper is to face unbearable pain. All the tomorrows without him, his wisdom, his grace.
We talked almost daily. I sent him my travel itineraries. He would text me just before I got on a stage: Ome ife ukwu! Nothing else mattered to me as much as the pride in his eyes.
I saw him last on March 5th in Abba. I had planned to be back in May. We planned to record his stories of my great grandmother.
Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger. You learn that your side muscles will ache painfully from days of crying. You learn how glib condolences can feel.
My father was Nigeria’s first professor of Statistics. He studied Mathematics at Ibadan and got his PhD in Statistics from Berkeley, returning to Nigeria shortly before the Biafran War. A titled Igbo man – Odelu Ora Abba – deeply committed to our hometown. A Roman Catholic with a humane and luminous faith. A gentle man and a gentleman. For those who knew him, these words recur: honest, calm, kind, strong, quiet, integrity.
I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe that I am writing about my father in the past tense. My heart is broken.
Thank you to my darling brother Chuks Adichie for this video. Daddy’s kindness lives on in you.
Image via Instagram | @chimamanda_adichie