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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

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

4 Responses to ““I Have Come Undone” | Adichie Writes Moving Statement on Grieving for Her Father” Subscribe

  1. Meredith Chiwenkpe Asuru July 4, 2020 at 10:35 am #

    May his soul rest in peace. And may God grant Chimamanda and family the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss.

  2. Ola Uduku July 5, 2020 at 10:51 am #

    RIP losing a parent is very hard, and in some ways one never totally gets over it, they are there with us – in spirit, we have to have the strength to carry their memories and goodness on…

  3. Musa W. Dube July 6, 2020 at 2:02 am #

    As you grieve Chimamanda, we are grateful to God who gave you, and us, your Father. We are grateful for the life he lived; for all that he gave to the world. We are grateful that he gave us you–and for all that you are giving to us and the world. May the soul of Prof J. Adichie rest in peace. And may gratitude and healing abide with you and family during this time and the days to come.

  4. Esomnofu Ebelenna July 8, 2020 at 12:36 am #

    Your love for him, as shown in this tribute, is open, touching, beautiful. I was moved. I was proud. He wasn’t just a dad, but also a friend, an elderly friend with unflagging wisdom. A huge loss. But you will heal. ❤️

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