Contemplations of a Streetsmart Bookworm

A letter, a poem and some random thoughts

Written by Ope Ashiru

To everyone who has had to live with sickle cell in one way or another:

Dear Ezinma,

How are you? How is Mazi Okonkwo? How are Onwubiko, Ozoemana, Onwuma and your other siblings? I trust you are all fine. Kindy send them my greetings. It has been many years today since you departed and gave us a gift: Nneka our beautiful daughter, I am still grateful for the gift. She is proof that you are a kind person, despite all the accusations that you have a wicked spirit. You departed the land of the living, in order to provide a safe passage for your daughter into the land of the living, that was a great act of kindness.

Nneka has grown into a wonderful woman, just like you. She reminds me of you every day, she has your eyes, your grace and your strong will. She has become a medicine woman; more powerful and wiser than Okagbue, I am glad she is not strange like the priestess Chinelo although they are fond of each other. Nneka has more knowledge than Okagbue even in matters of ogbanje. Her medicines are so potent that they work all the time, lest I forget she learnt them from the white man. You were right the white man has some good knowledge. Nneka learnt from the white man and also learnt from Okagbue maybe that is why she is better than both of them.

Nneka also told me that you don’t have a bad spirit, that it was your blood that was weak. She said you took the wrong part of your father’s blood and the wrong part of your mother’s blood and mixed them together when you were in her womb. She also said you had a good spirit and a strong Chi, that is why you stayed for so long, I agree with her. Nneka said it is the same for all ogbanje children, what they have is not bad spirits, it is weak blood from the womb. Nneka is now the one that takes care of all the ogbanjes in the village whenever they are sick, and most of them are now staying even longer than you did because she puts her medicine in their blood and fire in their spirits when she talks to them. Nowadays, even from the neighbouring villages people come to check their blood with Nneka before they get married so that they don’t give birth to ogbanjes. We are all grateful for your gift; Nneka, and I am proud to have been your husband.




They say they never really miss you until you’re dead or you’re gone

How wrong! I started missing you long before you were gone

I missed you every day I got back from school and you were not at home

Daddy always said you were at the hospital, which was fine because I knew you loved your work

Clueless child that I was, I couldn’t tell the difference between the times when mummy was the doctor and when she was the patient

Looking back I realise mummy the doctor was always home for lunch, otherwise she was a patient in crisis


Every moment we shared together was a gift

It seemed you knew your time was short so you made the most of it

Apart from the math lessons you taught me things that are ‘more important in life’

Honesty and hardwork, fairness and prudence, most importantly you taught me to see the best in everyone

You gave me the best of everything you had, but of them all what I treasure most is your faith


I remember when your brother told me you were gone

All I had were questions, not a single tear

What happens after death? Where would you go? How would you fare? I wanted to know for sure

He didn’t just answer all my questions, he broke them all the way down for me

After ninety minutes I was pretty sure you were in a far better place

Although I still miss you, I would be lying if I said I feel a sense of loss


When I was in JS1 before we were taught about genotype and blood groups I remember having a discussion with my classmates on the subject matter. ‘AA can marry anybody AA or AS, but AS can only marry AA’ Olisa said, among the five of us discussing Olisa seemed to be the subject matter expert. ‘What about SS, who can SS marry?’ I asked innocently, Olisa looked at me and with the authority of an emeritus professor of physics postulating a quantum theory, he said with finality in his voice ‘SS don’t marry, they usually die before they are twenty-one years old, or they die at childbirth and even if the child survives the child will also be SS’ He then told us a few more things. I smiled and nodded, although I knew he was wrong, very wrong. At that time my mother an ‘SS’ was almost forty years old and she had defied all his postulates.

Shortly after, my mother passed on. I remember one of my aunts telling us my father was a good man because although he knew my mother was ‘SS’, he went ahead and got married to her. Her line of thought raised a lot of questions in my mind, but as I often do I simply smiled and nodded. Over the years I have always wondered what made my father marry my mother, was it the goodness of his heart? Was it love? Was it faith? Looking back I see all these three in play, one day I will ‘gather the liver’ to ask him. Whatever the answer maybe (it would probably make no difference) I AM VERY GLAD HE DID!!!


This post was inspired by the Chinua Achebe’s book ‘Things fall apart’


  • This is a very deep piece communicated in the simplest of language. I can only imagine what it felt like at a tender age to try to wrap your head round the probability of loosing your precious mum….if the dead could see, I’m sure she would be so proud of the man you are today.

  • Interesting read and very well written. It’s amazing how you write about such an emotional matter in the most logical of ways. More amazing is what you have evolved to become: A man I am sure she is so proud of! (Y)

  • When sisanmi posted the link, I didn’t know it would be this emotional. Nice piece, Ope.


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