By Nasir Dambatta
A haunting emptiness descended over my heart, when the news of her death reached me. late night, two days ago on Friday, even though I knew she had been sick for quite a while.
I can still recount some of the stories I heard about her when I grew up. She was said to have voluntarily offered to wean me, from a suckling infant to a ‘big’ baby boy. And she was said to have done that not so much because she never gave birth till her death, but out of the personal love she had for me. There was a sense in which I was the closest to her – of all my siblings, though up to today I can’t figure out why.
I still have string of fond memories of this woman who, even in death, I see her beyond my stepmother. Her name is Rakiya but as kids and even as we grow into adulthood, we were addressing her as ‘Goggo’. It is absolutely undeniable that she gave her all, in making my upbringing worth the while, notwithstanding my Mom and her were living under one roof as housewives.
One thing I was proud of while she was alive, was that she was never short of admonition for me. She was also eveready to answer my questions on certain realities of this life and tolerated my ‘too many’ questions with the calmness of a patient teacher.
Whenever I returned from a trip, I would buy the same quantity of gifts for her and my Mom because they both meant the world to me. Even at my young age, I occasionally asked for her guidance, especially on matters I have difficulty confronting my Mom with. And she was tirelessly forthcoming on this.
Her sister, Suwaiba handed over her daughter Maryam to her when she turned out to be childless for decades. The coming of Maryam into our large family has been enduring, so much that today we relate with Maryam(aka Mairo) like she was born of our father. She was raised in my family home and married off from there. Many assumed she was our sister by birth.
Goggo my stepmother, was such a strong woman who bore her childless mess a related challenges with courage. You could not decipher her inner worries from her facial looks.
I have a long thread of experience to recount in my relationship with her as a step-mother. Even as kids we heard stories of how bad some stepmothers could be, but hers was an entirely different tale – probably because she was one harmless guardian. Maybe it was because in those days, discipline and honesty were the hallmark of most men and women in my own part of the planet.
The bottomline is this: she gave her all, training me like a begotten son. And, even in death I still remember her as the special one, whose unbeatable sacrifice partly explains why my life has been worth the while. Same could be said of the children of her niece and adopted daughter – Mairo, whose children are now some of the grandsons and daughters she left behind, during what I would consider her very eventful lifetime.
May the almighty Allah give her a special place in paradise and make our end as blissful as hers. Ameen.