Helen Onuka, another Rock of Ages widow, suffered a crushing blow when her husband died. Suddenly, relations and ‘friends’ suddenly started dropping heavy hints of lustiness and amorous intentions towards her. Helen’s husband had a protracted illness from diabetes which resulted in his having to undergo an amputation at a point. The illness raged unabated, making him bed-ridden, wiping out their savings and then finally killing him. Even though his death had been imminent given his long illness, Helen was still devastated. For weeks, she was still reeling from the shock, unable to reconcile the fact that he was gone just like that.
Her grief and shock at losing her husband of over thirty years was nothing compared to her devastation when she called her brother-in-law to inform him of her husband’s passing only for him to callously order her to bury her husband in her own village. Generally in Nigeria, when a man dies, he is buried at his own place of origin and to do otherwise, is practically unheard of except in the case of unclaimed corpses or deceased persons who are of the Islamic faith and whom may be buried wherever they die.
Despite her strong Christian faith, Helen opined that some things were just not done. It is practically unheard of for a man to be buried in his wife’s family home ¾ in Nigeria anyway. Wives may be buried in their husband’s family house but not the other way round; the suggestion was practically a taboo!
Helen discovered a whole new meaning of suffering upon losing her husband. Every time she tried to smile, it was misinterpreted as joy because she had “succeeded in killing her husband.” If she dressed well, she was accused of trying to attract other men so soon after her husband’s death. If she went to church or anywhere, she was treated with pity and thinly veiled contempt. Friends and family fell away like dry leaves in a stiff harmattan wind and in-laws tried to steal what they could of her husband’s estate. Even her husband’s only brother, whom her deceased husband had trained in school, led the way with animosity towards Helen and her children. He insisted that there was no available portion of family land for her husband to be laid to rest and only finally reluctantly allowed his brother to be buried on someone else’s plot of land like a stranger. He banned her from erecting a tombstone over the burial plot. Helen encountered real fear at the burial when a relation of her husband’s kept walking up to her and tapping her shoulder. She claimed that the shoulder subsequently began to hurt and then he told her, “I like somebody who prays. Pray and ask God who I am. Let me see how your prayers will deliver you.”
Her husband left behind a plot of land which was forcefully taken away from her by his relations despite the fact that she had grown up children of her own.
Helen has had to learn to keep a very low profile in order to avoid unwanted male attention or gossip; and she is currently unemployed with no means of livelihood apart from dependence on charity.