I sat on the hard wooden seat of the church pew, staring at the casket open before me as the Minister droned on. I couldn’t hear a word of what he said but I was sure it was something about how wonderful my wife had been in life. And she had been wonderful. Now her body lay, lifeless, motionless and cold, never to move or laugh or breathe again. A similar ceremony had just been performed for our newborn child.
My eyes were dry, my face devoid of emotion and my chest hollowed out. This was not because I was trying to “be a man” but because I didn’t deserve to shed a single tear for her, didn’t deserve a single word of comfort or a single touch of commiseration. Why? I killed my beloved wife.
The doctors had warned us, hadn’t they? “The placenta is not located in the best of places and that could lead to a dangerous delivery. Why not have a caesarian section?” Yet I refused to listen. “My wife is strong”, I argued. “I gave my mother a hard time in the womb and yet she delivered me without any surgery. My wife must deliver like the Hebrew women”.
My wife submitted to my will as she always did. She had always hated confrontations.
She went into labour a week before her due date. We were advised again to let a caesarian section be performed and again I refused. I waited for hours outside the delivery room, hardly moving, constantly watching the door. The doctor finally came out and I got up, expecting to see a smile on his face and the gleam of triumph in his eyes. What I saw instead was the disappointment of a battle lost and the faint accusation in his eyes that condemned me.
He spoke. “I’m so sorry sir. Your wife didn’t make it. She bled out from a detached placenta…” I heard nothing more at that point while my world came crashing down around my ears. A buzzing sound filled my head as his words echoed in my mind. She was dead. My wife was dead because of me.
I didn’t strangle her to death or poison her or batter her till she broke but she was dead as surely as if I had drawn a sharp blade across her throat.
I didn’t realize I was screaming until I was taken away and sedated. The baby was already dead. By then I was hollowed out, an empty sack of a man. I kept seeing the accusing eyes of the doctor. I see them now as I stare at the casket bearing the remains of my wife. It’s ever-present in my mind, reminding me that it’s my fault that she’s dead. My fault. My fault. My fault. And I will never forget.
By Oded Ucheagwu