OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: WHAT A SHAME

Last week was a bad week for me.

It had started out ok and I was looking forward to a lovely week with all the tasks I had planned. That was until I got the terrible phone call from Nigeria. The kind of call you never ever expect or imagine you could ever be in line to receive.

I was told that one of my best friends from University of Benin, Doris Udoroh had suddenly died.

In cases like this, only in your wildest imagination would you know what to say or how to react. So I pretended that I hadn’t heard what my informant was saying to me. But as as if in slow motion, the phone dropped from my hand, then I ran out of my room and in a voice I didn’t recognise as mine, came this loud pained moan that even I could feel was like from a wounded lion. I fell to my knees and cried like my heart was breaking – it was broken.

Doris was the first person I met on my very first day at Ugbowo Campus as a Jambite. Later in the day, I met Bose-Benson Idonije and I also introduced her to Doris, and from then on till we left Uniben four years later, we were the tightest of friends. We visited each other’s homes during the school closures and holidays at Lagos, Abeokuta and Benin and did almost everything that undergraduate girls did together. All our boyfriends were mates and our parents all knew each other. We studied together and partied hard together. Even when Bose and I left for Togo for our year abroad as French students, Doris visited us.

Ours was a tight little trio that everyone knew about.

Ater graduation and over the years however, we had all gone our individual ways. Bose is a big events mogul in Port harcourt and the mum of the artiste Burna Boy. I am doing my thing here in London and Doris settled to a very quiet life in Ughelli. The last time we all got together as a group was almost 10 years ago at my 40th birthday which I travelled to Nigeria to celebrate. We predictably, chatted long into the early hours of the morning as we reminisced about Uniben days and caught up on our individual lives – as grown women. Even revisited some old secrets or two and then returned them into their little boxes. Never to be reopened.

Little could anyone of us have known that would be the last time we three would sit and chat together.

Doris’ death hit me personally and unexpectedly like a massive sledgehammer. I wept bitterly out or regret, self recrimination and grief for 3 solid days and my facebook page has been dedicated to her for that long.

I regretted not reaching out to her more in remote Ughelli. I didn’t call her enough even though she was always in my thoughts and always found her way into my discussions with old and new friends. I often would ask after Doris from her cousin an sisters rather than pick up the phone and call her directly. I didn’t take time to find out more about her life and how she was getting on, I didn’t know if the person I called my Best Friend was happy in her marriage. Frankly – I didn’t know much about my friend.

My mum is going to be 70 in October and we have been planning a big do to celebrate. Which means a trip to Nigeria for me. I had planned to go and visit Bose in Port Harcourt and Doris in Ughelli and invite both of them over to Ijebu Ode for another get together.

But it was not to be.

God had other plans.

Doris died suddenly just a few weeks before her 50th birthday. There was no warning.

Unfortunately, living far away from home in London, puts a lot of us in situations like this. Acquaintances are broken and friendships get neglected. Life in London means folks often do not find the time to maintain relationships back home. And those that do, rarely get to see their loved ones as much as they would love to. Many factors such as work, young kids, even finances prevent many people to travel as much as they would love to and people you call on a daily basis when you first arrive here gradually fade into the back of your thoughts as those calls become more and more infrequent and suddenly stop. And if like me, you have an aversion towards picking up your phone and making a call or two, then all your thoughts of those you love, remain firmly in your mind and head.

Many people who have relocated or emigrated also inadvertently lose contact with close friends and loved ones over time. Not because they stop caring – but because life takes a new turn according to the demands of responsibilities and obligations and people they no longer see become not so much a priority.

And sometimes, it is the new friendships we form that cause us to forget our old friends or at least not think of them as much as we should even though out of sight does not necessarily mean out of mind.

Unfortunately, it has taken the cold arms of death, to remind me that we must never stop thinking of our loved ones whether far or near. And we must not wait till they are no longer with us before we wish we had spent more time with them.

RIP, My girl for life, DORIS UDOROH (1965 – 2015)

**First published in my column “London Digest” in City People Magazine – March 2015

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