When the civil war (also known as the Biafran war) broke out in Nigeria on July 6th 1967 due to the Ethnic tensions in the country, Abigail a mother of six, was running a thriving business in Enugu. It was the capital of Biafra. The state created by the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria, in resistance to the Northern-dominated federal government leadership at the time.
Abigail’s husband was a rail worker who repaired train engines for a living, but didn’t earn enough to financially sustain the family. Due to her thriving business, Abigail was able to support her family with the income coming in from her business. She had two elder daughters and four younger boys. Her eldest daughter lived in the United Kingdom and life for Abigail, was financially comfortable.
Prior to the Civil war, she would travel to Southern Nigeria to visit friends and family. Her visits were widely celebrated, as she came bearing gifts and the children adored her greatly. Then one day, as Abigail went through her usual activities, life as she knew it changed. Within the blink of an eye, Enugu her beloved home, was in uproar. A civil war had been declared. A war that would later inspire the novel and movie, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
In a bid for safety, Abigail abandoned the East, leaving her thriving business, her comfortable home and all she held dear behind. She headed for Lagos, in the South, with her family. On getting to Lagos, she had lost everything and had no choice but to start afresh. She started a new business, but for some strange reason, it wasn’t as successful as the one she left behind.
Despite her predicament, the one thing Abigail never lost was her compassionate spirit. She loved caring and giving to others. On a regular basis, all the children in her neighbourhood would assemble in her home for meals. Knowing that she didn’t have much money, let alone enough food for herself, Abigail would dish out food to all the children first. Then, if there was any food left, she would have the rest. That was how Abigail lived throughout her lifetime. She used every earning she made from her business to help others. Never once did she think about her own needs. It was always others first and her own needs came later, after everyone was taken care of.
Whenever someone told her to put herself first, she would pretend she was listening. But the moment they left, she would continue to do what she does best, ‘caring for others’. As time passed, everyone realised it was futile to convince her to live contrary to who she was. Abigail continued caring for people and would later take on children from relatives, friends and family where they didn’t have the means to care for the children themselves. Some of these children, have gone on to build successful lives of their own.
The last time I saw Abigail, I was home on vacation and rushed to greet her, but she couldn’t recognise me. It broke my heart. Not seeing that smile, which lights up a room and trying to find ways to engage with her, in the hope, that she might remember me was painful. She had just lost her husband and came to stay with my mother, as her family didn’t want her to be alone. But Abigail, who was fiercely independent, would head towards the door and sit outside to watch passers-by. This was what she did everyday in her own home. She wasn’t happy being away from home and was yearning to go back home. So her children decided to send her home to make her happy.
As soon as her vehicle arrived, she had a youthful spring in her step, almost like she knew she was heading home and couldn’t wait to get there. My siblings and I escorted her to her vehicle and bade her farewell. As her vehicle departed, I stood there, watching Abigail’s every move. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, till her vehicle disappeared into the distance. I remember having this sinking feeling that it would be the last time I see her. My gut instinct was right, as Abigail passed away shortly after.
Her death didn’t make me sad, because I knew that when her time came, she was surrounded by family and the things she loved. For me, it was more important to celebrate the life that she lived and the humble, but valuable things she added to the lives of others. That gave me great comfort and would fill my heart with warmth, anytime I think of her.
Abigail was my grandmother, her husband was my step grandfather and my mother, was her eldest daughter. Although, she is no longer with us, she left a lasting legacy of ‘care and compassion’ that just keeps on giving. Though she never got to witness her son obtain his Doctorate degree or got to see her favourite grandson perform live on stage or witness her granddaughters become doctors and another a counsellor, I've come to realise there’s a little bit of Abigail that lives in us all.
Today, Abigail’s descendants span several generations and live in different countries across the world. This was something Abigail may not have envisioned, when she was doing her little bit to help others. However, the little bit she did, went a long way and will not be forgotten.
Today I remember Abigail, my grandmother and the compassionate legacy she left behind. To the world, she may seem like an ordinary person, but to those who knew and loved her, hers, was no ordinary life.
Welcome to my blog, where I share things that inspire me. My faith, nature and the simple or imperfect things in life, are what brings me joy and inspire me to create. I look forward to sharing my inspirations with you. Thanks for stopping by!