I was born in 1987 and grew up in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria with a younger sister and hard-working, loving parents who encouraged me from a young age to get educated and build a career of my own. By the time I graduated secondary school in 2006, I decided to go to Delta State University with the hopes of becoming one of the greatest lawyers in town. When my final exams came in 2011, I was confident I’d do well and was on top of the world.
Unfortunately, that feeling was short lived. In 2011, my family suffered the unexpected death of my father.
Words can’t describe how heartbroken I felt, especially while watching my mother wake up each morning without my father close by, her routine interrupted by loneliness. I could not bear to leave her alone. But when I told her I wanted to take leave from school and stay home with her, she would not have it. She knew, just as well as I knew, that my father would have objected to such an idea, so I did as she said. Still, I could not shake the weight of my mother’s grief from my shoulders.
School work kept me busy and driven, and a year later in 2012, I secured an internship at a law firm in Lagos which confirmed my passions and set my mind at ease. For my family, I would do my best.
While I enjoyed this new experience of getting to practice all the theory that I had learned, I found my mind wandering in ways I did not expect. To be clear with you, this “distraction” was Peter, a handsome, senior partner of the firm.
At first, it was all “hellos” and “how are yous” between the two of us. Because his office was on the floor above me where I had many assignments, we began to see each other quite often. His broad smile could put me on cloud nine the rest of the day, but since he was my superior and we weren’t allowed to date, I kept my feelings to myself. Although, I couldn’t help from daydreaming as I walked up the stairs each day.
After eight months, I finished my internship and was ready to move on to bigger things. The day Peter learned that I found a job with a new practice, he caught me in the hallway and simply said, “Keep in touch.”
My stomach flipped as I smiled at him, “I will.”
Peter didn’t wait for me to call. The following weekend, he asked me out to lunch and of course, I said yes. He picked me up, and off we went to one of the most beautiful restaurants in the area. The food was incredible, and our conversation was seamless. He confessed that he always had a thing for me while at the firm, but he couldn’t pursue me because its policy didn’t allow relationships between staff, especially not with interns.
“So now is my chance.” He grinned, and I broke into a grin back at him. The chemistry we had was the kind you’d see in romance movies, always on and hard to ignore. We fell in love hard and fast. Within six months, he asked me to marry him at the very restaurant he took me to on our first date, and I was happier than I’d ever been my whole life.
We got married in 2014 and began our new life as husband and wife. Two months into our marriage, we were pregnant and both thrilled to build our family. After having our son, Peter suggested that I stay home and care for the family. While I loved my career in law, I agreed since Peter was making enough money to support us and I wanted to spend every possible minute I could with our little bundle of joy.
Peter made sure the baby and I had everything we needed, and I never had to worry. No marriage is perfect, but ours was filled with more happy days than sad moments, until…
Wednesday, February 4, 2015, a day that began like any other. We ate breakfast together and Peter got up to leave for work. He kissed me and our baby before putting on his coat. As he walked out the door, I called out “I love you.”
I wish I had paused to cherish his lips, his voice, his smiling eyes—for that would be our last moment together.
I got a call from his office three hours later.
“Hello, Amanda. Can you meet us at the general hospital?”
“Us?” I frowned, “Who is at the hospital?”
“It’s Peter, he was involved in a minor accident…”
“Oh my god!”
“No, calm down. He is fine. He only sustained a few injuries. How soon can you get here?”
“R-right away,” I stuttered, “I-I am coming right away.”
After I hung up, I scooped my baby in my arms, dropped him off at the neighbors, got into my car and sped to the hospital.
I wish I could say that by the time I got to that hospital that all he had were minor injuries, but his office had lied. Peter’s injuries were far from minor. While on his way to work, a truck whose brakes had failed swerved into Peter, crushed his car and killed Peter on impact.
I passed out at the sight of his mangled body in the morgue. My love, my husband, gone forever.
My mother came as soon as she heard, my friends trooped in and out of my house, but I had become a shell of myself, not even able to contribute much to the planning of my husband’s burial.
Time passed as I both mourned and disbelieved the image of Peter’s cold body. How could the love of my life leave me this soon? Each night I woke up to reach for his body it felt like a nightmare. Each morning felt like a fresh wound. Sometimes, I swear I saw him somewhere around the house…but it was just a trick of the mind, a wishful hallucination.
Just five days after the burial, I heard a knock at my door. I was wearing my white mourning clothes, as was the tradition of the land for widows, and my hair was shaved low by the women of the village on the burial day, so I wore a white scarf around my head. Before I could answer the call, Peter’s brothers and uncles crossed my threshold, only giving me time to rise from my chair and welcome them to sit.
But no one sat.
“What is the problem?” My mother asked.
“We’ve come to take over Peter’s property. You need to leave,” they told us.
Within seconds, I saw three other boys run into the house and start flinging clothes out the door. My mother cried and pleaded while my baby wailed. I was too numb to scream, so I cried softly, warm tears running down my cheeks as I was shoved out of the home I had shared with Peter.
Unfortunately, this was not unusual in the eastern part of Nigeria. Many widowed women experienced the same fate—if they were unlucky to have in-laws like mine. Peter hadn’t left a will, so we had no choice but to leave with my mother and go back to the village I was raised in. I was in suspended animation.
With no money or savings, no car, and no property, I didn’t know what to do next. I hadn’t worked in years, but with a two-year-old son to provide for, I knew I had to do something. I could not continue to rely on my poor mother to feed the both of us or send my son to school, so I made the painful decision to leave my son with my mother in the village and go back to the city to find a source of income.
I sold most of my dresses and jewelry to raise money to transport me to the city. I dusted off my certificates, and with tears in my eyes, I hugged my mother and son goodbye. My son’s cries rung in my ears as I walked away, but I kept going. I was leaving so he’d never have to live without me again.
On getting to the city of Lagos, I went to live with an old friend who told me I could stay as long as I needed. Each morning, I set out to the mainland in search of a law firm, but for months, I never made enough to live. After the money I had brought with me had run out, I was stuck in her house, with a completely downtrodden spirit.
This continued until my friend talked to her fiancé, who promised to help me secure a good-paying job if I would just come by his office.
But as I arrived, I sensed something was off…and it was. His offer came with the stipulation that I would sleep with him. When I refused, we got into a struggle, and I ran away from his office.
By the time I got back to my friend’s house, he had called to say that I had tried to seduce him. My friend was enraged by these words and flung my things on the front steps. She didn’t let me explain. She just called me an ingrate and slammed the door. Once more, I picked up my things, but I didn’t know where to go. I wound up sleeping at the gate of her house. Alone.
The next morning, I walked the streets with no direction. I hated myself for not anticipating these tragedies, I grieved for my loneliness, I thought of my mother and my father, and my beloved Peter and our son, and I wondered if I would ever be able to heal. For the first time, I had no hope left inside me.
Later that day, I ran into an old classmate, who was surprised to see me in my unkempt, haggard state, holding all my belongings in one heap. He asked what I was doing, and I told him everything. As I was talking, I couldn’t believe any of it. I couldn’t believe that so many of my days were now hollow. But they were.
Taking pity on me, he took me to his house, gave me water to bathe, warm food to eat, and a room to sleep in. Within a week of living with him, he found me a job at a reputable law firm. My friend did all this without asking for anything in return.
Going back to work after years away was difficult, especially while facing judges solo, but I did it. I have been working at that law firm for a year, and ever since my first case, I count all my days as victories. Even when my heart thumps in my chest, even when I come home to my own empty apartment, I know that I am never alone. I may have lost my husband and everything I owned, but I can live on. There are always people in our lives, there are always open doors, and there are always reasons for me to rebuild. To heal from all the hurt over the last few years, I started receiving therapy, and while I’m not where I hope to be yet, I am better than where I used to be, financially and emotionally. I can honestly say that I have come a long way from the shattered woman I once was. Now that I’ve seen the lowest point in my life, I know that life can only get better from here.