Lamentation, a lyrical outpouring of sadness, is one of the oldest and most comprehensive forms of art, with Lamentation to Sumer and Ur It dates back 4,000 years to ancient Sumer.
Across time and cultures, the Lamentations have been seen in Iyad And the RHe is a hindu The Vedas Beowulf And the Christian Bible. It has been seen in the Monteverde and Purcell opera, and the music of Mozart and Rossini. Lament permeates the piobaireachd music in Scotland. For thousands of years, lamentations have marked African mourning traditions, from the Bantu in the East to the Igbo in the West.
At Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Notes on grief, The lament that consists of honoring and treating her father’s death during the early days of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and he is one of the most talented language artists of our century makes the experience of death and grief profound. In poetic bursts of imaginative prose that reflects the rupture of oneself after the death of a beloved parent, Adichie builds a story of mourning – about love and love.
Adichie begins with her understanding of how grief is a raw, uncontrollable bodily thing like the urge to expel bile when sick, like the need to push during childbirth. Perhaps this is because sadness is not a choice – nor is it the depth of sadness a person feels. Everything is expendable. It outperforms one like the pounding of the monsoons during the rainy season and all one can do is hold on and hope its strength does not drift downhill. Adichie writes:
“My four-year-old daughter says I scared her. I got down on her knees to demonstrate, her tight little fist goes up and down, and her mimicry makes me see myself as I was: completely disintegrating and screaming and hitting the ground. The news is like a sinister uproot.”
Even here, even in retrospective lamentations, looking directly at grief is untenable. Adichie must construct her daughter’s vision frame in order to look at a manifestation of her pain. Adichie tells us that sadness is ingrained in the body’s memory. She wrote early: “The pain is not surprising, but its body,” her sides aching from crying, her arms heavy with grief; Understand that mourning is an act of the whole body.
Moving through the past and the present, Adichie breaks down the familiar – pandemic-led Zoom calls with family across three different countries – then the horrific – her father’s sudden death when he looked fine – followed by family trauma and numbness while processing what happened. It happened, because they wonder what could have been done differently so that their father would not have died. The Only if Become a familiar affliction, A fluctuation in the mind. “Did my soul know – how acute anxiety was in my stomach as soon as I heard it was fine; insomnia for two days; and the black cloud swirling that I couldn’t remember or get rid of?” she writes.
And always weeping that death came very early, and I hope for more time.
Contemplating moments in her father’s life in vibrant, saturated detail gives her some relief. Adichie provides details of her recent trip to Nigeria to see her father, stories of her mother’s flirtation and other memories. Carefully, lovingly, she touches the things that have remained, now, to celebrate her father’s comfort and luxury life – piles of stones in the aisle to mark his daily workout, home videos from trips to Lagos, old sudoku books, old photos and letters. But even she, the writer, knows that these words are not enough to stop the rising waters of sadness: “She learns the amount of sadness over language, the failure of language and the understanding of the language,” Adichie wrote.
The daughter’s love and respect for the father who was central to her self-formation fill these pages. Equally present, something of grief needs to be created to honor the father in order for it to be remembered. But the question is how. With the outbreak of the epidemic, the funeral was delayed; Instead, mourners come from their community to sit down and tell stories over and over again. Adichie calculates her discomfort with these aspects of the Igbo mourning tradition:
“There is value in that Igbo method, that African way, to struggle with grief: that expressive performative mourning, where you receive every call and tell and retell the story of what happened, where isolation is a curse and” stop crying. “Refrain, but I’m not ready.”
For Adichie, this mass mourning is just too much. While her mother must shave her head, sit down and bear the grief of society, she comes to honor her dead husband with their words, spoken and signed in the Death Book, Adichie thinks: “Who are you coming to our house to write this space notebook in? How dare you make this thing right? She is disturbed by the vulgar, meaningless and empty phrases uttered, and humbly regrets times in the past when she, too, had uttered the same vulgar words to her friends who had lost a member of their family, unaware of the agonizing pain. Acute grief.
For Adichie, grief is private, and closed. She does not want to talk to others. She wants to wrap herself in melancholy like a baby in a swaddling blanket and imagine her father’s hands, still present, which soothes her from sleep. Only in the stillness of her mourning can she understand grief. For Adichie, the only word that makes sense is the simple and authentic Ndu, Igbo word unfortunately.
In the closing pages, the body still looms large for an understanding of sadness. Adichie thinks about how to decorate a body for the sake of grief, as she creates T-shirts for her father’s funeral. “I don’t particularly like shirts,” she wrote, “but I spend hours on a dedicated website designing T-shirts for my father, experimenting with fonts, colors, and images.”
It is primitive and universal, the need to create something to honor the dead; To say “I am my father’s daughter.” First: marking sadness on the body, then on the page marking sadness.
In this way, Notes on grief It becomes a bigger than lean business, universal in the experience of losing a parent, the struggle to mourn that loss, during a pandemic when airport closures and social distancing lead to funerals for months and months beyond scheduled times. Of ignorance when the funeral will be, the delay again, and then again. “After the burial, we can begin to heal,” says Adichi’s mother. Perhaps, in reading this book, in this personal lament has become universal, so have we who have lost so much over the past year of loss and grief.
Hope and Abbock is a poet, writer, and assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.