Hi, my name is Nancy, a widow with three children. This is my sad widowhood tale. My husband died in his early 50s, he was 10 years older than me. We met through a relative of mine who felt we were a good match for each other. After dating for a short while, James wasted no time in paying my bride price, we had a traditional wedding and started our family together.
A few years after our wedding, I realised James had a heart condition, had once battled obesity and was also diabetic. I tried not to panic, managed the situation the best way we could and I made sure that as much as possible, he adhered to the doctor’s instructions. We were fine until the day he gave an odd noise in his sleep and breathed his last.
I thought he was having difficulty breathing well, and tried to wake him to adjust his position, only to find him lifeless. After doing CPR on him several times to no avail, I gave a loud scream to alert our tenants so they could help rush him to a nearby hospital.
He was pronounced dead on arrival. I called my husband’s immediate younger brother to give him the news, and the first thing he said was, “you do well, una don finally chop am” I froze in shock upon hearing that and he went on to say “you better flee with your children if you know what’s good for you” and hung up on me.
I stood at a spot for close to ten minutes after the call, not knowing what to say or do, just fresh tears welling up in my eyes. Here I was just introduced into widowhood and this was the response I was getting. I got scared.
The Warning That I Ignored
Before I got married to James, a friend of mine warned me about the tradition I was marrying into. My friend claimed people from my husband’s tribe were wicked and do not treat women who marry their sons right.
She said when the man dies, the wife is always to be blamed, adding that according to the tradition, a woman is meant to flee the house once her husband is no more. The reality however was that while she was on ‘exile’, her in-laws would plunder the deceased’s properties without obstruction. She said she knew all these because it happened to her aunt.
I waved her off back then and even asked my then husband-to-be if what she said was true. James denied that such practice was in existence in his family. But judging from his brother’s words, I knew the same fate was about to befall me.
Anyways, I refused to run away, stood my ground and waited for my husband’s people to come to claim his corpse at the morgue, following the bus that conveyed his body to the village. Only a few members of my family followed me. My sisters even begged that I let them bury their corpse whichever way they saw fit, so I don’t get harmed while claiming my rights.
The whole village shouted “abomination” on sighting me. My brother-in-law refused to be part of the burial. Me being a member of the Charismatic Renewal Movement, I made sole arrangements to bury my husband the Christian way. The villagers had rejected his body because of my presence and distanced themselves as well. I was helped by the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the village.
To further flex their ‘powers’, my brother-in-law and some of the village people came and exhumed my husband’s corpse and left it in the open.
I could not explain the rationale behind the tradition that forbids the departed to rest in peace. A custom that forbids a woman who has fed, lived and slept with a man from seeing his body being buried. Exhuming a brother’s corpse in the name of tradition is so sickening.
Finally, they buried their dead the way they saw fit in my absence.
When I returned to the city, hoping to finally pick up my life and move on with my kids, my husband’s brother came to threaten me and the other tenants of the house with eviction. My brother-in-law was quite rich, I couldn’t understand why he wanted my kids and I to suffer.
We actually did suffer, as my children were sent home from school for unpaid fees.
My brother-in-law kept threatening us with eviction and said he wasn’t even sure the kids belonged to his brother in the first place. He never lifted a finger to help us during our trying moments.
Out of frustration, I confronted him one day, just to know what I did wrong to deserve such ill treatment from him because as far as I could remember, I had been nice and respectful to him ever since I married into their family.
My brother in-law’s response to me that day shocked me. He said all my suffering will stop once I agreed to his terms. He wanted to make me his bedmate and said it in clear words.
“How could you even think of sleeping with me?” I tearfully asked.
With a mischievous grin, my brother-in-law told me: “you cannot work at railway and collect money at NEPA”.
And that put an end to my hope that he would ever help or be nice to us.
Till date, I still get harassed and my brother-in-law would not allow us to access the rents fees paid by tenants of my husband’s house and I can’t fight him for fear of being ejected from the house.
Widowhood has been tough. I never realised that being a widow was this difficult. I have made it a point to find other widows and share whatever I can with them and above all, serve as an encouragement.
My advice to widows… Please study your husband’s people and traditions before you marry, if you can’t take it, don’t venture. Even if you can, plan for the future. Women, plan for the future. Widowhood comes without warning. It isn’t something you plan for. Don’t find yourself at the receiving end.
Thanks for reading my widowhood story.
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