This blog was created to serve as an inspiration to all who read aspire, to love and to live a life of purpose.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Cost of Perseverance Should Never Be Life: Ogochukwu Onuchukwu's story

"Wedding ring is the smallest handcuff ever made, don't be desperate to wear one, study your inmate very carefully so as to sentence yourself wisely"
That's what my friend Ifeoma tweeted yesterday. She is right. Well, partly. While I don't believe marriage should feel like prison. It is a "for better or for worse" ordeal and many times, for many people, it feels like they've been they HAVE TO make it work...especially in a society like Nigeria where marriage is seen more like an accomplishment than your own personal commitment. Scratch that. Its the wedding that you get kudos for because everything that happens afterwards is a "family matter". "Happily married" becomes an assumption. It shouldn't be that way.

I want to get married. In short, I really look forward to it. However, it won't be at the cost of my happiness, my virtue as a woman and my worth as the daughter of my father.  I've talked to people who have told me every woman looses herself in marriage. They say, you can't "keep" yourself in marriage.  I can. So can you. I have read about what God intends marriage to be. I have seen couples who live according to that. My parents, for one. They're the number one reason I will always believe in love and in "successful" marriages. I know that if I am careful about my choice, my marriage won't be a will be happy partnership. That's what I pray for.

That's probably also what Ogochukwu wanted when she married Kevin. Her story is heart-wrenching. All this woman wanted to do was gain her husband's love and affection and to make her marriage successful. At any cost. Sadly, the cost was her life.

Ogochukwu's story is not unique. Many women, especially in Nigeria, stay in unhappy marriages for years on end in an effort to peservere. While I'm a passionate advocate for perseverance, please do not do so to the detriment of your health (physical, psychological, or otherwise) or your life.
Ogochukwu Onuchukwu
Please read this letter and pass it on.  Its a bit lengthy. But its worth the read.

My mum is crying. I can see  her from here. She has aged since the last time I saw her. Why does she look so old and why is she so thin? Can someone console her? Can someone make her stop  crying? I try to get up but I can’t. I try to reach for her, but I’m stuck where  I am. It is very dark in here, and very cold, so very cold. 

What am I doing here?   Where is everybody?   Where are my children?  I begin to panic, to struggle;  I want to get out of this dark room. 

I can hear Uzo calling. She’s calling my name. Then, I see mum again. And I hear Uzo again. I don’t see my children. Where are my children? I can’t see beyond the walls of this dark and cold room.

Uzo calls again. 

She sounds desperate to rouse me from my sleep. I am struggling  to wake but I can’t. I open my eyes and they shut of their own accord. I am powerless to keep them from shutting. And I find as soon as I stop struggling,  my sleep becomes sweet repose. Suddenly I don’t want to wake from it just yet. It is peaceful.

I see mum again, and I see Uzo. Uzo keeps calling. She won’t stop calling. She is crying too, just like mum. 

Can someone bring Kamsi and Amanda to me? Can someone bring my babies to me? I need to hug them, Kamsi, especially. Is he crying too and calling out for me? 
Does he understand that I  am gone? Kamsi will miss me. 

He is a special child, you know; Kamsiyochukwu - my son and my first child. 

I prayed and longed for his birth. He was the blessing  from above that would seal Kevin’s love for me and give me some footing in his  home and some acceptance from his family. 

 Before Kamsi, I was a nobody in Kevin’s home. 
I was born the last of nine children, the baby of the family. I was used to love and affection. I was  everyone’s baby. I grew up knowing that everyone had my back, I grew up knowing  the safety and security of being the baby of the home. You may then understand  my shock when I stepped out of my home and into new territory with the man of my  dreams only to find that I was really not as special as I had been made to  believe. I look back to that day when Kevin took me home to introduce me to my new family. The cold and rude shock of the welcome his brother’s wife gave me  set off an alarm in my head.

These people didn’t think I was special. In fact,  her first words were, ”Kevin, ebe   kwa ka isi dute nka?” (Kevin, “Where on earth did you bring this one from?) That would be the first time I would be addressed as “this one” and from  then on, I grappled with the realization that I was not welcome in my new home.

I remember my first Christmas  at Ihiala as a new bride. My brother-in-law’s wife would sneer and clap and  refer to me as “Ndi ji ukwu azo akwu” (the people who process palm fruits with  their bare feet). I knew she meant my impoverished home town of Nsukka. She  would sing to me all day long telling me the only reason why their brother  married me was because of my beauty and complexion.

Now, I lie here and I wonder  if I was in my right mind to ignore the several other alarms over my 12- year  union with Kevin.

 I had to ignore them, I told  myself. I had already taken my vows to be with Kevin until death did us  part.

They never really wanted me, I  can now see. But I was too blinded by love to realize that. I needed to do  something to cement Kevin’s heart with mine. I needed to remain Kevin’s wife and  to prove to the world that indeed Love would conquer  all.

 When after one year of  marriage there were still no children, the painful journey that sent me to my  grave started. I went from specialist to specialist, ingested every kind of pill  that promised to boost my fertility. As my desperation grew, so did pressure  from Kevin’s family. My horror-movie life story started playing out; the  horror-movie life that has sent me to an early and cold grave from where I write  this letter to my husband.

My sweet Kevin,

We started to fight over  little things. The fights were worse after you visited home or attended any of  your numerous family meetings. You came home one evening and asked me to move  out of the bedroom we both shared and into the guestroom downstairs. The next  time you returned from the meeting, you tied me up with a rope and used your  belt on me. No one heard my screams.

I remember when you told me  that your family had asked you to remarry. You showed me documents of all your  numerous landed property including the house we lived in. Your brother was  listed as next of kin. When I asked you about it, your answer rocked the ground  I was standing on. You said, “What have you to show that entitles you to any  stake in this household?” You were referring to my  barreness.

 It is funny how to my family  and friends, I was the beautiful and loving Ogo, whilst to you and your family I  was a worthless piece of rag. You called me barren. I could have fled but your  love and acceptance was of more worth to me than the love and admiration of the  world outside our home. I desperately sought to be loved by you, Kevin. In your  family’s presence I felt unworthy, unloved and unwanted. Yet, I stayed on. I  would make you love me one way or the other and I knew that one sure way would  be to produce a child, an heir for you. That was the most important thing to  you.

I began the numerous  procedures, painful procedures, including surgery. I gave myself daily shots. At  some point the needles could no longer pierce my skin. My skin had toughened to  the piercing pain of needles.

After seven years of marriage,  our prayers were answered. God blessed us with our son Kamsiyochukwu, which  means ‘’Just as I asked of the Lord’’. God had intervened and miracles were  about to start happening because for the first time in seven years, my  mother-in-law called me. Finally I was home. I had been accepted. I was now a woman, a wife and a mother. Finally there was peace. Kamsi will be four in  November.

The miracles stayed with me  because 18 months later through another procedure, Chimamanda was born. Her  birth was bitter sweet for me. Sweet because you Kevin, my husband, and my  in-laws would love me more for bearing a second child, but bitter because this  particular birth almost cost me my life. The doctors had become very concerned.  You see, I had developed too many complications from all the different  procedures I had undergone in the journey to have children and these were beginning to get in the way of normal everyday living. I developed conditions  that had almost become life threatening.   So the doctors sent me off with my new bundle of joy and with a stern  warning not to try for another child as I may not be so lucky.

I chuckled,  almost gleefully. Why would I want to try for a third child? God had given me a  boy and a girl, what more could I ask for. I was only ever so thankful to God.
Kevin, you and I gave numerous and very generous donations to different churches  in thanksgiving to God. All was well. I was happy and fulfilled. Kevin, you  loved me again. Your family accepted me. Life was good. And all was quiet again.  …………………… For a while.

Then fate struck me a blow. As  if to remind me that my stay in your house was temporary and was never really  going to be peaceful, Kamsi – our son, our first fruit, my pride and joy and the  child that gave me a place in my husband’s home, began to show signs of slowed  development; the visits to the doctors resumed, this time on account of Kamsi.  We started seeing therapists. After we’d been from one doctor to another I  decided I had to resort to prayer. I was frightened. I was terrified. I was threatened. I started to feel unwell. I had difficulty breathing. I needed to  see my doctors, Kamsi too. He wasn’t doing too well either. He had difficulty  with his speech. He was slow to comprehend things. I did not know for sure what  was wrong with him but I knew all was not well. Not with him and not with me. We  were denied visas to the USA because we had overstayed on our last trip on  account of Kamsi’s treatments. So whilst we waited for a lawyer to help us clear  up the immigration issues with America, I applied for a UK visa and sought help  in London. But by then, trouble had reared its head at home, again.

Kevin, you  had again become very impatient with me. My fears were fully alive again. The  battles it seemed I had won were again in full rage. My husband, in your irritable impatience and anger, you told me to my face that our son, my Kamsi,  was worthless to you. You said he was abnormal. You said that our daughter, my Amanda, was a girl and that you had no need for a girl child because she would  someday be married off. I remember, in pain, that you didn’t attend Amanda’s christening because you were upset with me. You told me your mother was more important to you than “THESE THINGS” I brought to your house. You were referring to our children, were you not? “THESE THINGS”.

My heart bled. I wept  bitterly. Then I quickly calmed my fears by telling myself that you were under a  lot of stress at work and that you were also probably reacting to all the money  that you had spent on my treatments. Surely, all that was getting to you?  Even when you threatened me with a  knife, twice you did that, I still felt unworthy of you and very deserving of  your hatred. Even when you would say: “I will kill you and nothing will happen  because you have no one to fight for you”, I kept on struggling to get you to  love me because, Kevin, your validation was important to  me

 You had refused to give me  money for my medical trip to London. I knew then it was because you had your  hands full with caring and catering for everybody who was dear to you. Your  finances were stretched. I thought then that in time you would come around.

My health continued to get  worse. Eventually, I made it to London.   After extensive consultations and tests, I was given a definitive  diagnosis. My condition was life threatening. It was from this time, when it was  clear that I required surgery to save me life that I came face to face with a  different kind of war from our home.

Kevin, you stopped speaking with me. I was  in pain, in anguish and in tears. I didn’t understand what was happening. I had  stayed three weeks in London and Kevin, you never called, sent a text or  inquired how I was faring. You stopped taking my calls. Instead I got a call  from my cousin in whose care I had left my children. She was frantic with worry  because there was no food in the house for the children to eat;
Kevin you had  refused to provide food for our children. Kevin, you had also refused to pay for  Kamsi’s home schooling.

Then Kevin, I received that e-mail from you. The only communication from you for the entire period I was in  London.
Do you remember? It was an angry email. You berated me for putting your  integrity at stake at your work place. Apparently your employers had called a  hospital in London to inquire about me and were told that no one by my name was  ever their patient. I  later found out that you had given the wrong  hospital name to your employers. Do you remember, Kevin?

For the first time in my 12  year marriage, the alarm bells in my head began to sound real. For the first  time in 12 years, I felt real anger stir up in my heart. Kevin, I was angry  because you paid no heed to the hospital where your wife was at in London. You  had no clue and cared little about what I was going through. Yet you would berate me for putting your INTEGRITY at work at stake. Your integrity was your  primary concern, not my health.

Then it hit me! All these  years I was trying to be all I could be for you, Kevin, to make you happy, to  please you, Kevin, ……… you actually hated me. You didn’t want me in your life. The signs were all there. Your family had showed me from day one that they  didn’t want me. I was the object of a hatred that I could not explain. I
couldn’t understand why.

Then I saw the hand writing on  the wall, all those many things that went on. You even sold my car whilst I was  still lying on a hospital bed in London, with no word to me. I was not to learn  of what you had done until I returned to Nigeria. The doctors had allowed me to  return to prepare for surgery.

Kevin, do you remember that on  my return I gave you a pair of shoes I had bought for you? Kevin, my husband, do  you remember hurling those shoes at me? Kevin, do you remember me breaking down  in tears? Kevin, do you remember me asking you that night, many times over, why  you hated me so much, what I had done to make you hate me as much as you did?

“You are disturbing me, and if you continue, I`ll move out and inform the  company that I no longer live in the house. Then they will come and drive you  away”. Kevin, my husband, that was your response to me. Did you know then I only  had days to live?
Is that why you  told me that would be the last time I would see you physically? Did you know it would only be a few more hours?

I still had a surgery to go  through. Kevin, since you wanted no part in it, I had contacted the medical  officer in your company directly for referrals. I left Eket for Lagos on Saturday. That same day I consulted with the specialist surgeon and surgery was  scheduled for Monday morning.

In those final hours, as I  prepared for my surgery, I was alone, my spirit was broken. I had lost all the  fight in me. Kevin, I knew that nothing I did or said would turn you heart  toward me, and I had nobody for whom you had any regards who would speak up for  me.

In those final hours, Kevin, I  called you. This was Sunday morning, less than 24 hours to my death. Do you  remember, Kevin? I called you to share what the specialist surgeon had said. I  was still shaking from your screams on the phone when I got in here. You did not  want me to bother you, you screamed. I should  go to my brothers and sisters,  you screamed. I should pay you back all the money you gave me for my treatment  in London, you screamed. Kevin, did you know that would be my last conversation  with you? My last conversation with you, my husband, my love, my life, ended  with you banging the phone on me.

Recalling the abusive words,  the spitting, the beating, the bruising, the knifing, and the promise that I  would not live long for daring to forget to buy garden eggs for your mother, an  insult you vowed I would pay for with my life ……., I knew then it was over for  me. There was no rationalizing needed any longer. Even the blind could see ………. You did not want me in your life.

 I went in for surgery on  Monday morning, February 27, 2012, and after battling for several hours, I  yielded my spirit.

Kevin, my husband, I lived my  promise to God. The promise I made on the day I wedded  you.

 For better ………………………… For  worse
 For richer …………………………. For poorer
 In Sickness ………………………. And in health
To love ………………………….. And to  cherish


And it  has.  NOW I AM  DEAD!!!!!!!

 Just as your mum predicted …..  Her cold words follow me to morgue. She swore to me that I would leave her son’s  house dead or alive. I couldn’t leave whilst I still breathed. It had to be  through death, and death it has  become.

 Kevin, you are FREE! And, so am I.

Your freedom is temporary.  Mine is eternal.

Whilst you still have freedom, remember Kamsi and Chimamanda.

Lovingly yours until death,

I am gone. Gone forever. But  if one woman, just one woman will learn from my story, then maybe I would not  have gone in vain.

My heart weeps for my children, my mummy, my sisters and my brothers, my extended family. These ones,  I was a gift to. These ones, they loved me. These ones, they wanted me. These  ones, they needed me. These ones, they wish I had spoken out earlier.

Its a sad sad story. But its value is not in making you cry but in teaching you to never forget to know your worth. Abuse is not only physical, its mental as well. If you're in abusive relationship/marriage, SPEAK UP before its too late. 

Stay Inspired....

P.S. The letter was written by a close family member. 


Oby said...

This case should be a big lesson for every woman. Remaining in a marriage where you are not wanted is torture and may lead to death as in pretty Ogochukwu's case. The kids are motherless and obviously they are also unwanted in the family. So what is their fate?? I don't think God would want us to remain in an abusive relationship and die there because we have declared "for better for worse". You can remain married if you must but please don't allow your self to leave the marriage as a dead body. My honest advice. I lost a dear sister; so I am talking from experience! Oby

Anonymous said...

This honestly touched my heart. People judge a person without knowing. But if the family would have gotten to know her and not pushed her away, im sure they would have seen her to be a wonderful woman and heaven sent. May her soul rest in peace :(

Anonymous said...

Very touching and sad, but such a strong testimony.Unfortunately, this is the story of many women who stay married for the wrong reasons and are oblivious to all the red flags. I hope her story help save other lives and that her little ones (especially her daughter) will grow up to be strong individuals. I'm sure she is resting in peace.

Unknown said...

This is just too sad. May her soul rest in peace!