*I started this tribute on March 20, 2014 – exactly 2 months after she passed but couldn’t finish it.
Monday, January 20, 2014 was like another day, or so it seemed.
I went to work as usual and at about half way through the day, I received an email. It was one of those emails team members expected from the Lead. An email which sets the records straight and provides the project account to the last USD (ZAR in this case). I smiled knowingly. She had just wrapped weeks of a torrent of emails. I nodded after reading it, proud of her for providing a very professional, succinct and conclusive project report. I sighed in relief that one phase was over and excellently delivered to surpass client expectations.
I made to call her but decided otherwise. (I wish I did). I had spoken to her so many times in the past weeks that I felt she deserved a rest from me….or vice versa. Day closed, I drove home in surreal silence, listening to the radio and mulling on my mission – to spend some quality time with my nephew and cousin after many months. I had suddenly realised that my close-to-2-year-old nephew still called me by a nickname (Blog post for another day. Please visit again). I kept my promise, had a quiet but nice time and went home. Nothing in the world hinted that somewhere else, not too far off; something very shocking had taken place.
The next morning, I got a phone call at a few minutes to 9am from Mo asking if I had heard what happened. Still no clue. And then she dropped the bombshell: she had passed.
In retrospect, I still cannot comprehend what happened to me. I stuttered in shock, ‘when, how, what happened to her?’. Her answers were not convincing. I told her as convincingly as I could in return that we were together the Thursday before for a brand launch and we parted ways at past 10pm. I thanked her hurriedly and hung up. My thoughts froze as I got up from my desk, walked out of my office, got into the car and drove out without a word to anyone. I drove as fast as I could and by the time Mo called me back, I was at Dolphin Estate Gate. She asked if I was driving and advised against it. She was late, I had already embarked on a journey to prove to her it was not true. I raced across to Surulere from Ikoyi in 11minutes. At another Estate gate, I was denied entry. And when I probed, the guards were instructed not to allow sympathisers as the deceased’s apartment was under lock and key. These men have no clue whom they are dealing with, I thought to myself as I parked beside the gate. I alighted, hit the gate as hard as my fist could and as soon as it was opened for enquiry, I stormed in. I walked quickly past them ignoring all their entreaties not to bother.
As I approached G2, my feet slowed; it was quiet as most residents were out to work. I walked steadily slowing down more and more as the apartment and the parked car in view got closer. There was dead silence, it was locked. I knocked very hard, much harder than I ever had since my first visit. I knocked and knocked praying she would answer from within and possibly curse at whomever was about to bring down her door. I would scream in excitement, go on my knees, shed tears of joy and narrate how a wild rumour had spread like fire that she was no more. I knew she would have laughed hard, and possibly posted on social media platforms that she was around and still as playful as ever. Then, I looked into her car. It was locked, properly parked with no trace that someone had given up the ghost in it. ‘C’mon! This is a stupid joke.’, I shrugged.
Like a stubborn teenager determined to prove her parents wrong, I walked back towards the gate. All the guards on duty were starring at me. I guess they wondered if I had lost my mind or was too shocked to admit the truth as told to them. I was jolted from my thoughts by a call from Ini Onuk. ‘Emilia, what is this I just heard?….’ She continued, narrating that she received a phone call a few minutes ago with the most horrible news. I couldn’t help, I refused to confirm such a sick rumour. I got back into my car and made for the office, fought back the fear that gripped me, insisting it was not true. I called her driver and another team member – both men had not spoken to her since the Friday before – and I was too scared, too pained to ask directly if they had heard the developments of the night before.
When I arrived at the office, I checked (searched actually) my twitter timeline and saw tweets from a few women who are members of WIMBIZ. It was true. Comments on her Facebook profile page were trickling in….
By the time I pulled up at the Estate gate in Surulere at 8pm, I was allowed to drive in. I thought to my self that the annoying guards on duty in the morning were just being difficult. I had running battles with the estate guards because although I visited frequently, I was often made to call the resident for a clearance. Nevertheless, since I visited mostly at night after close of business; I was certain the guards on night duty knew me. When I parked in front of her apartment, I knew it was true. Her best friend – Mama Nikey (Princess) – another lady and a young man were there setting up a condolence register.
The house felt cold and empty when I stepped into the living room. Princess looked up at me and said, ‘Funke is gone. It is true.’ My reaction was the most unexpected. I chuckled in disbelief, sank into the couch and the future eluded me in the seconds that followed….
Nobody plans to start the year the way I did….it was only Tuesday, January 21, 2014.