Christy Essien Igbokwe’s Husband, Edwin Igbokwe

As told to Azuka Jebose

“ Thirty-eight years ago, I married my soul mate and life partner. She was Nigeria’s lady of songs, the late Christy Essien Igbokwe. I was a 26-year-old executive at The Punch while she was a 19-year-old songstress and actress that mesmerized Nigeria’s entertainment and theatre scenes with her young, affable innocence. Through those years, we celebrated togetherness and profound love, a love I felt the first time I blessed my eyes on her; a love that grew stronger each sunrise, until 9a.m, June 30, 2011. With each day’s sunset, our love blossomed, like flowers bloomed in spring. We stayed as one through the challenges of life. There were years of aches and pains, tears of joy and electrifying peals of laughter. We stayed together and survived the rough and tumbles of life. We shared everything until it was time for her to go. She lived half a century.

“As I walked down Jebose Boulevard, I tried to accept and appreciate all that life privileged after her eternal transition. It is over three years ( 2014) since Christy died. The denials, the depression, forward from her death are paths to healing. I missed and mourned her tenderly. Time and support from friends and family were therapies to a second chance at life, living and loving. No one understands the discomfort and trauma of losing a dear family member such as your siblings, your parents or wife, the dearest lifetime partner; (the cherished one you swore before God and the people to love till death do us part), until it happened to them: We are never the same when we lose those that we loved and admired. A part of us leave with them. Everyone would come to that place in our lifetime; what matters is how we handle our different circumstances and who would be there to comfort us as we grieve. The mourning season may never end. I can imagine days of guilt, days of teardrops on the pillows and silent wails for losing my dearest wife. The pain is part of passionate memories, of a privileged, shared moment in our lives. These walks with you, Jebose, trigger  the emotional past pains of losing my late wife and the closure of tragic and traumatic chapters of my life.

Christy was special and spectacular. She was a prophetess . She revealed when she would die to the children and by extension, to me: she revealed to us that she had  half a century in this ‘wicked world;’ she told me that when death arrived , it would be in the middle of the year. She shared with close friends and members of the family, her end time. I always dismissed her because I was not ready to lose her. She told our children that she would live for 50 years and that any single day thereafter, they should be thanking God. She died on June 30, 2011, at age 50.

During one of our affectionate conversations, she told me she would be sick for three days before her death. She said she would exit without burden to anyone or herself. I didn’t believe it until it happened: four days before her death, she complained of stomach ache. We went to the hospital for scanning and treatment: the hospital placed her on overnight admission and began treatment, but she wanted to go home. The hospital’s constant electric power interruptions further pushed her desire to go home. The hospital’s generator was also broken down. She said rather weakly, that she wanted to go home since the hospital had no electricity. I honored her request. We left the hospital for our home. Halfway into our street, the doctor called and informed me that the generator was suddenly fixed, surprisingly nothing was wrong with it, and we could return to continue treatment; we were almost home, and my wife said she didn’t want to go back to the hospital.

“The next day, the illness continued at home. She refused to go back to the hospital: the doctor came to the house and placed her on a drip. Even though she was weak, she was alert and independent; she refused any assistance; not even support on the staircase and into the car, as we set out for the hospital again, having encouraged her to return to a different hospital for re-examination. I drove her into the waiting arms of doctors who further examined my late wife at  a specialist hospital (Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja). She was immediately placed on admission. She was seeing things and in her own world, as she lay ill, she was concerned about the staff and other patients in the hospital. She was kept overnight because of the diagnosis. The second night, she requested prayer warriors to begin intense prayers, not for her but for us, the living, and for her peaceful transition. She encouraged nurses in the hospital to pray: she would whisper prayer points and choruses. She muttered some messages to our Godson, George, who was with me in the hospital. We went into a frenzy shouting for joy when she mentioned that ‘we were victorious and it was all over.’ By 5.30 am June 30, 2011, we witnessed deteriorating changes in her health. I phoned Obi, our first son, and he quickly arrived at the hospital to assist. I dashed out to seek a transfer for her to another (the intensive care) room in the hospital. I left Obi and George with pastors and prayer warriors who arrived to pray with us. Something happened while I was gone. The mood changed when I returned. I sensed sadness from the traveling breeze within. The mood was nauseating. I saw the sad faces of the hospital staff and my son: they felt strange. Everyone from the doctors tried to find a way to tell me she had died… 

One of the midwives called me to the side and said I should brace up because my wife died a few minutes then. That morning of her death, pastors and other prayer warriors ended morning prayer in her room; she whispered amen, and then slept off. It was exactly 9 a.m. I felt dazed, shocked, and confused when I was told I lost my ‘everything,’ my companion and the love of my life. Jebose, I caved into the denial zone. We immediately moved her body from the hospital’s morgue to a room in our home, unknown to many. 

My late wife warned that her body must not be deposited in the mortuary. I had to respect her wishes. So we decorated a room in our house and laid her down. She was beautiful, and peaceful in her sleep. The media and the huge burial committee members didn’t know where she was after her death. She slept  in that room for almost three months. I was going crazy. I didn’t want to believe she would not wake up. She was smiling peacefully. I couldn’t believe it. I made sure I looked at her every day. I was confused, depressed, dejected and hopeless. The children began to monitor me. I was still in denial, hoping she was asleep… she would wake up. I kept reassuring myself. She never did.

“I finally accepted her death when the pallbearers came into that room and placed her in a coffin for the Commendation Service at Arch Bishop Vining Memorial Cathedral, Ikeja on September 9, 2011, and from there later through the Muritala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja to Akanu Ibiam, Enugu airport en route Awka, Anambra State for funeral service and burial the next day. I knew then, that my best friend, my partner, my soul mate, the mother of my beautiful children, was truly gone.

“After the burial, I was alone and lonely, I felt guilty for her death. I never expected to bury my wife. I always prayed that when my time was up, she, our children, and grandchildren would bury me. I began to question God in these transitional periods: I was near complete depression because life was no longer interesting to me: I was lonely and mourning my wife. I was empty. I told everyone that I would never remarry because no woman could replace my late wife. 

Jebose, I was suicidal.

After her burial, the pain continued as life began its circles, I began to see her in my dreams, encouraging me to live my life. She said she knew if I had the privilege of spending more time with her, I would have corrected certain things in our lives. She said I must move on with my life. 

Throughout our 32 years, we shared everything: we never separated from the same bedroom. The only time we separated was when we kept her body in a separate room while planning her funeral. Counseling from well-wishers helped me to begin to accept a life without her.

“Her appearances in my dreams encouraged me to move on. In one of such appearances, she told me: “I came and I have fulfilled my destiny on earth. I wished I stayed longer but that was my destiny and God’s words must surely come to pass in our lives. I am not coming again. I am happy where I am. It is well with all of you! Please I want to be remembered always in happiness. Stop getting worried any longer because you do most time. You cry often for missing me and wished that I lived so that you make some amends. It is too late now. You should move on. Your focus should be on how to live long for our kids. Advise them properly and correct them positively whenever they go wrong, for their own good. Take good care of them and their offspring as long as you witness and always bless and not curse any of them. (She smiled…..) I never cursed any of them. I only tried to make them look forward to being independent as my last days on earth approached. Because you need to live long for the kids, you can remarry instead of running into some temptations that are building up. Pray hard. God will show you the right person. The person should not be very young. She must be older than our first kid. She must be able to stand in for the sake of the kids but she must not participate directly as one of the owners in any of our already established companies unless with the express permission of all the kids. She will obey you. I must be respected. You know other things that would make the relationship to be soothing to me in death and useful to you in life unless if you want to continue to deceive yourself. You must not allow her to do anything you know would not be pleasing. You are an intelligent man, I did say this often and I leave you to your conscience (she smiled…) till we meet to part no more. My love to all still exists and I want all to know this.”

“If she didn’t appear to me in my dreams, I wouldn’t have remarried. I remarried after three years of her death. Time reversed everything. I didn’t want a situation where I would be bringing different women to our home: After the dreams, I began to consider marriage again. Being alone may not be the problem, the problem is the temptations that loneliness and being alone ferment. That would be very disrespectful to her memory and our children. I remarried, with her blessings. I am no longer mourning but her memories are indelible.”