Mama liked to pray. It was the first thing she did in the morning and the last thing she did at night. She sat on her bed, very close to the window; a pink and blue scarf tied to her head. She nodded a lot while she prayed. Sometimes, she only moved her wrinkled hands, gesticulating or wriggling them together. She prayed only in Yoruba. On rare occasions, she went on her knees and cried in prayer. Her prayers were always muffled and small, her thin lips barely moving. It was always hard to tell what she was saying. When we were sick and not eating anything, Mama stood by our bedside and said long prayers that were sometimes really annoying. When we got well, she would raise her hands to heaven and smile a really wide smile—proudly showing off missing teeth. She taught me how to pray too; asking that I clasp my hands together, close my eyes and repeat after her.
Mama loved to pray but Mama stopped praying the weeks before she died. She stopped sitting up by the window side early in the morning or last thing at night. She just lay on her bed, her gray-black afro neither tended to nor scarfed. She didn’t eat much. She didn’t even speak much. She didn’t pray for Momola when she fell sick or congratulate Uncle Hassan when he bought the new car. She just stared—that empty scary stare. Mama was very sick those days. Her heart was failing.
The day she died however, she sat up on her bed and slowly and with so much effort, moved her buttocks to the right, until she was right beside the window. Then she asked me to fetch her scarf. The pink and blue one not the yellow one, she insisted. As the sun streamed in, lining her clay brown face, Mama looked up to the sky and whispered a thank you.