think try reach love live die
After five days of beach hopping in Togo and Benin, I get several calls from Obey. I had been unable to pick up when I reached the border, but I had a feeling something was wrong. “Everything is fine,” he assures me. “Except Avi John passed away last night.” My legs shatter beneath me. Mikey and I had been discussing just the night before how we had yet to lose someone we loved. And here I was, unable to catch my breath.
“He talked about you as he was dying,” Obey wants me to know. “Yea?” I respond, sniffling and feeling a bit dizzy. Those last 48 hours Avi was slowly losing his mind and was desperate to get a hold of me. He asked if I had come home yet hourly even up to his last moments of life. That’s what happens when you turn off your phone for a nice relaxing beach vacation.
It took me a few days to make it back to my village. I walk the path to his house, the one I have walked almost every day for two years. And I talk to him on the way, because when I reach he won’t be there. “The paint is already peeling in the library,” I tell him. “And yes, Togo was wonderful.” At this point, a little part of me believes that it is all some practical joke. That he would be there in his purple gown, waiting, laughing. His wife, covered head to toe in shiny black, fell out of her chair when she saw me. Like I was a ghost. We met at the doorway and stared at each other for a few seconds, not quite knowing what to do with the other. Then she collapsed in my arms and wept. And wept and wept and wept. I don’t know what to say. What do you say to a widow? “It’s going to be okay mommy,” I manage.
“Everything is going to be okay.”
When I left Avi’s house, I met Razak in the library. Last time I was here, him and Avi were sitting on the floor (the furniture was not made yet), chatting about the inauguration that was just weeks away. “I wrote something to read to you at the inauguration,” he tells me. But he couldn’t wait, so he has me read it right then and there. It’s the same old with Avi. How the children shriek my name when I pass. How hard I work. How much I love this community and how much they love me. It was the same nonsense he told my mother when she came to visit that brought tears to her eyes. I feel blessed to have read this letter before he passed away. Razak and I do what friends should do when they lose someone. We laugh at the best memories we can conjure up.
Avi John was the father of the Sankpala Youth Association. He was a source of strength and encouragement to all of us, most especially to me. But that doesn’t even bring justice to who the man was. There has been an ongoing debate on what to name the library. Sankpala Community Library might send the wrong message to the Education Department, whose financial support we are dependent on. Sankpala School Library may leave the community feeling unwelcome. This week we finally made a decision once and for all, that we would honor Avi and name the building after him. The Avi C.K. John Memorial Library.
This might be the first time we have all agreed on something in the history of SAYA.