Dear Toun,

Ini died last weekend. The autopsy reports showed that he had ingested a poisonous substance that stops the heart within minutes. We found him lying on the floor of his bedroom with a note on the table that read, “… the world had become too noisy and you all wouldn’t stop talking. I just needed someone to listen, I needed to breathe”. Who would have thought Ini could do this?!

I have been doing my research because I needed answers. We all do, especially when a loved one chooses to leave us like that. Statistics has it that worldwide a person commits suicide every 40 seconds. Nearly 800 thousand persons commit suicide yearly and an average of 17 in every 100,000 Nigerians commit suicide. For every successful suicide, there have been 20 suicide attempts.

Months before he left, things had gone rough as they sometimes did – family demands had heightened, his parents wanted him to take over the business and spear-head his brother’s project. They had to expand their business. The media had not stopped calling him out on what happened years ago – he’d been allegedly involved in a sex scandal. This had cost their company a huge deal and led to a fall-out with his Dad. Ini denied ever committing the act, but the media never believed. Even when the truth came out, they argued that he’d bought his way out. Being everybody’s go-to person, the pressure at work had increased. He needed to regain his father’s trust and love. He needed to “prove” that he was able, and so he geared all his energy at securing the bid that would place the company on the world map. I had lost our baby and just didn’t want to be around anybody. Ini did an excellent job in finding a way to balance work and ensuring I was alright. He really “proved” himself a man. No one could tell he was hurting. Sometimes I teased him that he lacked emotions. I never saw him in pain about any matter.

He had mastered the art of masking it all with smiles and a straight face. Maybe we just didn’t look well enough to see the pain that stole his feelings. He grew up under strict conditions. Being the eldest child, his family demanded so much from him. He couldn’t afford to be anything he wanted, he had to be “the standard.” His woes and fears were never to be discussed.

He never told his parents how he was molested by an uncle when he was eight. He never mentioned the nightmares that followed. He had to “be a model son.” It’s weird how, even as an adult he still couldn’t speak out considering the shame society places on persons living with such a past, even though it constantly preaches on speaking out. How hypocritical!

Ini loved photography but the rules made by society could not let him live that dream. He constantly sought his parents’ approval but I guess they were more concerned with raising a successful child to continue a legacy than loving their child!

He’d learnt that being pressured is a part of life; a man must not complain in the face of it. A man must always be fierce. A man must be so many things but affectionate. He must never show emotions or pain, must have answers to all questions, must never ask for help. He must readily give love and care without asking or seeming to need love and care, even when he needs it. A man must meet the financial needs of his family and indeed put their needs first. Should a man lack any of these, it would be counted as a weakness – unmanly.

Thinking of it now, I also blame myself for overlooking some issues. I never cared what the impact of our loss had on him. Nobody ever cared to ask how he felt when we lost our child, not even me. Just like everyone else, all attention was channelled at “his wife”.

“Be a man, your wife needs you more,” his dad once said. Nobody really cared to know how he was handling it. We all just assumed he was strong enough, that’s why he’s a man after all.

He had lost the bid for the project and we had just lost a baby. The family members were on our neck to make another baby. He wanted to cry and express his fears. The pressure was high and all he needed was a space to just be human. If only we had given him that space to see his humanness and not judge him! If only anyone had told him that it’s manly to cry and express sorrow! He’d always been the go-to guy that everyone looked up to only to realize that he had nobody to go to. Being a man has so many expectations, many of which are for superhumans. He’d put others first and forgotten to take care of himself too. I got a call this morning saying that the bid had been reviewed and the company had been given the contract. His dad wasn’t happy about it, he won the job but lost his son.

Ini died last weekend, except that he didn’t exactly die last weekend, he stopped living years ago. We just didn’t know because our voices were too loud to notice his screams. All these have taught me to see people as “humans” first, before anything else.

I have to go now. I hope you are well? Always remember that if ever you feel like dying, I’ll always want to listen and laugh at your lame jokes than attending your funeral.

I’ll see you in summer.

Your favorite troublesome Cousin,



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