The birthday that never was.

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This one is for my dear, dear, friend whose light was snuffed out way too soon! The last time I saw her, she came to visit me and recounted our childhood memories when I had lost them all. Her name was Elizabeth, but we all called her Eli. She surprised me and came to my house for a sleepover. I remember being a little nervous because I don’t really do sleepovers, although I went to boarding school. Also, I wasn’t expecting her!

I don't know how after years and years of not seeing each other, she still was so passionate about seeing me! I did not even remember who she was, but we were set on rekindling our friendship and I'm so, so grateful for that.

But we had to most fun time when she came over. I remember her helping me with our house chores, and walking with me to go do my hair. She was the sweetest spirit, the gentlest, kindest and loveliest person.

She was a survivor. She had sickle cell, and as the result of a bad childhood crisis, one of her legs was shorter than the other. She had her shoes customized, one higher than the other, to balance out the legs.

When I walked her to take an okada to go home, I had no idea it would be the last time I ever saw her. She negotiated 300 naira with the okadaman, and I thought that was pretty expensive. She explained to me that Nissi village, where she lived, was quite a distance, so it was a fair price.

Eli was an embodiment of strength. She defied all the challenges that came with having sickle cell, and she had graduated from university and on the way to becoming a reputable professional.

She despised all odds, and she graduated from university with a degree in accounting. I was so, so proud! And I made sure that I told her. She told me that she was studying for her ICAN exams, to become a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

The last time I spoke with her, she sent me her phone number and I promised to call. Shame, I never called. And then I saw on facebook and immediately called my mother, who confirmed my fears. I was shocked out of my socks!

Today would have been her birthday. I’m still so sad about her passing, and I wish I went home before she died. I definitely would have seen her! I promised to see her, and I know that I would have.

Eli continues to rest on. Only God can grant her family the fortitude they need. The last time I spoke with her mother over the phone, she told me life was good, but she missed “my friend.” Sometimes, she told me, she stays awake all night long, thinking about my friend.

Her light was snuffed out before it was time. Her death was too soon, too shocking, and too painful. As is custom in Nigeria (my mother told me), you have to leave the deceased’s things in the house for one year.

I miss my friend. I remember making my fictional brides’ maids list, and she was going to be one of them. But she’s resting with the Lord now. Till we meet again, where death cannot separate us!

My love to all her family members and friends.