Here’s a small preview from “Amachi’s Hope.” ENJOY 🙂

***
My most vivid childhood memory is also my saddest.  The day I lost my abiyamo will forever be etched into my mind.  Atunwa and Orun were nothing but words used to comfort.  Words used to make me believe that reincarnation and heaven were beautiful things. Words designed to give me hope.  However, hope was the very last thing I thought of while I watched my mother struggle mightily to survive.
When my abiyamo bore me, she had reached an age wherein most women prepared to become grandmothers.  She had prayed for a child for years and pretty much given up.  My baba had believed that children were not in his future and instead dedicated his time to being an elder and assisting my tribe with the development and education of our youth. 

From what I was told, the day that my abiyamo found out that she was with child, she was delirious with joy but frightened of what my baba would say.  She did not think about herself or how this would affect the life she led.  My baba was already seventy-five years of age, ten years older than my abiyamo.
 
“Does he still want to be a father?”

“Does he still want this responsibility?” she asked herself.
She need not have worried; when she told him, my baba cried out in joy, “Oh Caimile, you’ve made me such a happy, happy man!” The joy shone in his eyes as he smiled at the mother of his long-awaited child.  My Aunt Zakiya who was my abiyamo’s youngest sister told me that her pregnancy was not an easy one.
“You would not let your abiyamo eat anything!” She said laughingly.
  
“No matter what she ate you would reject it!  The only nourishment you allowed her was coconut milk and fresh fruit.  Your baba worried that the pregnancy was too much for her.”
He was right. The closer my abiyamo got to the end of the pregnancy, the weaker my abiyamo grew. By the ninth month, she was bedridden and exhausted.
“It seems like the baby is drawing the very life from her.” My baba fretted to my Aunt one day. “Don’t be foolish, Sadiki!,” responded my Aunt Zakiya. “Your wife has started on the path to motherhood late in life. This is rough for any woman but rougher still for a woman of sixty-five!” 
I believe that it was then that my baba began looking at me differently.  He may have loved me, but he loved my abiyamo more.   When I think back on it now, I understand why baba felt protective of my mother. He did not want to lose the person he loved most in the world.
***
My parents were quite young when they married.  They were chosen for one another by their tribes.  The arrangement was meant to unite their people, and make them stronger and more capable of defending the tribes from enemies.  Her people were the Olorun and my father’s, the Shango.  There was much tension as each tribe felt that they were superior to the other, in strength and honor.  After a fierce battle between each of the tribe’s strongest warriors, it was decided that the name Olorun would represent both groups. My abiyamo’s native tribe engulfed the Shango people and their culture.
    
Things were not easy for my parents after that.  Though both parties approved the agreement, many people felt that my baba should have spoken up on behalf of his people. They thought that he didn’t fight for the Shango and that he was abandoning his tribe. “Ah, how quickly you forget your people, now that you have a new home and a new life!” a tribesman bitterly said to him one day.  
He began receiving ugly glances from individuals and little or no respect from the young.  The parents of these youth made it clear to them that he no longer deserved it.  In short, he became an outcast, and my abiyamo became his lifeline.
Always together, they grew to love one another and were never apart.  My baba depended on my abiyamo heavily and could not function without her.  They were like two halves of the same fruit. Baba had been alone with her for so many years, that when she conceived me, the loss of their unique bond weighed heavily in his mind. But, he came to understand that this child would only add to their joy and that it was unwise to rebuke a gift from the gods. They both anticipated my arrival, and baba thanked Yemoja the Mother for the gift of his soon-coming child.  Not only would my ojo ikunle change my family but it would change the tribe as well.  
***
Four hours before sunrise on the night of the Harvest Moon, my mother’s womb began its quickening, and our midwife was called. “Bayo!, hurry the baby is coming!” yelled my Aunt Zakiya, as she banged on the midwife’s door.  Scrambling to pull on her sheath she ran out ahead of Zakiya toward my home.  In my mind’s eye, I can still visualize the tale as my Aunt told it.
“There was much movement in your abiyamo’s home as everyone prepared for your arrival,” she told me one day as we were pounding yams for spicy amala, my favorite soup when I was a child.
She wiped the sweat from her brow as she continued, “Your baba wasn’t allowed inside, of course, so he stayed away and awaited the news. We prayed fervently to the Mother Goddess, Yemoja, asking for a safe delivery for both you and your mother.” 
Her eyes closed as if she was reliving the day of my birth, and she murmured, “I was busy fetching hot water, and in all of the excitement, I heard only part of the prayer one of your cousins chanted:
‘May Yemoja protect and heal you with
the waters of life.’
‘May the waves of the Ogun River wash
Yemoja’s healing energy over you.’
To invoke the essence of the Goddess, the birthing room was draped in blue and white linens, and egusi melons, grapes, and fragrant flowers were arranged carefully around your abiyamo’s bed. These delicacies were considered to be some of the goddess’ favorite earthly things.” 
“Weakness from the hot pains that consumed her body and advanced age made it impossible for your abiyamo to kneel on a mat during labor.  Instead, she found more comfort in lying down on a cot. I rolled up a few cloth blankets and tucked them behind her lower back.”
“Your yaya paced the outer room as she appealed to ori.  Rubbing her arms with her hands, she caught a chill every time your abiyamo yelled out.” chuckled Aunt Zakiya.
“She was worried that her daughter would be too weak to bring you into the world.  Bayo sat next to your abiyamo and bathed her from head to toe with cool water.  She rubbed her belly to help relieve some of the tension.  After checking on my progress, she told your abiyamo, ‘The baby is almost here.'”
With tears gleaming in her eyes, my abiyamo glanced at Bayo’s face and saw a deep concern there. ‘I’ve been too much of a burden on everyone,’ she said as another pain ripped through her belly. ‘I did not want to call you until I was sure.’  Within that same breath, she experienced another powerful contraction.  Zakiya grimaced as she continued to reminisce about that day.
“Her arms shook as she grabbed hold of mine and Bayo’s hands and let out an enormous scream.  Suddenly I felt as if I too were experiencing her pain.  It raced up my arm and across my chest.  I could not stand it, and I did not understand how she was able to.  I struggled to release my hand from hers, but her grip was as strong as a rock.  I felt like the bones in my hands were being crushed.  If I did not know better, I would have sworn that our spirits were temporarily bound. That’s the only way that I could understand our connection. It was good that your baba was not near for he would not have been able to handle the stress of it.”
“Then suddenly the air in the room thickened.  Everything took on a slower motion.  A golden hue spread out from your abiyamo’s body.”  
“I heard Bayo call out to her saying, ‘One more push!'”  
“The light from my sister’s frame had become so bright that it completely distracted me from the pain I was feeling. My head was spinning, and when I shook it to clear my vision, there was something or someone else in the room.”
“Yemoja the Mother had honored us with her arrival,” my Aunt said, a trace of wonder in her voice and a far-away look in her eyes.  “She graced us with her very presence that day, and I have never seen anything like it since then.”
I had slowed my grinding of the yams while she talked, and when she mentioned the Goddess, I stilled my small hands completely. “My mind was not quite ready to accept what my eyes could see,” Aunt Zakiya said, her eyes locked into mine, her voice breathless with excitement.
  
“The cloth that adorned the Goddess’ body shifted colors many times, from a dazzling white to a deep sea blue, back and forth, back and forth. Her covering moved fluidly as if it had a life of its own.” She paused and squinted her eyes as if trying to remember something.
“It reminded me of how the ocean looks after a storm—vast and sparkling, and all at once both calm and restless.” she smiled.
“When I witnessed the beautiful Goddess wearing the sea for clothes, and saw how her skin glowed like polished ebony, I knew everything would be alright.”  Aunt Zakiya left her yams on the table and stepped in front of me. “The Goddess circled us with outstretched arms as if she were cradling the whole group, and when she spoke, her voice washed over us like a mighty, rumbling tide.”
‘Amachi, come now, for your family awaits you.’
“At that very moment,” Aunt Zakiya said, “your abiyamo took a very deep breath, and you slid right into my hands, as slippery and naked as a new-born calf!”
We giggled together, and she continued, “Mother Yemoja waved her left hand, and you were washed clean; your little body pulsed with the same light as the Goddess herself emanated.”
“Amachi…” My Aunt said with a sigh.
  
“That was the first time I heard your name said out loud.  No one knew what your mother would name you except her.  At least, I thought no one knew.” She chuckled.  ‘And then what, Aunt?’ I had asked as I was a curious child and wanted to hear the end of the tale.
“And then,” Aunt Zakiya said, “you cried, as all babies do when they are pushed from their warm beds in wombs and into the cold, noisy world.  Mother Yemoja smiled at you kindly.”
‘Abiyamo’ she said to your mother, ‘all the pain you suffered was not without reason.  Though it may not seem that way now, you have given yourself and your people a great gift. Amachi’s birth is sacrosanct. She will live long after your ancestors have moved on from this world.  She will grow to become the Oloruns greatest guardian and eventually lead others to follow the same path.  The Oloruns legacy will persevere through her guidance and determination. She will be known as the “Goddess of Light”‘!’ Aunt Zakiya exclaimed.
“She gently placed her hand upon your abiyamo’s forehead, and I watched as the pain left her features and her breathing steadied.  I too felt ease within my body as well. When I looked up again, she had winked out of sight just as the sun peeked over the horizon.” Aunt Zakiya looked at me then and smiled broadly.
“Seven days after your birth your naming ceremony took place.” Aunt Zakiya said as she returned to the table and picked up the grinding stone to finish pounding the yams into powder.  
“Your abiyamo was still too weak, so the event took place indoors.  Even though your name was chosen by Yemoja the Mother, we waited until the ikomojade to say your name out loud and introduce you to the tribe.  Everyone was excited to see you, as rumors had already spread about how you came into the world. Tribe members and relatives left their gifts for your family outside the entryway of your home.”
“Elder Madu, your parents’ most respected advisor, took you from your abiyamo in preparation for your ceremony. He wore a traditional buba, pants, and agbada that draped over his clothing.  The customary garments were made from a material that had been first tied, and then dyed; watery white rings marked where the cloth was bound during the dyeing, and he looked distinguished amongst his tribesmen.  He had wise eyes and a gentle smile.”
“The elder threw a little water towards the ceiling, and when the drops landed on your face, you cried out.  Everyone applauded happily, and your parents were grinning with joy.  Your strong voice indicated that you would have a long life.” She laughed.
“After whispering your name in your ear, he then marked your forehead with blessed water and spoke out loud the name that would guide you through your life.  Raising you in the air, he bellowed,
‘Meet Amachi Yenyo Inotu!’
“We cheered and clapped once more. After the ceremony concluded, the celebration began.  Your baba helped your abiyamo to a seat in front of the door so she could draw from the positive energy flowing all around her.  I placed you in a heavily lined straw basket that I made just for you and watched your parents as they enjoyed the love and camaraderie that occurred between tribe members.  Already your presence had brought a sense of peace and calm that had not existed in many years.”
We continued to laugh and talk while we prepared the soup that afternoon, and I have treasured the story of my birth since then.
 For the next six years, after my birth, things continued to get better.  There was communication between tribe members.  People took more time to discuss conflicts instead of fighting.  And the blatant separation between the Olorun and former Shango members was no more.
My abiyamo’s health on the other hand gradually became worse.  She would tire quickly and caring for me was a real task. My Aunt would come by frequently to help out. I was busy and full of energy and questions. 
‘How does the moon come up, abiyamo?’
‘Aunt Zakiya, why are there fish in the lake?’
‘Why do men get to be warriors, while women have to stay at home?’
I asked so many questions, my parents and family joked that I tested each one of their patience mightily, but they loved my inquisitive, rambunctious spirit.  They usually answered me as best they could; that is, they answered all but one of my questions:
‘Why doesn’t baba pay attention to me?’
My baba was getting more depressed each day but tried not to let my abiyamo see it.  He fretted that he would wake up one day and she would no longer be there.  He spent very little time with me even when my abiyamo got angry with him.
“You cannot blame Amachi for what has happened to me! If it is meant that I move on from this life, so be it! Stop denying her the right to know her baba!”
My abiyamo tried to make up for it, but she was just too weary of doing the things I wanted her to do. My baba never really made an effort, and my Aunt ended up doing all the things that he should have done.
Aunt Zakiya would take me fishing or teach me how to weave a basket.  She would take me into the brush, and we would crawl on our bellies and quietly watch as the lionesses played with their cubs.  They knew our scent, so we were never in any real danger, but my Aunt still wanted to respect their space.  She taught me about our culture, about the orisas: Olorun, Yemoja, Eshu, Obatala, and many others.  Why was it necessary to respect them, to acknowledge what they did for us as a people. As I grew older, I realized that my Aunt was trying to make up for what I lacked:  my mother’s time and my father’s interest. 
Even now I still wonder. ‘Was my baba just unable or unwilling to fix what ailed me?  Would he have let my heart stay broken forever?’ 
***
Very shortly after my sixth birthday, my world changed.  When my baba woke up, he noticed that my abiyamo was barely breathing. He tried to revive her with no success. 
“Caimile! Caimile! Please wake up!” he cried while shaking her body.  
He was frightened by the extreme heat that was radiating from her form.  Her skin looked flushed, she was running a fever, and her eyes were barely open. Scared and frustrated, he ran out of the house to retrieve our spiritual advisor and my Aunt.  I can still hear myself, and feel my terrified screams erupting from my tiny throat.  I was six years old, and even though friends and family surrounded me, I felt alone. 
‘Save her!’ I yelled.  
‘You must save her…if she dies, who will take care of me?’ I wailed.
My Aunt wrapped her arms around me and rocked back and forth as our tribe’s elders worked feverishly to bring my abiyamo back from death’s door.  It was not her time; she had not been in the world long enough to discover her destiny.  According to our beliefs, should a person die before their appointed time, they will not discover what Olodumare the High’s plan was for them.  Had my abiyamo lived long enough?
Fear gripped my heart as the elders chanted.  They asked Olodumare to spare her. “Bless her with the breath of life once more!” exclaimed one elder.
Squeezing cool water across my abiyamo’s brow, they also called upon Yemoja the Mother and Erinle the Healer for their protective energy and healing, but it was of no use.  Even Babalawo our most powerful spiritual advisor could not stop what was meant. Staying Àyànmô was an ability he did not possess. Our djotò, our ancestor, had come to lead her home.  As he stepped away from her pulsing body, he would not—perhaps, could not—look me in the eyes. He squeezed my shoulder as he left my home. The sadness within me leaked from my eyes and seemed to pollute the air surrounding me.  I felt my chest tighten.  I felt my inner light dimming, as some of my essence drained away. I knew that part of my soul would die if she did.
A sudden chill crept up my back as I watched my great-grandmother’s spirit materialize by the front door. ‘Go away! You cannot have her!’ I wailed once again.
My great-grandmother had passed on from this realm years ago, and it terrified me to know that I seemed to be the only person capable of seeing her.  Although I never met her, my spirit recognized her. A single tear trickled from her brown eye and down her wrinkled cheek. She wore a majestic embroidered gown whose colors were warm and inviting. Her feet were bare, and her hair was a mossy silvery-grey that was even more beautiful against her dark complexion.
Passing through the wall of the hut, she re-appeared in front of my abiyamo’s body.  Looking down at me she said, “Fear not my child, where your abiyamo goes is a happy place. She will not suffer and neither will you. She will always be there for you.  You are not alone.”
As the other elders continued to chant, my great-grandmother placed her hand on my abiyamo’s chest.  I listened as her heart slowly stopped beating, and I held my breath as she inhaled her last.  All around me, my family cried out in despair, but my baba sat silently. His natural energy and vibrancy slipped away from him like a mist. Sitting next to my abiyamo’s body, my baba stubbornly held on to her hands.  If it were possible, I believe that he would have followed her to Orun. She was his life as she was mine. He glanced at me, his eyes hollow and dull—he had no comfort to give me.
Blooming from my abiyamo’s chest was a white light that hovered over her body.  The light moved towards me and stopped.  It seemed to be waiting for something, but I was too distraught to realize it.    
My great-grandmother then said, “Hold out your hand little one.”
In awe, I watched the light travel up my arm and straight into my chest. As I felt my mind and heart open, I knew that my abiyamo bestowed upon me something special. I was flooded with all of her memories, all of her insight and all the love she had for me.  I could feel my inner light spark with renewal and my soul knit itself back together.  Suddenly, I heard her voice, as clear as a birdcall in the treetops.
“My daughter, my heart:  You and I are one.  I give you all my strength, courage, wisdom and hope.  Use them to lead you to your destiny. My destiny was to bring you into this world.  I know that my purpose has been fulfilled. Mo feran re, my daughter, I love you!”
As I watched the spirit of my great-grandmother fade into a dark shadow, the heavy feeling of my abiyamo’s absence evaporated from my heart.  I needed only to close my eyes to see and feel her presence within me. I knew that I would be able to face anything that the future hurled at me because my mother’s spirit would guide me. Although I had no idea what awaited me in the years to come, I felt ready.
***
That same year, my talents became evident.  The most important ones were communication with the dead and foresight into the future.  My Aunt had told me the story of my birth, but it wasn’t until that year that we discovered my unique abilities.  
One night, my abiyamo came to me again, but this time it was in a dream.  Sitting under an Iroko tree, she motioned for me to sit with her.  , and I was sure this was how she looked when my father met her:  Flawless mahogany skin, gentle eyes, and a joyful laugh that always made you feel good inside.  
She said to me, “Please tell you baba not to fret.  Tell him I said, ‘do not give up on life.’ He still has a long future ahead.  Tell him that I love him and I will be waiting for him when he is ready.”
He wept when I gave him her message and told me he was grateful for her love and forgiveness.  The last time they spoke, they argued about me, and the guilt was heavy on his heart.  He finally apologized to me.
  

“It was hard for me; hard for me to find the courage to face you. I believed that I was a disappointment to you and your abiyamo.”  After the message in the dream, it became clear how I would most benefit my people.  I would be a seer.

***

Abiyamo – in Yoruba language, a term for mother.
http://www.jendajournal.com/jenda/issue4/oyewumi.html

Atunwa – Yoruba for reincarnation

Orun – upper Outerworld, the heavenly plane; earthly deeds and character decide which heaven one travels. (Yoruba)   http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Classroom/9912/yorubaspirit.html

Baba – Yoruba for father

Zakiya – pure (African)

Sadiki – faithful (African)

Olorun – Yoruba deity, high God, bestows blessings and confers thanks when invoked (also known as Olodumare)     http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/people/Yoruba.html

Shango – divinity or orisa of thunder and lightning in the Yoruba culture.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shango

Yemoja – In Yorùbá mythology, Yemoja is a abiyamo goddess; patron deity of women, especially pregnant women; and the Ogun river; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemaja  (Yemoja the Mother)

ojo ikunle – the day of birth (Yoruba)
Bayo – happiness (Yoruba)

Ogun River – In Africa, Yemoja is represented by the Ogun River rather than by the ocean in the New World. She is the goddess/orisa of this river.

Ori – appeal to ori is regarded as the key prayer in time of crisis superseding entreaties to the deities. Indeed ori – a person’s inner spiritual head – is itself a deity in Orisa (Yoruba religion). http://www.answers.com/topic/ori-Yoruba

Amachi –  (Ah-mah-chi) –Who knows what God has brought us through this child (Ibo of Nigeria)   www.swagga.com

Madu – (MAH-doo) – of the people (Nigeria, Igbo)

Yenyo – (Yehn-yoh) – mother is rejoicing (Nigerian, Yoruba)

Inotu – (ee-NOH-too) – may I not offend the combined strength of the community. (Nigerian)

Orisas – also known as orishas – gods

Eshu – Yoruba trickster-god, causes one to mature; God of beginnings, doorways, and crossroads. He rules the opportunity and potentiality of a situation, and the risks and rewards inherent in it. – Played frequently by leading mortals to temptation and possible tribulation in the hopes that the experience will lead ultimately to their maturation. In this way, he is undoubtedly a demanding teacher, but in the end, is usually found to be a good one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-shu (Eshu the Trickster)

Obatala – orisa of peace, harmony and purity; father of most orisas and creator of humankind; represents clarity, justice, and wisdom. “King of the orisa, Obatala is the essence of purity, justice, and free thinking.  He represents the pure and calm way to transcendence” – Description from “The Way of the Orisa; Empowering Your Life Through the Ancient African religion of Ifa” by Philip John Neimark. Page 95
www.afrikaworld.net/afrel/sevenorishas.htm
(Obatala the Pure)

Olodumare – Yoruba deity represents the creator of all
http://www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/cut.html (Olodumare the High)

Erinle – orisa of medicine, healing, and comfort, physician to the gods (Erinle the Healer)

Iroko – a hardwood tree of tropical Africa (Late 19th  century, from Yoruba)
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9042793