I have always prided myself on my strength, and I will always remember 2019 as the year that put that strength to test on a whole other level. 

My year started off on a sad note. My parents spent Christmas of 2018 and the start of the year in a hospital in America. My dad had to be admitted, and my mum stayed with him. By then, they had been away for seven months, and it was a sad and quiet Christmas/ New Year without them for my sister and I. Later in the month, we received a huge blow when we didn’t get something we had been looking forward to for months before then. In retrospect, January was probably prepping us for how much weirder the year would get, but I didn’t know that then.

The next three months (February to May) were crazy. A big change came suddenly and in overdrive. My father asked us to pack up the entire house and be ready to move out, and we had to do it all in a ridiculously little time frame. Due to his ill health, what was supposed to be a three-month stay in America was starting to seem like it would become a permanent relocation and this meant moving out of the place we’d called home for the past eight years, and getting a smaller place for just my sister and I. The emotional, mental and physical stress of packing up an entire house and moving out in roughly a month’s time was unreal! If not for the help from my boyfriend at the time and my sister’s boyfriend, I could have easily snapped in that period. To add to the stress, there was intense family drama to deal with. After we finally moved out, the next step was looking for a new place and it took a few weeks of staying with a cousin and searching till we found something – a little room with a bathroom/toilet and kitchen. 

My sister and I moved into our new place at the start of May. It took about three months to adjust and settle in the new place. In those three months, I split up with my boyfriend and my parents were in and out of the hospital. I’m still amazed that I pulled it off but despite all that was going on, my sister and I were working and putting the finishing touches to our first body work, an EP of seven songs, and by the start of August, our little place was finally starting to feel like home, and our EP was almost ready for release. It seemed as though everything was falling in place, if not for the fact that my dad had to be hospitalized again. That aside, things were looking pretty good, and I had all the faith that my dad would get better and walk out of the hospital eventually like he always did.

August 22nd 2019 was the day our EP dropped in digital stores. Unfortunately, I had an intense case of malaria and could barely enjoy the day as I would have if I wasn’t sick. Still, it was amazing to go online and search “TaraXBella” and see the EP pop up. Reviews and congratulatory messages poured in, and it felt so good to finally see a dream I’ve had for so long become reality. I remember now that I didn’t speak to my dad the day the EP dropped and I should have known that was a bad sign. He was always so invested in our music (he sponsored almost everything we ever did and kept asking about the progress of the EP before it was released). Not speaking to him at all that day should have set off alarms in my head, and now I think about it, it did. I just refused to acknowledge it. Faith. Hope. Also, being so sick myself, I couldn’t deal with any information on how bad he was doing that day and the next. By the 24th of August, I felt stronger, and I called my mum to know how they were. I no longer remember most of what she said, but when she put my dad on the phone to talk to my sister and I, his voice was so weak and he could barely speak but he did anyway. We told him to hang in there, and that God would heal him. We told him we love him and he told us he loves us too. The next day was a Sunday. My dad’s youngest brother called me in the morning to say that my dad had taken a turn for the worse and was now in a coma. Faith again. Hope again. We cried, prayed and still assured ourselves that he would wake up and everything would be fine. Then, our pastor came over to see us and gave us the news. In his exact words, “I spoke with your uncle this morning. Your dad didn’t make it”. My dad had actually died the day before, a few hours after we spoke to him for the last time. There was no coma – that was them still prepping us for the horrible news they had to eventually give us.

And so it turns out that I’m not as strong as I thought I was – definitely not on my own. It is now obvious that my strength comes from God. The family decided to bury my dad in America. My sister and I applied for our visas and got denied. The weekend of my dad’s funeral in September, all I did was drink and cry. I watched the funeral via WhatsApp video call thanks to my cousins who held up the phone all through so we could be a part of it. A few weeks after the funeral, my mum came back to Nigeria, sometime in October. We spent a week plus at an extended stay apartment (because our place is too tiny to accommodate three of us) before going to my mum’s village to spend some time with my grandmother. The time in the village was good for me. I took walks almost every morning and started getting into exercising again, I enjoyed nature and I spent time with God and my family. After a few weeks in the village, my mum, my sister and I went to Lagos for my dad’s memorial. After the memorial, we stayed in Lagos a few weeks doing interviews and attending some events because of the EP. As I now know firsthand, even when you lose someone who means everything to you, life goes on. 

This year dealt me the hardest blow of my life so far, but I still have faith and trust in God and His plans to make everything work out for my good. The main things I have taken away from the year are:

i) Not to take people and things we are given for granted.

ii) We are not in control, God is, and the best way to do life is to submit to His will even if it is not what you want.

iii) I must spend less time and energy on people and things that don’t contribute positively to my life.

iv) I need to go for the things I really want because life is short.

Most importantly, this year stressed the importance of a relationship with God because I really doubt I could have gotten through it without Him guiding and carrying me every step of the way.

To everyone out there who has lost someone dear to them, and especially those who are celebrating their first holiday without their loved one, my heart goes out to you and I hope you let God into your pain because He is the ultimate healer and comforter. Compliments of the season and a blessed 2020. XXX.

There are no words for when you lose your rock, your cornerstone. Sending you love, hugs and prayers. Thank you for sharing and I hope you are comforted and healed by the day. Much love.

Tara Obiago

Beautiful. Recording and performing artiste. One half of Tara and Bella.

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