Threads of Grief: Weaving Memories at the African Braiding Shop

As I sat in the bustling African hair braiding salon, enveloped by the sweet smells of coconut oil and the rhythmic sounds of braiding, my mind wandered to the gospel songs playing on the T.V. in the corner (Tasha Cobbs Leonard was playing on the T.V).

The harmonious conversations in different African languages and dialects filled the air with a sense of warmth and familiarity. As I watched the women around me flipping through magazines and chatting, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of belonging in this space. The salon was more than just a place to get your hair done — it was a community, a haven where people came together to share stories, laughter, and sometimes even tears.

Then, an older Nigerian man walked into the salon; his presence immediately overtook the room with his extroverted and eloquent self. The man wore a crisp, white, traditional Nigerian outfit adorned with intricate patterns and bright colors. His walking stick, carved with delicate designs, added to his regal appearance. He walked with a sense of purpose and confidence; his head held high as he greeted everyone in the salon. It was as if he knew he commanded attention and respect just by being himself.

I zoomed in on his features… the gap between his teeth, hair, and even his walking stick reminded me so much of my father. How could this be? As he spoke confidently about his education and cracked witty jokes, I couldn’t help but think of the uncanny similarities between the two men — from their charismatic personalities to their love for education and sense of humor. My heart swelled with a mix of emotions as I looked at this man who could have easily been my own father.

But amidst my admiration, a bittersweet feeling crept in. Did this man’s family appreciate and cherish him as much as I did in this brief moment? Did they know how fortunate they were to have such a vibrant and wise man in their lives?

As I sat there, watching the older Nigerian man get his hair shaved, surrounded by his community of strong black women who adored him, I couldn’t help but conjure a sense of deep appreciation for this man who unknowingly reminded me to cherish the loved ones in my life.

So, as I left the salon that day with freshly braided hair and a heart full of emotions, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the unexpected encounter with this wise and charismatic man.

This encounter with this older Nigerian man was significant because I lost my father in June 2020, when the whole world was experiencing some kind of loss- be it physical, mental, or emotional. That was a rough year! (I send you virtual hugs if you felt alone and lost during that period. You are not alone!❤️)

Losing someone you love is an experience that can never be fully put into words. It’s a pain that consumes you, breaks you down, and changes you in ways you never thought possible. My father’s death was one of the most devastating losses I have ever faced.

Growing up, my father was my role model, mentor, and best friend. He was always there for me, supporting me with love and guidance through every stage of life. Losing him felt like a piece of my heart had been ripped out.

The grief that followed his passing was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It came in waves- some days, it would hit me with full force, while other days, I could almost forget the pain. But no matter how much time had passed, grief was always there, lurking in the background.

The thing about grief is that it doesn’t have a timeline. It’s not something you can just get through and move on from. It’s a constant presence in your life, reminding you of the person you have lost and the love you will never be able to give them again.

Sometimes, grief would hit me at unexpected moments. I could be going about my day, thinking I was doing alright when suddenly, a memory or a thought of my father would bring me to tears. Feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion would take over… like I was carrying an immense weight on my shoulders.

To be specific, today at the African braiding salon, I felt grief…but not in a sad way…in a way that I miss my dad and cherish him. At this particular moment, I felt gratitude for my memories of him. I also felt fortunate to be reminded that good people exist and are spreading love and sunshine wherever they go.

Grief is a journey we all must take at some point in our lives. It’s not an easy path to walk, but it’s one that allows us to honor and remember the ones we have lost. And despite the pain and heartache, I know that I am fortunate to have had such a wonderful father in my life, even if it was for a short time.

So, even if grief comes in waves- let each wave come as a reminder of the love and connection we shared with our loved ones. And that is something truly special.


Heather Chesiyna

P.S. Post was originally written real time for my blog page.

Heather Chesiyna

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