Mathematically speaking, the number 16 represents a perfect square (4 X 4= 16). It is considered a number of “perfect completeness”. In the Bible, there are 16 prophets in the Old Testament and 16 Apostles in the New Testament. When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, he talked about the 16 characteristics of love. 16 combined, becomes 7–the number of divine abundance, perfection and vibration. 16 cowries are the tool of the diviner in IFA/Yoruba and the divination system of “Merindinlogun” meaning 16 (or literally, 4 taken from 20). As a child, my mother (Ibaiye) shared with me that my actual due date was April 16th, but arrived when I was ready on the 18th. I am 2 days away from my 47th birthday and in this past year of transformation, the number 16 continues to present itself to me in ways that is compelling me to think more deeply about where it shows up in my life and what that might mean.
When I was 16, I fell in love. I mean that young—“I-can’t-hardly-breathe-I-love-you-so-much” kind of love. To know Sean Bryant was to love him (Ibaiye). He was wild, funny, sexy and a cut up. Wherever he was, there was a kind of electricity in the air and the brother was FINE. He was a mischievous trickster who loved to prank and play jokes on his unsuspecting friends and the party didn’t start until he, Bryan and Willie showed up. I met him at the skating rink the summer before my sophomore year in high school. My cousins, girlfriend and I were standing around the sides, with skates on, but not skating. We were profiling and “not” watching the boys as they watched us. And then it happened, the DJ put on “Heartbeat” and I saw him whiz around the rink. Whoaaaaaa! What was that?! Tall, pecan tan brown, sinewy and gliding around the rink like he was skating on air. I asked my best friend Leigh, “who-is-that” and she laughed “oh girl, that’s Sean. He’s a trip”. A trip he was. Our young summer love romance took the typical “BAM”! uh-oh, I think I’m in love roller coaster ride into the ridiculous drama of break up to make up. You see Sean forgot to tell me he already had a girlfriend when we met and after that news was revealed as the school year began, I spent the two weeks crying my eyes out to Michael McDonald “I Keep Forgetting (Every Time You’re Near)” . When he broke up with her and begged me back, you know I took him back only to have him break up with me at least 3 more times. Our young love was impetuous enough to last the better part of 1983. After our final break up, a bathroom fight with his ex-girlfriend the following year(another story for another day) I swore that I hated him, but I didn’t. Somehow we managed cobble a friendship together that was sweet and flirty, but it never returned to the heat of that summer. Sean was the first person close to my age that I knew and loved to die. Second semester of my senior year at UNC, Sean was killed in a car accident. He had gone to the club with a friend and on the way home, with Sean asleep in the back seat, the car went off an embankment into a small stream of water. They could not get Sean out and he drowned in just a few inches of water. He was 22.
When I was pregnant with Che three years later, it was a stressful time. It was also the first time I ever experienced a visitation. After a particularly grueling day at work and listening to my father sob on the phone, again, about my journey into motherhood unmarried, I lay down in my mother’s house for a night of fitful sleep. That night, Sean came to me. In my dream, we were at a party and I was sitting on the floor when he sat down beside me. He asked me why I was so sad and I shared what was on my mind and in my heart. He told me that he would always be there for me and to not worry about myself, the baby or becoming a mom and that everything would be alright. Because I have always been a lucid dreamer, I slid into the dreamscape with him with ease as we laughed and talked as the party continued around us. Then something shifted. Sean looked at me and said, “you know, it’s not so bad”. I asked “what’s not so bad”? and he responded “being dead”. I knew then that I was not dreaming and that Sean was there with me. He said that he was always around me, but that he didn’t want to freak me out so he never made him self known. He was worried to see me so emotional and decided that coming to me in my dream would be the easiest way to reveal himself to me. At that moment, he turned his head away from me and I had an uncontrollable urge to touch his arm. With his head still facing away from mine he said, “I know you want to touch me, but don’t. It will freak you out”. Then he said, “if you like, you can touch my leg” and I did. It felt firm and cool. With that, he turned his head back to face me and said, “whenever you are stressed or whenever you need me, I’m here. I will always be here” and with that I woke up.
There are 16 granddaughters and 2 grandsons in my family on my father’s side. My eldest sister Mary Anne being the first and my younger sister Georgette being the 16th. There are 16 years between my eldest son Che and my youngest son Taj (no one in between). This year marks the 16th anniversary of my mother’s transition to the ancestral realm. The year before she transitioned, I began a more intentional journey into my spiritual practice of IFA/Yoruba. That was also the year I began to prepare an ancestor altar. As I prepared that altar, I came across Luisah Teish’s “jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals” at a yard sale and purchased it for a couple of dollars. Inside the book, on the page describing the Goddess Osun was a four-leaf clover pressed into the pages for safe keeping. Little did I know that one year later I would receive a message directly from Osun in Havana, Cuba on a Babalawo’s mat, that five months after that I would midwife my mom (Ibaiye) into the realm of the ancestors or that 16 years later I would be initiated as a priest of to Osun in Osogbo, Nigeria and into the society (Egbe) of the Ancestors called Egungun.
16 has been swirling around my orbit since day one when I arrived 2 days late. 16, 16, 16, 1+6=7-completion of a cycle, perfection, positive renewal…the thinker, the seeker, the searcher of truth. In this 47th revolution around the sun, I kneel humbly before God, my ancestors and my benevolent spirit guides to say simply say “thank you”. Thank for leaving bread crumbs, pixie dust and cosmic strands of light along the way to guide me to who I am meant to be. Thank you for nudging, cajoling and revealing to me that path I was to meant to take so I could keep the agreement I made on the other side.