The illusions of death are too complex and confusing. The thought of someone stopping to breath and succumbing to oblivion is unnerving. Lots of questions without answers cloud the mind. What does being dead feels like? Does the dead person feel lonely or sad, does he hear the cries of his beloved ones yet he can do nothing about it? We all want to go to heaven but doing it through dying is spine chilling, most of us would prefer doing it the Elijah way, being carried to heaven on chariots of fire. After a person has suffered a long time from a disease that seem to chow at the body, leaving it weak to fight, we often say eeh akapume (he should go and rest). How do we know that where he is going he will rest if his name isn’t written in the book of life? Come what may, we need to prepare ourselves so that when death comes knocking on our souls be it through sickness or sudden death, we should welcome it with a smile on our face. To some death is an escape from life’s suffering and pain, a simple step to the next eternal life, to others it’s a sentence to eternal torment and burning.
I know I had not been so close to my family especially my father. He was a difficult man to please and mostly it was like I used to enjoy causing him heartaches so that I knew how he would react. You may call it a temperamental test. What moved our relationship for the worse was his sending me away from home to live with strangers where I ended up getting raped. When that man tore at my inner fresh forcibly, I hated my father with intensity and thought he had been paid for it because one way or the other he contributed to it. It was hard to believe that I had sprung from his loins. Seeing him lying peacefully in the coffin, made me think that if I could whisper his name once more, he could open his eyes yet it was never to be. He was gone for good. If I had come earlier, I could have seen him again for just one more time. It broke my heart to think that there would be no apologizing moments or never to hear his loud voice scolding me not to mention of not seeing him going to the lake carrying his fishing gear. I didn’t have a remarkable and memorable childhood because I was busy bringing him mischief and he was trying to bring sense into my upbringing. Unlike my mum who most of the times let me have my way, my father was a disciple of the devil himself. To him every mistake called for a beating to cast out demons of stubbornness as he used to put it.
My mum cried loudly when she saw me. In my culture we cry in tales. Mostly we cry as if we are talking to the deceased or we say the last act we last did together. Among the Tonga crying is closely associated with singing but the tone is what brings out the sorrow. I was lost of words to walk on his funeral as if I was a stranger. I saw both my father and mother’s relatives and they all looked surprised to see me at last and the children I came with. My mum lamented how in the time of his illness, he had longed to see me again and apologies for not loving me enough like he did with his other children but I was not there to hear his last words. Amanda clutched at my wrapper fiercely at such a commotion while Laurent started crying at the noise and discomfort. He loved serenity and this was a disruption on his personality. Later when things had quieted down a bit, my mum asked to see me in the other room. She picked up Amanda who started crying in protest. The room was the one I used to share with my sister when I was a kid.
“Wangu don’t tell me these kids are yours”
“Sure Ma they are mine “I replied looking down.
“How come you didn’t tell me anything? Oh child you can kill a person. You went through all this without breathing a word to your mama?” tears started welling in my eyes, the guilt was too much. I told her about Ben causing me hell and promised to tell her later about Peter.
“Am sorry Ma everything happened too fast and I suffered so much; I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want burdening you with the consequences of my sins.” She looked up at me with her trusting eyes which I had all along refused to be a part of.
“You could have come home to me dear. You know I could have got your back”
“I thought of coming home but there was Dad to deal with. I was terrified he could disown me for bringing him shame. I was buying time to prepare myself to face him, but I didn’t know I would find him gone.” My father couldn’t take lightly to some things even when it wasn’t complicated. He treated everything with utmost seriousness.
“What will I ever do without him Wangu. God knows this man was the centerfold of my life. I am lost… so lost I wish I can die as well. He suffered so much, I could see him slipping away every single day it’s only that I failed to convince myself that he was going.” Knowing my mother, he had been the reason he had held on for so long.
“Don’t worry, God will see you through. I am sorry for not being there for you, for him and for everyone else” We hugged each other and let the tears flow freely.
The following day we buried my father at the family grave yard. Seeing him buried six feet underground made me realize how short life is. If you have close and beloved people in your life, it’s never too late to show them how much they mean to you and tell them so. It hurts that in some of our African culture it’s almost a taboo to tell your father that you love him. Don’t you see and envy how people of other cultures through to each other the three lettered word? If you have issues with your family resolve those now before you will never be able to do it again. Saying sorry when someone is gone, will never change anything rather it will leave you guilt filled and burdened. I prayed for the peaceful resting of his soul, I hoped he had made peace with God before his final departure. He was gone but the message preached at the funeral was a foot print on my soul. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to The Father except through Him (John 14:6).
The following morning, the whole place was buzzing with activities. Endless family meetings and so many dishes to wash. My young sister Beatrice escorted me to the lake to wash nappies and clothes. It was good to see the glistering lake again. No wonder it’s called the lake of stars. I could see the rays of the sun glistening upon the lake in breath taking shimmers. I breathed in the fresh air, marveled at the random and peaceful manner in which the waves hit the shore. The sun was rising and the orange big ball seemed not to be in a hurry to heat up the shore. The look on my children’s faces confirmed that they loved it as I did. I looked at a group of naked children running and playing and made me remember my childhood. This place was my safe haven where I would run free and be myself without a care in the world, that’s the beauty of being a child.
I realized that along the lake, the network would pick up. I called Peter and he was so happy to hear from me and so devastated about my father’s death. I was at war with Amanda to give her the phone but I told her later because we had pressing issues to discuss. He couldn’t wait to have us back; home wasn’t the same without us. It made me wish I could fly and be in his arms that very moment; I missed my man so much it hurt. Before hanging up he reminded me not to forget the later to his mother, which I was reluctant to deliver and wished I could give someone to deliver. It was in Laurent’s nappy bag so after washing, I asked my sister to escort me to Peter’s place to see his mum.
“Sis are you sure you are ready for this?” Beatrice asked.
“What do you mean? It’s just a letter and I don’t know what is inside that can make me fear her like boko halam.” She laughed. I could remember so little about the voluptuous woman so I didn’t know what my sister meant. We went there in silence. I had to know what she thought of me because it was just a matter of time before I would become her daughter in-law.
The house was big and looked modern unlike most of the other houses. We found Peter’s sister Lusungu on the verandah chatting with her two friends, am sure it was about boys taking from the way they got startled upon our intrusion. She went inside and came out with a mat which she put under a tree for us to sit down. Later her mother came. She really looked surprised to see me and remarked how I had grown and she further wondered when Beatrice told her that the children were mine as well.
I gave her the letter and died a thousand deaths at the countless times her face contorted. After reading she tore the letter in pieces to my horror while she was shouting “this cannot happen as long as I am alive. I would rather die than live to see that disgraceful thing taking place.” She looked like a dragon about to spit fire. I was worried and afraid to think that I had been the angel of doom, to bring her the news that pushed her at the end of her tethers.
“I want you to stay away from my son once and for all.” I don’t know where that was coming from but at least it could have been best if Peter had told me in advance.
“Have I done something wrong Mama?” I had the right to know. It wasn’t like I was the only one sticking to him like a leech.
“You cannot expect my boy to feed your army which you bled with God-knows-who. Let him find a girl, a virgin to spend his life with not a lagging and wasted woman like you. What do you two know about love so that it should make him so blind and stupid?” I was lost of words, my heart started a race. Beatrice kept nudging me at the elbow, it was time to go but I couldn’t go without a fight.
“I will not tell my people to meet yours as he has requested to discuss lobola. I can’t watch his money going down the drain. Where were you when your fellow girls were saving their dignity?”
This was getting heated up and I couldn’t further stay there. “ thank you very much Ama, your message is loud and clear but don’t you think Peter is man enough to know what he wants before you getting on his way? Good day” I didn’t want to hear her insults, I could have said things I could regret. I left.
“My son will never marry you. Besides I have already eyed a potential girl to suit his caliber. I don’t want to be a grandma to some shenanigans.” That hurt but I clenched my jaws and went back home. We got behind the house and started putting the clothes on drying lines. Beatrice gave me a look that said she had so much to talk about but I made myself look like I didn’t want to hear whatever she wanted to say. It wasn’t good adding salt to a wound that had healed, only to scathe it again and ooze fresh blood. We didn’t grow up together so she didn’t know me and I didn’t know her as much. We were strangers bound by same blood. A girl few years older than Amanda came to tell me that my mother was calling me inside the house. I told Beatrice to finish putting the clothes on the drying line and watch Amanda while I went there. As I was approaching, I could hear raised voices.
“She can’t disgrace my brother like that…” that must have been my father’s younger brother.
“She is my child I will decide what to do…” it was my mum. My heart was beating so fast and my stomach knotted.
“Am sure you sent her to sleep with every Jim and jack.” That was my usual loud mouthed aunt, my father’s elder sister.
The arguments kept on and I was debating on whether to go inside or not. If yes, it would be like walking on a land mine. Didn’t I have enough shouting for a single day? *sigh*
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