My little heart quivered with anticipation as I made my way up the flight of stairs leading into the airplane cabin. Clutching my brothers’ hand, I allowed myself to be led to the seats that we would be occupying during our flight to Harare. This trip was special in so many way. Not only was it my first ever airplane ride but waiting for me at our destination was the most special person in the world – mummy. It had been quite a while since we had seen her and missing her had now become a part of us that we couldn’t do away with.
The plane touched down at the Harare airport sooner than I expected and less than an hour after leaving Bulawayo, my brother and I found ourselves standing in front of the hospital bed, looking at our mother for what was to be the last time. She looked frailer and smaller than I remembered her to be. Black patches around her eyes marred the beauty of her yellow skin. I felt a lump grow in my chest. But I couldn’t allow myself to breakdown.
“Will you pray for us Tanya,” I shook my head slowly and instead of praying, I offered her the only thing that I could at that time – a packet of chips that I had saved for her from the airplane snacks that the stewardess had served us with. My heart was breaking and I could feel the tears fighting to be let free. I felt helpless. Fortunately my brother then stepped in to help me and began to pray… but I was now so far gone in my depression that I could not hold in the tears anymore and midway through his prayer, I began howling like the little girl that I really was. My father quickly swooped me in his arms and cuddled me until I fell into an uneasy sleep in his arms.
A few days later, my cousins and I were scampering around at my grandmothers’ farm when we noticed furniture being moved from inside the house and being arranged neatly in the burglar barred veranda. Curious, we ran back to the house to find out what was going on. It was just a couple of days after my cousin Eddies birthday and nothing had been done for him in way of celebration. Maybe they had decided to throw him a party I thought as we entered the house. But the mood in the house was not as joyous as I had thought it to be. Instead there was a palpable heaviness in the air that I couldn’t understand.
Spotting us in the veranda doorway, one of the adults ushered us into the now empty dining room and told us to sit cross legged on the rug. Fidgeting uncomfortably we complied and quietly found ourselves spots on the floor. A few minutes later, a tall somber looking man came in to the room and walked towards us. The white strip in his shirt collar sold him off to be a pastor. He looked at us sadly without saying anything most probably struggling with the burden of the news that he was supposed to break off to us. After quoting a few bible verses he finally was able to tell us what was going on. My mother had succumbed to cancer and what I initially thought to be preparations for a party was in actual fact preparation for her funeral service.
Its 16 years today since that day. Quite a lot has happened since the last time I saw her in her casket before she was laid to rest at Warren Hills. For a long time though, I carried with me the weight of her absence, anyone who has lost a parent or someone they truly loved can attest to the weightiness of this load. It’s so heavy at times that you really believe you cannot wake up another day. Sometimes it feels like the pain is sadistically mutilating your heart and you nothing can heal the wounds that you have. And no matter what anyone does or says, it all doesn’t seem to make a difference to how you already feel. And so for absolutely the longest time, I carried with me this hurt and pain and feeling of having been cheated. It hurt so bad to see other people with their mothers and I couldn’t help but wonder why I had to be the one to lose a parent.
Time does indeed heal all wounds. But this time is abstract. It cannot be quantified. For some healing comes easily and quickly. For some it takes a little bit more time to reach acceptance. For those like myself … it took 16 years to go through the 6 degrees of separation and finally be able to embrace acceptance.
What I regret most now about my mother’s death is not her dying per se. Of course if I had the power to raise the dead I would have given her more time on this earth. I wish I had been able to change a few things about the last moments that I was with her. In addition to the Chompkins chips that I saved for her. I now wish that I had saved her from seeing her little one break down in tears. I wish I had saved her from the pain of revealing that she was living her little girl without a female figure to guide and protect her. I wish I had been a little stronger. Strong enough to have shielded her from the pain that I felt in my heart as I watched her lie helplessly in that hospital bed. I know now that if it had pained me to see her life ebb away – it must have hurt her a hundred times over to have fought for so long but still lose. Before she died, she must have been killed a million times with the knowledge of what she knew she couldn’t avoid.
It’s too late now to change anything. All I live for now is to be able to put a smile on her face posthumously. If she can really see me from wherever she is like I was led to believe growing up, then I hope that she will not only see me going about my daily tasks, but also read the words in my heart and mind that I am now pouring onto this page. I hope that she hears me each and every day when I whisper her name. I hope she hears the prayers that I always utter on her graveyard and smells the scent of the roses that I place on her grave every Valentine’s Day. I hope she sees that her daughter is grown up now and loves and appreciates her more than ever.
It’s taken 16 years for me to come to terms with my mother’s demise and to be able to go through this day without the tears and the sad songs. What matters is not the length of time that it has taken me to heal. What matters is that I have healed. If you too have lost someone close to you, you might think that you will never make it out of you sorrow. But believe me you. You will. The sun will once again shine in your life and you will definitely smile again.