Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Day my mother died

Today is the 13th Anniversary of my mother's death. I was a small kid when she passed (I actually thought the elders were pulling a stunt on me and that mum would return). Her death was surrounded in drama and I will try to recount it.

I am a sixth born in a family of six boys and two girls. My father and mother were secondary and primary school teachers respectively. When father died in 1994 or 5, we moved from the big secondary school houses to the tiny primary school houses at Homestead in Livingstonia, Rumphi, Malawi.

November- Before her death

Mama, Judith Chikoya Donaria Nyasulu, had been struggling with illness for years, she was on and off and her hospitalization no longer became surprising.

Every November or December was special to our family as a select few of us children were selected to go on Holiday at our Lakeshore village (Mlowe). The holiday was an event everyone wanted because there were mangoes, 5 hours of fresh water, sun basking and fishing to be enjoyed.

This particular November, I was left and made to stay with Mama as my closest siblings Paul and Peter went on the lake trip. I was determined to follow my brothers on this holiday.

I took advantage of my weak mother to trick one of the drivers she knew telling him that I needed to go to the village. When I arrived at the village, I was so happy that even the news that mother had been hospitalised never struck me. The lake felt my arrival and presence.

26th November

Meanwhile mother was getting seriously weak in the hospital and the house needed us boys to deal with wood chopping, and delivering food to the hospital so we were summoned via wireless message(there was no telephone, or these fancy gadgets you carry now). We had no transport money so we decided to travel on foot from Mlowe (village) to Livingstonia.

27th November

We rose up early and we hit the road: three minors trying to cover about 50 kilometres of mainly hills, I now know that we loved mother, all of us.

2 or 4 hours after we left the village, news that mother had died reached the village and as a custom the body was to be taken to the village-such that our going to Livingstonia was useless; we needed to turn back and wait for the body for burial...but we didn't know she was dead yet, so we moved on.

Wireless messages were exchanged and an aunt who lives enroute to Livingstonia was put on alert, "when you see the three boys, stop them their mother has just died," I suspect that is what they told her.

As we were passing, or did we drop in to drink water (Aunties house is really 20 meters from the main road at Luwuchi) we got our orders to go back to Mlowe.

Aunt lied that there was a car coming from Livingstonia to pick us up and that we had to go back 12 kilometres to wait for the car. Why couldn't we just wait for the car there? And did I saw a tear in Aunties eyes as she lied to us? I started sobbing.

"Why are you crying?" someone asked me and I told them that I was hungry, a perfect answer from an 11 year old me. Nobody gave me food and I wasn't hungry anyway, I don't know about my brothers but I knew that something was amiss.

And so we journeyed back 12 kilometres. And it was a quiet walk, we spoke little and we were in for a surprise.

To reach our home we had to go down a hill and cross a river and when we were at the highest point overlooking our village I heard the cries and nobody needed to tell me why people were crying.

What I remember when I reached the house is that the grey sofa had been moved to pave the way for mourners and we were brought into the midst as if to induce the people sympathy so that they should cry out more.

Every mourner that came sparked even a louder roar (just like at a football match, for those who haven't been to an African funeral). What I remember vividly is my blind grandmother who grabbed me and seemed to announce the funeral to me as she shook me vigorously.

"Your mother has knelt!" granny said repeatedly, "Donaria [my mother's village name], you have left us war."

I wonder what the war was but for the first time in my life I collapsed, week to the bones and the sight of Peter or Paul was even more defeating. But the infant in me still told me that mama was not gone forever. I was wrong; to grow up without a mother is torture. (To be continued...)

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