As the morning sun eased on her wrinkled skin, nothing ever suggested this would be her last.
It was a beautiful day, none like she’s ever experienced. Mama, as she was fondly called went about her day with much gusto. Energy bursting through her and with a wide beautiful smile, she was ready, ready to take on the day.
She reached out to mum, told her she hadn’t seen me in a long time. She then asked about my general well being. Mama always does. “You should try and see your grandmother,” mum quipped, “she asked of you earlier today,” I promised mum I was going to see her that day, unbeknownst to me, I will not meet her in her ever joyful state.
I had a few errands to run that day. Round up on a project, submit yet another proposal: with hopes that this one will pull through. The project cost was less than $500. Meet with a friend then finally meet with mama. Yes, in that order. Seeing mama was the last thing on my to-do list. I could always see her, I thought to myself.
The day probably ran at twice its regular speed. Before I could get around to everything I was supposed to do for the day, it was 6PM and being a Wednesday, I needed to be in church for mid-week service. I can’t remember exactly what the theme of the message was, but I remember the Pastor teaching on family and relationships. Then it dawned on me that I was yet to see mama. Service ended by a few minutes after 8PM. “It’s late,” I told myself, “I will see mama tomorrow. I will see her first thing tomorrow morning.”
As I made my way out of the church building, I put on my phone, the phone had barely come on when a call came through, it was mum. “Meet me at your grandmother’s place…immediately,” her voice was shaky and I could barely make out some of the things she said. I boarded a motorbike immediately, I never haggled with the rider. I just wanted to get to grandmas.
I got to grandma’s house, her living room was filled with people. I waded my way through the crowd, mama was laid on a couch, she didn’t move, she didn’t talk. She just laid still. I rushed to her immediately, she was gasping for breath. There was a cut on her chin and the blood wouldn’t clot. Mama had tripped on a beacon just in front of her balcony. She landed badly, hitting her chin on the side of a half wall. She was hypertensive. The shock probably didn’t help too.
I ran out to get her first aid before we could give her proper medical care. I scrolled through my phone book as fast as I could, dialling every number that had “Dr.” in its name. By the time I came back inside, her hands and feet were cold, really cold. She stopped breathing entirely. We lost her. Then it hit me, I will never see her the following day as I had promised. She wasn’t tops on my to-do list for the following day. Mama was gone. Gone forever.
We lifted her into her bedroom, there was a little pool underneath where she’d laid on her couch. As I laid down by her bedside, I reflected on the day. While running between meetings, I had seen her walking back from the small market not far from where she lived. Could I have asked the bike rider to stop and let me go say hello to my grand mum, at least for the last time? Why didn’t I just cancel everything for that day and spend the entire day with her? To this day, I still feel the pain. I never had the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to mama.
With these thoughts racing through my mind, I drew closer to mama, bent over and kissed her forehead, it was cold. My nostrils touched hers and the were cold. Everyone left the room, I still sat there, with her, mumbling words as the tears stream uncontrollably down my cheeks. Maybe, just maybe if I had stayed the day with her, when her neighbour came to report an incident to her, the incident that made her leave her house that evening to go broker peace, the same incident that made her trip while returning from this neighbour’s house, maybe I would have asked her not to go out that evening but rather the following day, maybe I would have been the one to go settle the issue, I probably would have saved her the stress. Just maybe.
As I left mama’s bedside that night, so many unanswered questions, regret and guilt taking their toll on me. That night will end up being my longest night. I probably had less than 3 hours of proper sleep.
Before dawn the following day, I was at mama’s house again. I went straight into her bedroom, but just before I entered, I had hoped to see her, sitting on her favourite chair, with a wide smile on her face, hoping she would say to me “Etekamba eme di, idem etie didie?” But this wasn’t going to happen. Instead, she was still lying the same way we laid her the previous night. It looked as though she was sleeping, she looked peaceful, I momentarily thought to myself, “mama is resting, let me leave the old woman to get some rest,” but I was wrong, she wasn’t sleeping. I sat by her bedside, touched her left hand, they were stiff. Very stiff, then I said to her, “mama, emesiere,” hoping she would hear me, hoping she would respond, “baba, emesiere nde.” She didn’t.
Even though I saw mama first thing the following morning like I had told myself, I didn’t meet the ever cheerful woman I had grown to know and love. I miss her to this day. She would have been 79-years old today. I love you, mama. Sleep well.
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