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[STORY] LIFE, ABOVE ALL (Episode 01)

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LIFE, ABOVE ALL

Prologue

****
My mother has been hospitalized for weeks now, awaiting death as her illness is terminal.

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She is in her early forties- she looks more like eighty.
Once she had been beautiful, everywhere she had gone, people had gazed at her in admiration but her illness has suddenly taken away all that was beautiful.

Now her eyes are pale and glassy, her skin sallow and her lips have lost its red.

In the eight weeks she has been admitted, my father hasn’t visited her or even asked about her. He has been up and about attending to other important things, so he said.

Walking into the hospital, I went round into the room she was in and pulled the curtain around. There was no one in the room expect my mother.

I knelt beside her, tenderly holding her hand then I got a squeeze, it wasn’t a comforting squeeze. It was a jerking, seizure kind of squeeze. Still I held on.

Staring at her frail body, I sensed death was near. Her eyes were sort of staring at something far away and her breathing was fast and shallow.

‘Are you feeling okay?’ I asked
She gave my hand a lucid squeeze and said, ‘Ganizani my dearest son.’
She could barely summon the strength to talk and I could see she was fighting to stay conscious.

‘Amama!’

‘You and your siblings should watch out for each other.’
I merely nodded in agreement.
‘Do not grieve for me, your life shouldn’t come to stand still when I am gone, you must move on.’
‘Please don’t talk like that,’ I said in a whisper
‘And,’ she added, ‘When life gets tough and you feel like giving up, look up to your creator, he will be your strength.

I blinked away the tears that were threatening to surface. I couldn’t succumb to my emotions not in front of her.
She must have been exhausted from this small exertion so she lay back upon the pillow and tried to catch her breath. Then she closed her eyes.

After a couple of minutes, her skin grew cooler and the sense of movement beneath her hand stopped.
‘Amama! My voice caught in my throat as my love for her overwhelmed me.
‘Amama!’ I screamed.

The nurse walked in and checked her pulse she gave a slight nod to confirm my worst fear.
My mother was gone.

My mother had died peacefully she had gone to be with her maker. Her last breath was beautiful- just like her.

The nurse walked towards me and touched my hand with limp fingers, ‘I am sorry for your loss,’ she said softly. ‘May your mother’s soul rest in perfect peace.’

‘Thank you,’ I mumbled

Then she left the ward quietly to let the doctor know that my mother had passed on.

As I waited for the doctor, I looked at my mother’s lifeless body and wondered why God had been so unfair to us. Who would protect us from the cruelty of this world now?

‘I am sorry for your loss,’ the doctor said
He delicately draped a white bed sheet upon my mother’s body.

Then he held my shoulder and smiled sadly, ‘You need to go home and inform your father and siblings.’

At the mention of my siblings, my stomach immediately tightened. How would they handle the news of our mother’s death? They were too young to handle such kind of grief.

I nodded my head, turned and walked out of the ward.

************
I walked into compound an hour later feeling the weight of the world descending onto my shoulders. When my youngest sister Thokozani (6) saw me, she ran towards me and I scooped into my arms and started walking briskly to the house.

‘Ganizani, you are back?’ Tiyamike my immediate young sister asked.
‘Yes,’ I replied putting Thoko on the couch
‘How is mother doing?’

‘Sit down for a moment I have something to tell the both of you.’
She sat on the edge of the chair, from the way she was eyeing me, I think she could tell that that I was about to deliver some bad news.

I looked into my thirteen year old sister’s eyes and said ‘Amama, wamwalira.’
Tiya froze at my words her tone was a mix of confusion and anger. ‘You are joking right?’
‘No.’
Thoko looked at me with a blank expression, ‘Will she ever come back?’
‘No, she has gone to be with God in heaven.’
‘Okay,’ she said, her voice was void of all emotions.

‘No, she can’t be dead,’ Tiya shook her head as tears filled her eyes.

Tiya’s tears broke my heart but I didn’t cry, I had to remain strong I didn’t want to break down in front of them.

Then she sank to the floor, wailing loudly, ‘Amayi!’
I tried to find the words to comfort her but I was never good with words, I was finding it really hard to say the right thing.

I carried Thoko and put her on my laps, she let me hug her close. She buried her head into my shoulder gasping.
‘Breath baby, breath,’ I said softly.
‘Mummy is never coming back,’ she said, her voice was a broken whisper

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‘It will be okay,’ I said, all the while trying to believe the comforting words I was telling my little sister.

************
The news of my mother’s death spread swiftly through the community. The next couple of days the house was always full of nieghbours and relatives.
To my surprise, even people who had never said a word to my mother, all came to mourn her.
There was a gathering of men sitting under the tent outside our house, some of her close relatives sat on the floor around the room most of them were saying good things and telling stories about my mother.

Unlike my sisters, I did not shed any tears not until three days later when I saw my mother’s body. That’s when it hit me that she was really gone.
It was at that moment that my numbness turned into grief.
A deep pain swept through my body, I felt like my heart had been torn from my chest.

Tiya wept in rage as I helplessly watched by.

They tried to comfort us but it didn’t work, this was bigger than us.
No one understood how we felt, they didn’t understand what we had lost, how could they when their memory and their experience of our mother was quiet different from ours.
************
My name is Ganizani Phiri, I am 16 years old and this is our story.

Episode 01.

GANIZANI

“A mother is your entry into the world. Waking up without her is like waking up in a world without the sky- unimaginable.”

It has been three weeks since my mother passed away though it seems as if it happened yesterday. The tears have dried up but the pain is still raw.

The past few weeks have been foggy I wake up each morning thinking maybe it’s all a bad dream that I will soon wake up from but as I puddle through the day, realization hits me- she is gone and she’s never coming back.

Everything feels different now life is meaningless, gray and empty. I wonder if I will ever get used to this.

I quickly rolled out of bed and headed for the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the girls.

Everything in the kitchen reminded me of mum I shut my eyes briefly and bit my lips to prevent myself from crying. Taking deep breaths, I cleaned the kettle and made coffee, fried some eggs and made toast.

I finished setting the table before shouting up at the girls to get up.

Tiya and Thoko walked into the kitchen, ‘Good morning brother,’ they greeted with smiles.

‘Good morning,’ I politely responded, smiling back at them.

I walk around like everything is down but deep down, I am falling apart. I am just 16 and yet life has forcefully given me the responsibility of raising my sisters.
‘Earth to Ganizani!’ Thoko clicked her fingers in my face startling me from my reverie.

‘You are ready for breakfast?’ I asked

‘What have you cooked?’ Thoko asked

‘Toast.’

‘Delicious.’

‘I know you will love it baby.’

She giggled.

I bent down and gave her a kiss on her forehead then she took a seat at the table. I poured her a full cup of coffee next I slid the bread onto a plate and set it in front of her along with a napkin.

‘Enjoy your breakfast.’
‘Thank you.’

‘Sit down,’ I said looking up at Tiya, she had been unusually quiet.
She sat down and pushed her chair closer to the table.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked

‘Where is dad?’ she asked

‘He went on a business trip,’ I lied
‘When is he coming back home?’ Thoko asked
‘He’s away for a few days,’ I improvised
‘But why didn’t he say he would be going away?’ Tiya asked

‘I think it was a last minute trip.’

She shrugged.

Lying to Tiya was harder, she was older and she could read in between the lines.

To be honest I also don’t know where dad is, he just packed a suitcase, left me some money and said he would be out for a few days-That was last week.

I have always feared my father, he’s always been serious, harsh and fully cold so there’s no way I could have asked him where he was going. The thing is my father has always been a distant figure in our lives even though he works hard and takes care of our needs he has always been emotionally unavailable- plus he has never been able to seek anyone’s opinion on anything , he does exactly as he pleases.

And even though my mother was always devoted to my father, I think at the back of her head she knew that if anything where to happen to her, my father was the last person we would depend on for emotional support.
So here we are now
‘You know what?’ I ask
‘What?’ Thoko asks seriously
‘When I finish with the chores, we are going to go shopping and I will treat you out for lunch.’
‘Really?’ Tiya asks
‘Yes.’
‘That’s so cool.’
I look at Thoko and she fakes a smile, ‘I would love that,’ she says

‘Great.’

After breakfast, Thoko and Tiya went outside to play while I remained in the kitchen to clean up.
I piled the dirty dishes into the sink then I turned on the water and began to wash them.

‘You want me to help you with that?’ Tiya asked, I hadn’t even noticed her standing at the door.

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‘It’s okay you go and play with your friends.’

‘I don’t feel like playing, let me help you dry the plates.’
‘Okay.’

We worked quickly, washing and drying the dishes till we got them all done.

‘I miss mum a lot,’ she said after a brief silence.
‘We all miss her.’
‘Do you think daddy misses her?’
‘I think he misses her in his own way.’

She kept quiet for a while, looking off into the distance. When she spoke again, she was quieter.

‘Do you think daddy is going to marry another woman?’

‘I don’t know,’ I replied truthfully, the thought of dad bringing in another woman into this house is not something that had crossed my mind.

‘My friend Lydia said when her mother died, her father married another woman and that woman almost killed her. I am scared, what if dad marries another woman and she mistreats us.’

I held her hand and squeezed it, ‘I don’t know if dad will marry another woman or not but just know that I won’t allow anyone to mistreat you.’
‘You and Tiya are my responsibility you can always count on me for anything.’

She opened her mouth and then closed it again. I could see the hurt and pain in her eyes.

Then she nodded her head and looked out of the window for a few minutes before continuing.
‘I am really scared, Kondwani, I have this sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach that something bad will soon happen.’
‘It’s gonna be okay, I am here for you, I promised mum I would look after you and I will do just that.’

‘Okay.’

‘Come here,’ I said

She walked towards me. I pulled her close and wrapping my arms around her, engulfed her in a bear hug. Tiya held me tight as if she would never let me go.
‘I am going to help you clean the house,’ she said afterwards, she looked calm.

After we cleaned the house together, I washed the load of clothes that we have been piling up. The girls and I are resuming school on Monday I want everything to be clean before then.

By 12, I was done with all the chores. I called Thoko and Tiya and asked them to bath, I wanted to take them out for lunch just to cheer them up a bit.

I walked into my room too and quickly bathed. By the time I finished getting ready they were already done too.
‘You girls look beautiful,’ I said
‘Thank you brother,’ they responded excitedly
‘Shall we?’
‘Yes.’

After locking up the door and gate, we walked down the road to the bus stop and waited. After about five minutes, the bus finally arrived and we were on our way to town. I had Tiya sitting on my laps.

When the bus finally dropped us off in town we walked to Shoprite and bought some groceries. Then I took the girls to hungry lion for lunch, you should have seen how their face brightened up.

We had fun eating and telling stories, reminiscing about the good old days when mum would take us out on trips and spoil us with different kind of presents.
‘I miss mummy so much,’ Thoko said softly
‘We all do,’ Tiya said
‘She is watching over us right now and I am sure she is happy that we are all safe and sound,’ I said.
They nodded.

Everything has been smoothly for the next few months. My sisters have accepted that I am the only parent they have, even though they are young, they are generally well mannered and they respect me.

Father has been up and about, he comes and goes as he pleases, we don’t even question him. When he is home, he acts as if we are invisible, we stay in our lane and he stays in his. Simple as that.

To be continued…….


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