We Miss You Though!
She taught. But putting it that way will be an understatement. She was a tutor and a school head. She was party to countless teaching fraternity and social organisations. Humanity was part of her heart and jovial best defined her.
We talked but most of the time we talked and talked and talked once more. We dint talk about something in particular but everything at large. Just anything that could pop up. She spoke tirelessly with attention to detail. All she said she said with abroad smile. All she put her hands on, she did it with dedication. I visited her as often as time would allow. She cooked and served in between stories. She dint allow her girls to serve her visitors’. She said the visitors were hers. She owned the place but she wasn’t the bossy types. Her home was tucked deep inside the sprouting Eastland’s which was proxy to where she taught.
It had taken some time apart. Seldom did we speak on phone. Ours was a one on one. It was only equal to that mother child talk. She was an aunty but I held her with esteem so high just as a mother. She said she was ‘mama mdogo’ so she called me son and in rejoinder I called her mom. When I heard from her, the news were disheartening. “I have not been well son” I could hear some pause on phone before she picked up her second line “I even took a sick leave from school but am responding well to treatment at home” You know someone is sick when they accept that they have not been feeling well. Yes, when they avoid using the word sick in their wording but go ahead to talk about medication. That word ‘sick’ spells of despair. It reads like well, a surrender of battle. Like victory is become elusive and life is no longer as bubbly as it used to be! Her voice sounded stiff and dim. She was in a hurry to hang up. I wanted she speaks on and say more. I had this undying urge to talk on and ask “whats ailing you Aunty?” but I felt restrained. “All will be well mom” I said in a hush and hung up.
That afternoon was disturbing. I felt indebted. Like I owed someone something that I dint know what and who? That short-lived conversation had brought me that feeling. Indeed it had taken way long time between us. Her picking the phone to call me about her situation spoke volumes. The later afternoon found me in the company of a cousin at her sitting room. Her husband; my dad’s younger brother was glued to the television. All kids away from home for that day. She seated across the table a dozen of packs of medicine a stretch from where she sat. She was just coming in from Mama Lucy she said. She had been to and from Mama Lucy as an outpatient for a fair part of that week. They had recommended booking her in for an analysis but not before she had a session with a senior physician at the Kenyatta National hospital. Hers read like a story that wasn’t going to end so well. But we hoped and prayed for the better. The doctor had not established any ailment in her system she said. But she felt hell sent pain in her left abdomen around her spleen. Pain that sent her to sleep. Pain that made her not to talk. Not to eat. Not to move. Not move an inch only roll on the ground over and over her face a concoction of folds. It was bad pain she said. It arrested her once or twice in a day. She had been prescribed a handful of tablets to cut on the pain. That day as we came in it had been a bit fair she said. She was bound to meet the physician in a week’s time. I came and went but left us a puzzle to solve.
Her lungs were inflated. Both of them. The left lung had water inside; plenty of water that was dirty and of odour smell. The scans taken showed that. She had just come out of theater for further dialysis. She was referred to Coptic hospital. The one harbored between trees on Ngong road. She was booked in and a series of tests began. She lived on the fifth floor. It was accessible by the lifts after signing in at the expansive reception. That whole place smelt of hope. Hope that was lined in despair. Final results of the tests conducted revealed she was suffering from Lung cancer at complicated stages. They were poised to operate on her and separate her from them. The lungs not the cancer. That was only meant to be a step towards healing. Later on Chemo was to come. As a family we knew bills were staring with eyes wide open as day. Our main fear was not bills but the Cancer itself.
Cancer tales read like horror movies when you watch them just before bed time and you are sure to dream bad things. When you hear about cancer it clogs your ears and makes your moth taste like you have ingested bile. Here we were in the midst of that session of lectures about cancer eating away one of our own. That entire year was centered around her. No, that whole year was centered on her Cancerous situation. She spent a whole eight month bed ridden. She shuttled in between home and hospital. Someday she woke up a bag of life and she asked to go home. We took her out then home. In the dead of the night she would gulp with pain. Then we got a taxi to drop her back to hospital. Her bed was never given away. It’s like the nurses knew she was poised to come back in there! They however never resisted her going home.
I used to live across the Coptic down towards Uchumi Ngong road. Her entire family lived in the Eastlands. I visited often. We still talked. Her hair was all gone. She was undergoing Chemo in the third session. Her head was as bald as a man’s. She dint cover it. She said it made her feel too much heat. She left it open. To my dismay, my attention would shift from what she was saying to her balded head. Then my eyes would go watery like I was about to cry. I would be tempted to ask her how it feels to be without hair. But I would withhold that. I wonder what it is with adults and reading emotions. She would notice the shift in attention. Then she would touch her head and say “mourn no more son, my hair will be back. It shall be all well” That gesture would get me hating on myself. Why was I more worried of her hair that much? Why was I allowing her tell that I was over staring at her baldness? Just why? She talked on. She said that it was a good thing I visited. She said hospital beds are boring. She said her bedside fridge was full of fruits she dint find desirable. She said she missed being in class and doing what she loved. Then the discussion shifted towards her kids. The six of them; my cousins. But she insisted we are brothers and sisters not cousins. She said that cousin thing was so English. In her perspective and vernacular to that effect we were brothers and sisters because she was our mother not aunty. She asked I talk her elder son into settling on a definite career Path. She asked that we visit each other as often. She talked about it so much till it started to read like farewell.
Farewell it was for close of August of the same year, we lost her in the same bed. In the same hospital that smelt of hope. The same place we had hoped could pump life into her. We lost her. It had been an eight month tussle with the monster called cancer; the elephant in the room. Cancer fought. We fought back. Cancer fought back harder. We fought once again. Cancer fought back harder and tougher. We kind of gave in. Cancer took her from us. We were forced to let her go. Go against our wish but go anyway for most of the time you don’t win war against Cancer when it is discovered late inside your bones unless the God of Abraham as a final resort sends Angel Gabriel to intervene that you live on. We lost her. We cried and moved on after her burial at the upcountry which was a culmination of somberness and celebration of a life well lived! Gone she was but a memory so deep she left. A memory of a person who had devoted the entire of her adult life to imparting knowledge to generations only to succumb to Cancer that way laid her aboard her life’s mission! As we conclude the October Cancer awareness month, we say Rest in Eternity Aunty.