“How does it feel to lose someone you love?”
In plain Swahili, in words spoken slowly, like she’s peeling them from her soul and she doesn’t want them to tear because she’ll return them to the depth from where she’s getting them. She says she was sixteen when her father passed away. He was plagued by ulcers, the result of years of chewing miraa at the expense of eating healthy food. Everyone knew he was unwell, they just didn’t think he was to die so unexpectedly. That day, she came home from school and he was breathing laboriously, his eyes sunken in their sockets, his veins visible on his ashy skin, the figure of ill health. She wanted to stay and make him soup, but her mother chased her away and she dislikes her for that.
The baby coos in her sleep. She rubs its back and she lovingly smoothens the strands of loose hair on its head. She was his favourite child and he didn’t even bother to hide it. When she was a toddler, he would lay down ‘lesos’ all over the compound they lived in, so she could play without getting dirty. He never even raised his voice at her, let alone his hands, and she still hates that they never had a proper goodbye. Their religion meant he was buried a few hours after he passed, when she and the rest of her siblings were huddled in their grandmother’s house, waiting to be called to go home.
Instead, all they saw were adults in emotional pain. The men weeping silently, the women wailing openly. Then she knew her worst fears had been confirmed; he was dead. The feeling was numbness, like a trip to the dentist had gone bad. Like he had accidentally made her whole body unable to feel, and like the wails were for someone other than papa, and that this was a really vivid nightmare. A really long nightmare, one that she prayed everyday to get out of, until she finally accepted that he was gone.
I want to ask what her favourite memory of him is. I can’t though. It would be selfish of me. She already looks so distraught and taking her back to a time she equates as the darkest period in her life, where day and night were only separated by the type of meal she was served, is not what I’d want to do. She says what she hated most was the barrage of apologies she had to endure, and the insensitiveness of people saying that God loved him more, and that he only picks those he loves. She bit her tongue so many times, she’s surprised she doesn’t have scars.
I asked my nieces mother what she went through when she lost her father. That what she said. I’ve never lost anyone close to me, and I wanted to get a semblance of what it’s like to know they are never going to come back, and that what you shared last is going to be your lasting memory of them. It scared me, to be honest, and I spent the rest of the day thinking about how best to make sure I let the people I love, know they are loved.
Let the people you love, know they are loved. Life is such a rare thing, so beautiful, so fleeting, so special, we forget how short it can be.
I wrote this listening to Xxxtentacions’s ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’.