Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

Yesterday.

Image result for yesterday today and tomorrowThe hospital has become my every evening chill out place lately. It has taught me how to appreciate my health and life in profound ways. I am starting to get used to the fact that death is a close reality. But my boy is all good. There is CAN in CANcer, he says. And so he can handle it.

I recently started keeping a diary for him. When the storm is all over, I plan to tell him how much of a difference he has made in my life in the last couple of months. He has taught me how to love, laugh, and endure. I have learned how to care. After the prognosis, I was at a loss. We all were. Cancer had struck right home. I cannot say that I have had a moment’s peace after that. Most of the time, I am on the net reading about bone cancer, and cancer in general, how to deal with it, what to eat and what sort of talk the patients want to hear. He has lost weight considerably over the last months and this hurts me.  Just the other day, I  started online tutorials on how to give a massage: my daily duty to him! And while at this daily duty, every single day,  I look at him and realize just how fast things can change.

His name is Bob! My favorite peer cousin and a cancer warrior. The tumour has been getting worse by the day. Massaging it has been getting harder by the day, it scares me even. Nowadays, I faithfully wear glasses to conceal my tear struck eyes most of the time. He is now comfortable with me tagging my friends along. Sometimes, he scrolls through my phone pics and asks if I can tag a specific friend next time, and I do. Always. Despite the pain and the strain that he is going through, he still affords us jokes. He wants us to talk like all is well. I forgot to mention, but he is admitted in a sick ward! Patients here die every day and he dreads it just as much as I do.

Before the clock struck midnight yesterday, he  left for home. For palliative care…

The day between yesterday and today,  I picked a diary entry extract. Of the day after his vein raptured and tore the skin. He bled to near death. I went to see him the next day.

Tuesday 11th October, 2016.

I barely slept yesternight and my eyes are tear struck. Yesterday, his vein burst open, he lost a lot of blood. He is now back in the hospital.  I can’t imagine how he is. Is he in pain? Has he eaten? Has he gotten blood? Is he still bleeding? And a lot of why’s fighting at the back of my head. I can choose to stay here and pretend that all is fine or find a way around it. I take a leap of faith and leave the office. At the hospital, I find him holding up quite well. He is happier than I have seen him in a long time. Talks about his stay home and the kind of pain he has gone through away from the hospital. What is palliative care without a doctor by your side? He glances at his thigh, then at my shy hips and back to his thigh.

“You know this tumour is bigger than you hips now?!” He teases. He adds something to the effect that the stomach has changed its alignment to only feed the cancerous leg and that’s why it’s growing like an elephant. I don’t get it, but I pretend to. As I feed him, he complains that the ward is full of old men. He feels like his life is 30 years ahead, some diseases are not for the young.

Then out of the blues, a priest comes. He has come to give him the sacrament of anointing of the sick, it’s a sacrament for the dying.

“They think I am dying.” He says almost inaudibly. I look at him in shock, struggling to keep it together.

“C’moon, I don’t think so. It’s just a matter of time and you are back on the pitch”. I know he misses football a terrible much.

“Then  why would they be giving me this sacrament now??” He asks, both firmly and with a faint stench of anger.I know him well enough to understand that he is angry with whoever it is that has lost faith in his battle, and at the priest for giving him a premature annointing.

I am also at a loss. It’s the first time reality strikes me real hard from my bubble of blind optimism. The first time I ask myself the what if questions… what if he succumbs? What if he doesn’t make it…what if. Stage 4 might be deadly, but not for him. This whole process and period hurts me he has no idea. But I trust the process, and even more, I trust in his fighting spirit.

***      ***

Texas cancer centre came…

Out of all the hospitals you have ever been to, this one has been the most challenging for me to visit.

Either way, I come: still, every day. Cancer patients are special. Next to you is Apolonaire, a fairly old Burundi man. His wife never lets him out of sight. Sometimes we converse in French. She is uncertain that he, Apolonaire, will survive. But all she can do is hope. This kind of love is pure bliss. But she worries more about you, you can barely turn without help. She is sad that cancer started the fight on you at such a tender age. She thinks you are amazing, you talk and laugh despite everything, you breathe positive energy. It’s a ward of 4. Two patients have succumbed in the last few days. But you are determined to live. Chemotherapy just started.

I have been stealing a lot of time to try understand how chemo works, and what options we have. I also seek medical advice from M., he answers all the questions I ask.  I call to ask what is wise, and what is not. Sometimes, I sneak out of the room to talk to him. Ask why you are sweaty, and in pain, and grumpy. What to do, how to do it and when to expect your tumor to disappear. Will it really disappear even?He understands both of us and what we are going through.

But chemo has made you a grumpy boy. I can no longer pick or make calls during my visiting hour. You don’t get why I can’t give you 100% attention. So I choose not to make or receive calls at all. I have been tagging more friends for the evening visits. Nowadays, we all pray together before leaving the ward.  We all have faith in you, we all want you back on your feet. Chemotherapy has given you a kind of pain we never knew existed and it breaks us apart. You tell us that it is burning your entire body in a sort of fire you cannot quite explain. And it also gets you tired and sweaty all day.  We come, see you, get weak but feign strength. But as soon as we step out, we lose ourselves in near despair. How can we not when pain, sweat and more pain is all what we see in the patients?… And now, you have repeatedly told me that you now want the leg amputated. Anything is better than this kind of ache. Then you ask if I will help you get a girlfriend if you only have one leg, petite like Chi preferably. I promise to. 

Today

Image result for accepting deathThings were all good yesterday And then the devil took your memory.

And if you fell to your death today I hope that heaven is your resting place I heard the doctors put your chest in pain,

But then that could have been the medicine,

And now you’re lying in the bed again.

Either way I’ll cry with the rest of them…

…I could look into your eyes Until the sun comes up and we’re wrapped in light and life and love.

Ed sheeran’s Afire Love has been on replay mode for more than an hour.

 ***

Seated by a corner window listening to this jam, over and over again. The sun decided to set in the morning today…and I have to deal with it. I received the news of your demise with repulsion. I feel nauseated and weak….and no, I have refused to accept. Maybe it’s a lie. You are a fighter.. The flight is taking forever, all I want is to get to the hotel and lie down. It will be a tough assignment this one. I uneasily scroll on my phone, back and forth. Our latest photos, our latest chat. But why do I call them latest? Those were the LAST chats that I’d ever have from you, last photos! But how did this happen? It was just the other day.

It feels like yesterday, just the other day when you were recovering from the second surgery, limping and in pain, but recovering well. We both were in agreement that the tumor could not be carcinomas. Your Dad let you drive his car around then, and you behind the wheel looked all good. Then life changed real quick. The swelling started, the admissions started, the complications came and you could not walk anymore. It’s an uncomfortable kind of a memory. I won’t lie that I will be fine, or that I will get used to you being gone, and me being here. It will be a lie. I  feel betrayed to the bone. Death betrays. He ought to have prepared me psychologically that the last visit at the cancer center was the last. Will acceptance of your untimely demise replace denial of your absence?

 

Tomorrow:

Image result for till we meet again

And tomorrow, you will be laid down to eternal rest.  I will try get accustomed to the fact that I do not have you anymore, that I will not have evenings fully booked by you.  I will find a balance between remembering you as a lovely memory of hope and resilience: and a sad memory of the sort of  pain I saw you fight with undying strength. But until then, until I know how to reconcile between your absence and the hopeful anticipation of seeing you again, I will only hope that you found your resting place.

Appreciation to everyone who walked the journey with us. And to my visiting partners, Cii, Drew, Chichi, Lily, Faith, _Serah, Josh, Winnie & all..you made the last days a whole lot more meaningful. To the medical staff, every  effort is deeply appreciated.

Hopefully, we will all find the grace to believe that God’s timing is the best.

 

 

 

 

 

Death beyond death

death“I heard gun shots and fled. We jumped over the fence. The police are here, they are taking us to a safe place in groups of five…”

That was yester morning, Holy Thursday Morning. I was just waking up and still snuggling with my duvet in the chilly dewy morning. Getting out of bed gets really hard in mornings like these, and so I stayed on. Half asleep, quarter in my usual morning fantasies, and quarter listening to the loud news broadcast.

That was what I heard. For all I remember, she sounded calm and composed. From her strong voice, fleeing sounded easy, she sounded calm, and the police were there too. And so I brushed it off with a sigh, they’ll be fine, it’s all well. At that point, I was unaware that the massacre was happening to a University, to students beaming with potential and with a fire so intense to succeed. I did not imagine for a moment that behind the silent voice, were waves of trepidation from a death so close: escaped by a whisker.

I went on with my usual morning fantasies, turning a deaf ear to the worrying news! I was determined not to worry about things I was not in control over, and excited that Easter was finally here. That by his death, he redeemed us. As a child, I had always fancied that my death bed come by somewhere during Easter, so that people would commemorate my death with that of Jesus. Scary, I know! But that was me as a child. Mommie had taught me that death was not bad, it was what happened to good people who needed to rest, eternally. I look back and wonder how I was so calm about the thought of death back then.

Today, I dread it whenever someone walks up to me to break the awful news that they have lost a loved one. I almost always want to run away from being the one comforting them. I lost my childhood friend Dorah to an accident two years ago. Sad!… I still remember the somber conversation with her Mom days after the news were broken… “I always thought my children would be the ones to bury me, she was the warmth here, she was that child I couldn’t wait to see her future, she was my girl, still my small bubbly girl and you know, she was so close to the finish line, it hurts… I stood there listening to the Mom, unsure of how to react. She tried to keep the talk on her bubbly little girl but anguish overcame her. She broke down for the umpteenth time. Dorah was everywhere in her memories, in her call log, in the family photos, in her siblings and all over their home. She was a final year student in the University, they had big dreams for her. It broke us all, her parents being the most affected. Only then did I know the pain of losing a child, an even more, losing a child in the University. It’s a death beyond the normal death, because you will look at their peers progressing through life, making it big in the charts of fame, and wonder what your child would have turned out to be had she lived longer. You will hear of opportunities and wish your baby was there to grab them. Every parent hopes that their child will live to accomplish the dreams that they themselves did not achieve in their youthful days.

The news of the attack at Garissa went on and on. Another terror attack. My whatsapp was flooded with all sorts of condolence messages in the groups, I can’t be too sure how many of us have their loved ones in this massacre. Some angry posts on the alshabaab trickled in, and some cold threats to the Alshabaab if they were responsible. I read through them all, feeling helpless. I am a University student, and this was happening students just like us, perfectly in the same age bracket as us, in the same lecture halls, and in hostels as our hostels here.

The hostels have become our safest homes, and our fondest places to rest. Every day is an excitement to do something new, to catch up with our friends and exchange never ending pleasantries. On a normal day, we wake up to our peers in the corridors, to interactions in the sinks and knocks at your door. A friend just dropping by to wake you up for an early morning class. We wake up and prepare breakfast for two, because you are sure another friend will pop in with hunger pangs, and you will be glad to be the hospitable savior. On your lazy days, you simply walk in next door and delay your chit chat until lunch is ready. We are all full of life. We talk about latest series,movies and bucket lists as though there is an exam for them… In all my years of study, these years here have been the most spectacular. At this point in time, our shared excitement as the next cream of graduates is transition… The aptitudes, interviews and planning for what next after school with your peers is an exciting experience…

Not a single day have I ever woken up scared for my life, or scared that I would walk to the next room only to be greeted by lifeless bodies.The closest I have been to being worried are the days that I doubted myself, days when I got jittery of what next or when I was disappointed. But not a single day did I ever wake up scared that death was a close reality. I plan for tomorrow as though it’s a right, I know I will wake up safe and sound. I cannot even remember the last time I had my Easter death fantasies.

Today is Friday, Good Friday. I woke up to the sad news, 147 people lost their lives. I am worried about their families; it is absolute pain and anguish for them. Chiromo Mortuary is crowded with families unable to contain their ache for the loss of their dear ones.cry I wonder what disturbs them more, the fact that their children were so close to the finish line, or the manner in which they were killed. Are they still trying to call them with baited breath, and at the last ring, going down on their knees in prayer that they will return their call later? Hoping that somehow they survived? Are they looking out at other University students and getting jealous that they are still alive? Envious that their slain sons and daughters would still be walking around with glee and beaming with potential? Are they going to walk the streets a few years from now, and see young people in suits…and immediately start thinking about their children, and the legendary marks they would have made had they lived longer?

I might not know how best to put my condolence in words, I may not even utter any word that will fail to remind the affected families of the gap left behind. The lights of glory will truly welcome the victims to heaven… But to the country, to the citizens so keen to point out hypocrisy in leadership by comparing the westgate attack to the Garissa attack, and to the world that is so quick to judge Kenyans and the government…No amount of criticism and venting will bring the innocent souls back to life. No amount of judgment will save the situation. So, rather than flooding social media with complains and angry vents, take a moment and pray for the country, for insecurity and for the families. Make donations as faithfully as you did during the westgate attack without complaining that the media and the government are not giving the attack the attention it deserves. Because whether we like it or not, we can never be all the same, and all situations can never be given exactly the same degree of attention. The wounds are still so open that any word spoken to fuel the anger only serves as an addition to the open wound.And a nation that violates human rights in the name of fighting terrorism has already joined the terrorists. I leave it at that.