He is not here

The end of a rope. I have not had an occasion to run out of rope. However, we did run out of road this one time. Hilarious right! So we were cruising on Mombasa road heading back to Malindi, and part of that road was so bad, you didn’t know whether you were on the road or off the road. Well, not quite. It was really bumpy, so at one point, we noticed how smooth it has gotten. Only to hear our driver say, “oops, we run out of road!” We were driving on the shoulders at that point. He quickly course corrected and we were back to our jostling.

Not so many situations are this great. Most of the Hallmark movies have a scene where the family of the patient are in the waiting room and the surgeon walks in, still in his scrubs,and says ‘Doctors have done all they can… but he/she didn’t make it!’ Hearts broken. Sad theme music. And it’s done. You may rewind but you will always get back to that point and the doctor will walk to the waiting room in his scrubs. There is a finality about death.

Then there was COVID and the dynamics changed completely. No more wakes. No more ashes to ashes and dust to dust by the grave side. No more laying wreaths on caskets. No more viewing the body. Just the ‘angels’ coming in, spraying their paths with chloroquine. And ensuring everyone stays far away. Strangers burying a strangers. Loved ones estranged. There is a stillness about death.l

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Early, one Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary made her way to the tomb to finish dressing the body of her Rabbi, Jesus. She finds the tomb empty and goes back to tell Simon Peter. Simon and John run to the tomb, to find indeed it is as she said. They return to their homes. The emptiness of this phrase points to the hollowness of death. Mary remains in the garden distraught, weeping and recounting the same phrase as grief is bound to do. The angels ask why she is weeping. They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him. Even after the angels have told her. She looks up to see someone and in her grief, she recounts the same phrase for him.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

John 20:15 NKJV

Mary’s pain is raw. The raw pain missed in Hallmark movies. I was hurrying to the hospital when the call came, it was my dad. He calmly asked where I was and I told him I was rushing to the hospital and apologized because I was so late. I cannot remember anything else he said, but I do recall that he told me mummy passed away in the early hours of the morning. Ohhhh, those words cut through my brain like a butcher’s knife. Right to my physical heart, the only response was a loud wail. I stopped the car in the middle of the road. I felt the sun had to stop rising and darkness should come and cover me. But it did not. I felt like my life was over but it was not. I just kept repeating over and over, mummy has passed on. It void statement. It was devoid of meaning. Because what was a world without a mummy. From the day of my birth, mummy had been there. When I cried, I would cry for my mummy. When I was in labour, my mummy was there. Now in the moment that was like the worst, she was not there. There is a loneliness about death.

Jesus, just like He did for Mary, whispered, ‘Dora, why are you weeping?’ She is not here. She is risen. May hope arise dear reader in your heart. The One who is the Resurrection and the Life. The One who is the firstborn over all creation. He is not dead, He is Alive. Because He lives you can face anything. Look to Him, He is your Lifeline and Waymaker.

A celebration of my midwife: Sorry, I didn’t get your name

My gynaecologist, Dr Biryabarema had given instructions that I should check in on 7th November, whether or not I was in labour. Both my sons, as described by my brother, seemed to enjoy 1st class facilities in my womb and they never arrived on their due dates. This was the case that morning.

We arrived to a very quiet Ward 5&6, at Mulago Hospital. This was rare but there we were. I plonked myself on the bench and waited for the doctor. She came sweeping in a few minutes later, she never walks, she kind of glides through that hospital. She saw me, paused, greeted us mid-glide and off she went to begin admissions.

The ward was full so I was taken directly into the labour room as we waited for a bed or room. My things would have to remain in the car, I had my little (light enough to fit in aircraft hand luggage) emergency bag, so I had all I needed until the baby arrived. Triage. Bed next to window. No more eating. Only black tea. You know the drill. Aye, aye, Captain.

The midwife, burst in and started to check on the patients. I could not see her but I could hear her frenzied movements. One of the ladies was having a difficult labour, she needed to be prepped for theatre. The one next to me was progressing well. Nothing was happening on my side, so I was to be induced, no use being in the labour ward doing nothing. This is not a resort. With such swift efficiency, she had identified the vein (usually takes about 20 minutes for any vein to show up on my arm) and connected it to the line. Off she went.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When she returned, a few minutes later with a colleague from another ward. She gave her instructions on what to do while she prepped herself for theatre. Apparently, the other nurses and midwives had not shown up for duty and she was on duty alone. I was not a risk, she was to keep checking on how the contractions were progressing. She was to monitor the lady next to me keenly to ensure that nothing went wrong. Right? Right? Scrubs on. She moved to surgery with the lady opposite me.

My faithful labour ward companion showed up and the stories started. Laughter and jokes. Catching up on the news. She remembered she had an Auntie who was a nurse. She left to go check on her. On their return, they found the fill in nurse and both agreed I was still far from active labour. I should take it easy, drink more black tea and rest if I felt tired. It was starting to sound like a resort after all.

The mid wife came back, this time she is on phone checking on how far her child is in the queue to see the doctor. She had left her baby with the maid in a queue in the Paediatric clinic. Her maid also needed to go queue up in the eye clinic before it closed. She ceased to be the midwife and became a mother, a wife, a woman to me. Well, she didn’t have time for that, my neighbor had to be rushed for an emergency C-section. Back to theatre.

My mum came in, and another round of stories started and more jokes. I had some slight pain but not discomforting and neither was it electrifying. Our auntie Sister passes by and finds me laughing with everyone, ‘you are still laughing, you are not about!’ She smiles and leaves.

‘Madam, you were not feeling the baby’s head?’, the midwife asked after taking a peak in between my legs. Is that what it was? I thought to myself. ‘Eh, your baby is ready to come out, prepare to bear down,’ she exclaims as she snaps on a fresh pair of gloves. ‘What does bear down mean again? I wonder. ‘Wama, mummy ono jangu omuyambe aterere, tugenda kuzala kati, omutwe gwa baby guguno’. My mum, woke up as if from slumber, gave quick instructions and at once l was ready. Did I mention my mother gave birth to my baby brother at home by herself? So there we are, from smiling to active labour. My husband and faithful companion had gone to bring up the luggage, we had found a room. Boy, were they in for the shock of their lives.

‘Ok, on the count of three, push’. I pushed. ‘Ok hold it, there is something obstructing the baby:. I thank God that at this time, the nerves go on some vacation and it’s only the contractions that I could feel. Her hands go in and out comes my baby.

The cord had been wrapped round his neck, she had unwound it. I pushed and out he came with such force and a loud cry. She quickly rushed him off. Following closely at her heels, was my mother aka Kaaka to my son, Baby Joe. She run the APGAR assessment and he scored highly. Ever the calm baby, he cried a bit and slept off.

She returned for what we describe as the second labour. The delivery of the placenta. The placenta had been severed from my baby but not from me. Now it had to be torn from my womb. With a few twists and turns, it started to severe and finally it was out. She put it away and cleaned up all the blood. Within micro seconds, the room was back to normal. No bloody mess, just one exhausted mum. My faithful companion walks in to let me know that the room had been allocated and was ready. She inquired, ‘how far?’ lol. I asked her whether she hadn’t seen my mum with a baby. :Eeehhh’, she exclaimed!

I don’t remember the name of my midwife. I will remember the waiter with the tag. I will remember the boda boda guy who told me his name. But I will not remember the name of the lady who saved me and my baby. Maybe I should have been more conscious of others than I was of my pain. For all the what ifs, I still did not get her name and for that I am sorry.

Thank you dear midwives for your care and love.

5 years

It’s been five years since I last heard your voice. What was it’s pitch? How did you inflect? How did you Intonate?

It’s been five years since I last heard you sing. Sometimes strumming an imaginary violin. Sometimes conducting an imaginary orchestra. Sometimes high pitched. Sometimes in Rukiga.

It’s been five years since I looked into your eyes. What color were they? How they popped out as you told us animated stories?

It’s been five years since you smiled at me. What was that curl in your lips? What was the sound of your smile?

It’s been five years since you called my name. Dora.

It’s been five years since your number rang on my phone. It’s been a long since mummy lit up my screen.

Five. 5. V.

A lifetime or a number.

A shift or a permutation.

The gap, the void it remains.

A mummy shaped hole that only you filled.

Do not be disheartened.

The Lord is with you.

I am grateful and thankful.

Thank you for being my mummy.

Thank you for teaching me compassion.

Thank you for surrounding me with virtuous women.

Thank you for watching over me like a hawk.

Thank you for good food;

Thank you for good music;

Thank you for fashion;

Thank you for keeping it real.

Thank you for good grooming.

Thank you for supporting me to the utmost.

Thank you for leading me to Jesus.

Nsiimye