The day that my mum “died” for an hour.

One early morning of 1st August 2008, I boarded bus X34 heading to Manchester, and I had just been on the bus for ten minutes when my mobile went beep-beep. Instantly I knew the sound signalled that it’s a message just being received on my phone. In a flash of seconds I pulled my phone from my jean pocket and retrieved the message. It was three-letter sentence but powerful enough to get my body numb. “Was I dreaming?” I wondered with my thought. “Could this be real?” I asked myself again.  I pinched myself hard and a fierce pain sipped through my skin. Yes, I thought I wasn’t dreaming. It was real. With these thoughts I read the message again, which reads: Mum is gone. “What does this mean? Does it mean my mum is dead and I can not see her alive, alive that she can no longer hold me in her hands, no longer hearing her sweet voice again, no longer sharing the love of a mother and a daughter. Oh! God,” I started sobbing hard as the bus rolled towards Manchester.

Whilst grieving my mind floated back to Zimbabwe where mum lived and it had been now six years since I Iast saw her and the only communication we had been using  was the phone. My communication with her was not so frequent because she had to travel 50 miles from the rural area of Wedza to Marondera town where my cousin brother lives with his family. It is on these special occasions when she at least spends two weeks or a month with them, and then I would have a viable communication with her. The last time I spoke to her was six months ago when she had visited my cousin, purposely to be able to speak to me or hear my voice and she would say: “I am very happy that I can hear your voice my daughter, that assures me that you are still alive. When are you coming back to see us?”  I would answer her back “Oh mum! When my immigration matters are sorted out I would come back to you. I love you mum.” Now reality had struck, my mother was no more. I started to remember all the good days that I had shared with my mum as I grew up. We were virtually inseparable. They were times when my mum would strap me on her back and she would walk a long distance whilst I was fidgeting on her back. Whenever my mum goes somewhere and leaving me behind, I would eventually know the reward, she would bring something back it could be some sweets, a new dress or a book to read. It was very rare of her to leave me behind.

One day when I was about five years old, she left me with other children and she told me she was going to return early. I accepted but inside I was yearning to be with her. In simpler terms it basically means I was emotionally attached to my mum that I did not bear seeing her going and leaving me behind. I used to tell her that when she dies I would be buried with her. I couldn’t imagine a life without my mum. On that day after she left I launched a plan to follow her without telling any of the children. Secretly, I manoeuvred away from them and started to trek after my mother. I climbed a nearby mountain and followed a stony pathway, which was canopied with green leaves. I was enveloped along the way like a tiny seed. Nothing of fear visited me until I was exposed to an open ground. I started to follow a wide, dust, gravel and a meandering road.  It was then when I saw an army vehicle, packed with soldiers hanging their guns out. Out of fear I started to cry calling for my mum but unfortunately she was nowhere, but somewhere from a distance someone heard my cries and I saw an old lady running towards me, her hands wide and open. Once she got closer to me, she scooped me into her hands. Astonishingly she even knew who I was and even my parents. She consoled me. In a short time my hands were full of sweets. The sweets she had taken from her son’s shop.  On her portable radio she played lullaby songs and consciously they send me to sleep.

With these thoughts I groaned in pain, and unknowingly my sobbing on the bus had disturbed other passengers who did not know what had happened to me. “ What’s the matter?” enquired one of the lady passengers who were just sitting in front of me. “My mum died,” I replied her. “Oh! I am sorry. Where did she died?” she enquired politely. “In Zimbabwe,” I said. The woman became very friendly and caring that she introduced herself to me. “My name is Debra, “ she said. “Euna,” I told her my name. We shook hands and she held me tightly as we alight from the bus, it had already arrived at Piccadilly Gardens bus station in Manchester. My tears were still rolling down and several people, who saw me on that rush hour, were emotionally disturbed even though I was a stranger to them. My facial expression had told them volumes of my sorrow. “Lets go to the café,” I heard Debra asking. Silently I followed her.  We went to the café, which was just few yards from the bus station. “Take a sit, Euna. Can I buy tea or coffee for you?” she asked. “Coffee,” I said. Inwardly I did not want anything to do with food or a drink. I accepted it as a polite gesture knowing it’s very rare to meet a stranger such as Debra who offers a genuine support and a tender loving care at the time of difficulties. In a couple of minutes Debra was back holding one cup of coffee in her hands. “Here is your Coffee. I know this coffee would not do much to what you are going through, but I want you settle down first and then you can clearly make your plans,” she said calmly. “Thank you, Debra,” I whispered. “Sorry, Euna, I am not going to stay with you for a long time, I am now going to my work. Here is my phone number”. She scribbled quickly on a small piece of paper and gave it to me. “If you need any help, please do not hesitate to phone me,” she added. I expressed my gratitude to her, then, Debra, left.

Sitting alone on the table, in the café shop, I noticed I had not touched the coffee and it was getting cold when I started moving towards the exit, I had a plan, I wanted to top up my mobile first and then inform all my friends of what had befallen me. I left the café and went to a nearest cash machine and withdrew £20. After that I went to an off-licence shop where I bought £10 top up virgin voucher and topped up my phone immediately. I started to send messages of my mum’s deaths to closet friends and people from our church. I started to receive condolence messages and they were flooding in like water, and some people tried to speak to me over the phone but my voice had already gone and only I could do, was to whisper.

Then suddenly something clicked in my mind, I decided to phone the person who had sent the message about my mum’s death. On my phone it had indicated as a new number that meant the sender’s name was not in my phone book. My initial thoughts were that my sister-in law who lives in London was the one who could have sent the message since she was only my immediate relative.

I dialled the number; first it went to voice mail. Later I tried again and I was answered with a familiar voice but it was not my sister-in –law’s voice but my friend, Memory, (not her real name) who also lives in London. Then I sensed immediately something must be wrong. “How can Memory be the first to receive message about my mum’s funeral?” I struggled with my conscience before I asked her. “Memory, I got your message. Tell me, whose mum is dead?” I asked her. “My mum, I mean my mum’s elder sister passed away last night,” Memory answered back.Then, I realised it was not my mum who had passed away but it was my friend’s aunt.

 In our Shona culture it’s normal to call your mother ‘s elder or younger sister as your “mum” and it also applies to man, the male siblings of your father’s family you can call them “father”. It’s not automatically reinforced but it’s a way of showing respect to your elders. As for Memory, this aunt was for surely her mother and she was only the surviving member from her mother’s family. Her aunt had taken her role seriously as her mother after Memory’s biological mother passed away. This aunt had a special place in my friend’s heart because; even on Memory’s wedding day, I remembered well that she was very supportive and handled her role as a mother pretty well.

In a nutshell, I was relieved that my mum was not dead but alive and at the same time I felt sorry for my friend knowing she had no one to call mum. I conveyed my condolences to her and we spoke for a long time on the phone. It taught me not to take things for granted and value each day as it goes by day. I still haven’t seen my mum yet but I always ask to the Creator of heavens and earth to protect us well until we meet each other physically.



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