11th March and Moving On…


Death comes Unexpectedly! Those are the words from a scene from “Pollyana” a best selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children’s literature and was adapted to screen in the 1960’s film of the same title. The scene is so vivid in my mind, a priest yelling the words to a frightened congregation. Terrible and morbid as it may seem, it is as true and sure as age and taxes.   They say losing a loved one is the worst form of grief, I think grief cannot be measured in general. The loss of a childhood pet, the loss of a lover of two weeks or of two decades, it is, every time, heart wrenching and for me, time seemed to come to a complete stop. I have two photos in front of me, one is of my dad, In this picture he’s wearing a red two piece, shorts and a shirt with a picture of Donald duck, and the winner smile he blessed me with. He is with my uncle, who was one of his closest friends, the other is of my sister , Antoinette or Tony who’s wearing a grey tank top and grey skirt. Both of them died prematurely, unexpectedly, but then, who ever dies at the right time?                                  The 11th of March is really about my sister. Tony was full of life, vivacious, sometimes petty but always willing to give everything an extra push. It seems unfair to even have to write about her death. Wish I had taken the time to write about her life. Losing someone is never easy. Even when it happens slowly and right before your eyes, it stings and it hurts, more like a direct stab to your heart. It’s also the kind of thing you think happens to other people, somewhere else. When it happens to you, it’s all so unfair. But when is the end of any human life ever fair? And to whom is it ever fair?

Death is something we will never understand but have to reckon with at some point.

I had spoken to Tony just hours before she died. Do you think maybe I could have gotten some kind of spiritual hint that that was the last time I would ever speak to her? I probably wouldn’t have hang up the phone except to allow the rest of the family to say their goodbyes. Somehow I doubt that would have made it any better.

When I got the news of her death all I remember feeling is a deep sense of emptiness and I began to question everything, why, why, why? Most of all I wanted to know where God was in all this; had he dosed off for a second or momentarily turned he’s back on my sister? Didn’t he know her dreams? Her hopes? I have never felt more abandoned. Never before has silence been so deafening.

I was angry, very angry at God for not answering my questions and I realized that at times of tragedy, man seeks an outlet and for me, God was my target of blame, the ultimate punch bag. God became my figure of blame when I couldn’t make sense of the circumstances around me. Tony was pregnant, with twins, the first ever in our family. She had prepared for twins as most expectant mothers do, matching outfits and two of everything. Grace and Faith were the names we had picked. Sadly, one of the twins died along with her during the birthing process. We named the surviving twin Grace as a reminder that out of this tragedy, there was still grace enough to save one baby. That didn’t make things any better.

On the day of the burial, we passed a park where newlyweds were taking pictures, sealing that day forever. I looked on trying so hard to forget that day. I was trying so hard to run away from the fact that I was burying my sister. I felt angry at the absurdity of life and wondered why it had the audacity to go on like nothing had happened. It wasn’t till we got to the graveyard that I realized that my questions had been answered in the most unpredictable way.

While I was expecting an angel in my dream to tell me she was fine, I instead saw hundreds of graves. Some had dates that told you someone had lived what can be said to be a ‘full ‘life and others told stories of people who lived a few days or months. I had to keep up with my relatives for fear of attending the wrong burial; there were lots of them. I saw the hurt in the eyes of other mourners, much like my own, I heard the moaning and I knew that I wasn’t alone; death had robbed us all. Of course the death of someone means different things to different people and I knew I wasn’t mourning her the same way my mum, her husband or her friends were. But we had one thing in common; we were all mourning.

I buried my sister that day and I took the pastors words to heart and decided to begin to release her. I realized that God is in control, not me. My plans are not his plans and he does not need my permission to fulfill his plans. Nothing escapes him; he is all knowing and all sufficient. Knowing that other people are hurting like you are is not gratification but it helps us refrain from drooping and brooding over our own loss. It helps us to begin the process of moving on.

Once the mourners had cleared the funeral home, I also packed my bags and decided to go back to the town where I work. However, I felt I ought to mourn my sister a little more. Wearing makeup and discarding my chitenge* felt like an insult to her memory but I decided it had to be done; I was going to mourn her for the rest of my life after all.

I think about her every day, her lifeless image is engraved in my memory, her children are a constant reminder of what I’ve lost but also of what I’ve gained; an appreciation of life, a heart to console those who are hurting and a spirit that acknowledges the awesomeness of my creator from whom I came and to whom I will return.

There are a few things that I have learnt about the period of mourning that would be good to note down;

1) Be a source of strength of strength to someone, I had to suppress my grief for the sake of my young sister and my late sisters children.

2) Talk about the good and bad things that remind you of your loved one.

3) Take it as an opportunity to re-examine your own life and make the necessary changes for death, time and chance happen to us all.

There are certain things that one should never do or at least refrain from doing;

1) Never blame yourself. Regardless of what happens, God’s timing is God’s timing.

2) Do not neglect God. We can’t understand him at times but he’s really the most reliable person we have.

3) Do not withdraw from social events, friends or work.

I still struggle to accept that this story is a permanent part of my life now, how can I? I still get tears in my eyes when someone asks me what happened. They say time heals everything but I’m still waiting. A friend of mine lost his brother the other day and I know there are millions of people hurting and asking the same questions I asked, I’m not sure if the same answers would apply to everyone but I’m sure of one thing; Tony was not the first, she certainly won’t be the last but I trust in God’s love to give me and you the peace of mind to trust him completely.

*Chitenge refers to a wrap cloth worn by women during funerals and while executing daily household duties

About amalembo

I am a Zambian living in the United Kingdom, spent nine months in romania and now living in Hampshire...my blog is about my experiences here, there and everywhere
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5 Responses to 11th March and Moving On…

  1. Chazi bana Wando Zane says:

    This writing is so touching aswel as heartwarming. I like the part you say “be a source of strength to someone”. There is always that need!!

  2. Tale says:

    Touching!! Death has certainly been highlighted in my life this year even though i have not lost anyone close to me.
    Our Tony, i remember my sister telling stories of them at Ibenga.

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