I recently heard about the passing of a friend thrice removed. Being thrice removed insulated me from most of the pain, anguish and confusion the family and closer friends would be going through.
There is always that pain and anguish we feel when we lose someone close, someone dear; a parent, a child, a friend, a sibling. In her case she was all of these to different people.
How do you explain a mother’s passing away to a one-year old? The loss of a daughter to a mother? What do you say to the grief stricken family?
I can tell you for free, it’s not easy.
A friend of many years had been told by doctors that his wife could never conceive. Different doctors gave different long winded explanation. They gave blood, he gave semen, they viewed pictures and reviewed charts. In the end it was usually the same verdict they had heard before: his wife could never conceive.
They accepted their lot and lived their lives for each other and the people around them. Nephews and nieces, for these they have a carton, preferred to vacation at their house. Their house was always crawling with people during the holidays.
When a year ago, they announced that she was pregnant, it felt like Christmas. We were all so happy for them. She glowed and radiated a light some needed sunglasses to look at, and he just beamed and floated through the days at work, racing straight home to his wife after. She took things easy, ate healthy, went for her check ups regularly, and he would not let her lift her fingers to do anything.
Their joy was complete.
‘She lost the baby.’
I read those four words over and over again, not comprehending. My life bottomed out and I felt like someone was sucking all the oxygen out of me.
‘No!’ I finally typed.
‘Very sad….God knows best abi?’ He sent me.
‘So they say. What do I know? I won’t even try to drown you in faith speak…’ I replied him.
I was just quiet, and sad, and weak.
A year has come and gone and we all carry on, still each time I remember, I send them each a couple of hug smileys.
Two days ago, I was visiting a colleague when her mother came home. She had barely sat down when her phone rang: an elderly uncle of hers had just suffered a stroke. She had been called because she is a nurse.
She quickly got a few things together, giving instructions to the caller over the phone as she got ready. Less than five minutes later, she was gone.
I called that colleague this morning because we planned on going swimming today, and she told me we had to first go and deliver some more items to her mom.
On the way she told me how her uncle, aged 76, had survived the stroke only for his son-in-law, aged 52, to pass on the night before. And no one knew how to break the news to Baba.
Throughout the drive she kept muttering, and when we got to the house, it was a sombre mood that greeted us. Mercifully, since some much older relatives came around, Baba had been told. They said he took it quite well.
It was there that we learnt that the in-law who died had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. At least that is what the doctor who pronounced him dead on arrival at the hospital suspected.
They said he was hypertensive and went for check ups from time to time, but he never got his medication reviewed.
In a lot of the deaths that I know, speculations are rife and a lot of questions are asked. Some people turn to science. Medicine can answer most of these questions, science can supply what else is missing – most of the time.
We want the truth, we want closure but then not a lot of people can handle whatever truth, so we find those who turn to religion and faith.
“God gives and God takes”, “If God did not will it, it wouldn’t have happened”, “God knows best”.
PS: When people are grieving and they turn to you, sometimes they do not need your version of the truth, nor do they need you to shove God down their throats. Sometimes, they just want you to sit there with them with your mouth closed and your heart open so that they know you are trying to understand, in your own way, how they feel, and more importantly, that you are there for them.