We had to live with the painful reality of counting our remaining days as husband and wife. The medic broke it to us that within three months, my husband will answer the last call of life and walk the last mile. The hospital had failed to defeat the liver cancer that reduced my energetic husband to a mat paramour. Sickness rendered him useless and throbbing with pain.
Yes, I smiled at death this time. Not that the absence of my husband will cause happiness to me, but because my husband would be rescued from the struggle.
“Yes, my darling should rest, but I will walk with him until the last mile to his last home, I will not take the leaves.”
I saw the foliage coming. Yes, Uncle Chibani would be the one to hand over the leaves to me because he was the one who asked my father for a hand in marriage on behalf of my husband. But I would not take the leaves. No! I was planning to stay consumed to the extent that I could not notice the presence of McFord’s mother who came to release me for the night surveillance.
When I arrived home, I gave fake smiles to our two kids who welcomed me with hugs plus a flash of exercise books with open pages of today’s marked work.
“Mom, when we will see dad again?” my boy asked while taking my phone to play a game.
“Wow, this is great Chiyambi, next day, do the calculations properly so you don’t fail mathematics.” I deliberately dodged the question because I could not afford to lie or give them false hope.
McFord was released a month to his death, a thing that pleased all of us. On this day I came from work with McFord’s favourite snack and some chocolates for our two children. We were in the seating room, enjoying our night and little did we know that it was our last month.
“When I see these kids, I see me in them, I see their world crumbling in my absence. But Shira, be strong. Encourage my kids to work hard at school.”
“Bea, what are you talking about?” He was not moved by my question.
“One lesson learnt in this life is the use of time, use time properly because it is the only resource which when lost cannot be reclaimed. My other half, what you will do after me will hurt me when you hurt my kids, do everything but remember these two kids are me. Love them as I did, try to educate them as I wished, let’s pray,”
We joined hands while standing with our kids at the centre of the room. And the last words that McFord said were “Amen”. When he said amen, all I saw was a lifeless body falling down, hitting the cake chair corner.
On the day of the burial, the church ceremony happened with a heavy heart. I saw McFord’s face for the last time when the viewing ceremony time came. When I saw the face, Uncle Chibani came with a bunch of Umbalache leaves to give me as a sign of hope and unity with my husband.
According to our culture ,women were not allowed to go to the burial ceremonies even when their husbands die. When a husband dies the wife is given Umbalache leaves that were planted at the couple’s matrimonial room and the leaves could not grow nor die. This was a sign that the couple was still together in the spirit.
My legs started to vibrate and my pulse increased as uncle was descending.
“Uncle, I’m not taking the leaves,”
“I married my husband, not leaves,”
“Take the leaves for your own peace woman,”
“No, and I mean it. This is my husband, I cared for him, loved him and trusted him,”
“I said take the leaves, you are delaying the ceremony, Ma Chiya”
“I’m not taking the leaves, take the leaves and bury them together with him. I will go with you to the grave and give my last handshake to my husband. Take it or leave it, but I’m going,”
“It’s an abomination for a woman to attend a burial ceremony, do you want to be cursed?”
“By who? Curse or no curse but I’m going with you, who am I not to burry my husband? Is it because I am woman? And you think you can just give me these leaves? No, I cannot replace my husband with leaves. I’m going to the cemetery and we will all give our last respect and return home with heavy hearts, not leaves, not in this life.”
Sweat was oozing from my face and I could feel the liver of sweat in my armpits.
We started off to the grave and all eyes were on me. My strength defeated my fear, I walked with tense determination. I could not turn back. My eyes were fixed on my husband’s coffin. At the grave two things were of focus, me and the coffin. The elders looked at me in incredulity.
When the wreath ceremony started, no one mentioned my name. I smartly moved my joints to the tomb, folded my hands to the small hill. I briskly raised them to the grave with tears. For ever, I will not see McFord.
Tell us: What do you think of how Ma Chiya stood up to Uncle Chibani?