The morning is sunny and glorious. Thembi has spoken with Ntombi but she just couldn’t say the actual words she wanted to say to her daughter – that the end was near, and inevitable. Thembi has accepted her demise; she has conquered her fear of death. She feels she is preparing for what will soon happen by having Sibusiso around. She knows her brother will look after her ‘babies’ when she dies.
“Lungani can go to hell for all I care,” she curses her estranged husband under her breath. “But what about me? Am I also going to hell for feeling this bitterness?”
The heat blasted in by the morning sun has made her wonder about hell. Memories of the pastor from her church describing the heat in hell are clear in her mind. His words are also crisp in her recollection.
“Repent now! You must repent! Repent or the devil will turn you side to side and roast you in his furnace!”
The sun is high up in the sky. Big dark clouds approach slowly from the rugged mountainous horizon. The heat soon reaches the maximum temperature of the day. Sunrays blast relentlessly on the metal roof of Thembi’s shack. She imagines her shack becoming the furnace of hell.
Thembi perspires on her bed. Ntombi keeps wiping off sweat from her mother’s pale face.
“We should take you outside. At least there is a breeze outside and the shade of the mango tree. It’s not as hot as in here!” says Sibusiso.
“No, I’ll be fine here,” says Thembi.
Sibusiso bends down and pulls the folded sponge mat from under the bed. He spreads it on the floor and says, “I don’t understand why you have to be so stubborn, Thembi. This heat inside here cannot be good for your fever.”
Thembi doesn’t answer. Sibusiso sighs. He remembers that Sipho is outside, under the mango tree, drawing something on the ground with a stick. Perhaps Thembi doesn’t want her son to see her the way she is.
“Well the least we can do is to help you get onto the floor; it is cooler down here.”
“Okay,” Thembi nods.
“Ntombi, help me get your mother onto the floor,” says Sibusiso.
Ntombi places the facecloth next to the jug on the side table next to the bed. Her eyes fill with tears as she helps Sibusiso to carry her mother to the sponge mat. She can feel that Thembi is the lightest she has ever been since her illness began. Ntombi’s eyes fill with fear on top of her tears because she has never seen her mother or anyone else this frail.
Thembi lies on her back. She constantly asks for water to soothe her parched throat. Ntombi is assaulted by a deep sadness. She doesn’t want to cry in front of her mother and uncle so she runs outside and sits next to Sipho under the shade of the mango tree.
She wipes her tears and looks at Sipho’s drawing in the sand. “What are you drawing, Sipho?”
“It’s my car and there’s mommy in it. I’ll buy it for her when I grow up.”
Ntombi smiles but deep inside, her heart is breaking into a thousand pieces.
Tell us: Do you think it’s important for people to share how they are feeling when someone they love is dying? Why/Why not?