She continues. “Then one Morning, the old woman didn’t wake up. I remember how cold she was next to me, on our mat. And mind you it was a blazing hot summer. My mother was already up and outside, singing, and making noise. I shook the woman up several times, she just Laid there, still and stiff. It still didn’t occur to me what might be happening. I took a two-ply blanket, and covered the old woman with it.
Four hours later, I was coming back from the stream; from the distance I could see that the yard was full of people. I walked on, then it just suddenly registered, that the old woman had died. I was so shocked that I nearly stumbled. So as I was walking towards the yard, I realized that my mother was within that crowd, her hands and feet fastened with ropes, she was laughing and singing and everything that a mad person would do you know. I don’t know when and how the bucket of water fell from my head, all I remember is running towards the crowd, wet, and light.
As I came closer and closer, I realized that People were shouting “burn the witch burn the witch”. I think my running was too slow, I was too late. Paraffin and some black liquid had already been poured all over her. My feet stopped suddenly, everything else was just a slow motion and some kind of a nightmare.”
She laughs a little, a dry, empty and silent laughter. No Laughter at all. Something too painful, but carnally identical to laughter.
“I can’t believe I’m Sitting here, telling you all this.” Then she keeps quiet. She sighs then she continues.
“I remember how a huge flame rose up. She was in there! Burning! How could a community accuse a mad woman or murder? I remember her breaking the ropes but it was too late. She was fire.”
She looks at Luhle, then back at the fireplace, her eyes are now red, and a stream of tears runs through her face.
Luhle is vibrating in her silent cry, trying to look strong enough for Tabitha.
She continues, “Members of the community left, one by one, until sunset. I remember crawling powerlessly towards the remains of… Of my… Of the fire. Of My mother. It was only I and the ashes. I remember praying over the ashes. I begged and begged that they be returned to life.”
Tabitha starts crying uncontrollably. Her whole body is shaking. Luhle’s face is buried into her pillow, she allows herself to cry now when Tabitha isn’t seeing her.
After a few minutes, Tabitha continues.
“I was only a child, what did I know about the impossibility of my wishes? I remember running the whole night until I couldn’t remember I was alive. The next thing I woke up in a Hospital. I was told that it’s in Pietermaritzburg. Later on I was taken by a certain Nurse to her own home. I was so damaged that I was only a breathing creature. Nothing more. She gave up on me and threw me out. From then on, all I ever did was stay from house to house, I’d escape rapes, false accusations, abuse, all I ever wanted was to finish school. And by Grace of God I did.
I got a bursary, I studied, it wasn’t easy, there were holidays where I’d have nowhere to go because my friends would eventually get tired of taking me to their homes, but I knew what I wanted, I knew what I had to do to make it. Then there’s this thing of always being falsely accused. Sometimes I got nothing to say because I know nothing will make it better. If it is some sort of some bitter cup that God wants me to endure, to learn something from, then let it be so. Sometimes it seems like it will never end, my very own mother was killed, burnt because of falsely accusations. It’s a long story how I met your father, and everything that happened after that. You were here, you witnessed how I lost my children.
I can tell you about my life until tomorrow morning, but now you do know right? I have healed you know, I am well.”
“How come Tabitha… How come you heal so easy especially in the events where you lost my siblings. I mean four of them!”
“Sometimes Luhle you’ve got to see the purpose behind the pain. You’re right, it is slightly impossible to heal completely from loss, but you know what, some things you’ve got understand. Your siblings belonged to God more than they belonged to us. I’m not saying God is cruel, but he is rather more loving and gentle. A caring man. Look how your family hates me. My own husband’s family! Let’s say I die now, shortly after your dad, what would be happening to them now? You’re a baby yourself; you wouldn’t be able to protect them. I had to woman up and understand why all this happened. Not everything is about me. I may have felt the pain of being given, then later…”
Her voice starts cracking again, she sniffs constantly, and she squeezes hungrily the pillow
“Then later losing what had been given to me. But I had to understand that as the word says in Isaiah, God is able to protect someone by taking them before their time. It hurts I tell you, it cuts you to…” she sighs deeply, “but you know ,it is well now, honestly”
“Talking about protection… is that why you fought so hard that I move this side with you and dad?”
“Baby…” she turns and looks at Luhle, “I can go through hell and furious oceans to protect a child from half the pain I’ve been through.”
Luhle moves to sit closer to her, “You are so amazing Mom, so uniquely amazing.” Tabitha loves it so much when Luhle calls her by name, and when she calls her Mom she feels honored. But today there’s just something different about how she says Mom. It’s weightier and meaningful. Indeed being a mother is more than what meets the eye. The word mother is not just a definition of a woman who’s been into the labour ward. A barren woman can mother so well than a mother with ten children.
They nod off while cuddling.