It’s been 3 years since Auntie Melissa died. Three years and I still do not know how she died. Not that knowing will change the fact that she doesn’t live in these parts anymore but I really wanted to know how she left. Did she struggle? Did it happen while she was asleep? Was she found in that state or she left in the presence of people she loved? What was the last thing she said before leaving? These questions and more plague my mind every time I think about her but I have no idea who to ask.
I remember the day I heard the news. I broke down right there under the tree behind Hall 7. I knew it. I had a gut feeling all wasn’t well. It was quite obvious when I called two weeks before I heard the news. A young lady responded. She said she had Aunt Melissa’s phone but wasn’t at the hospital yet. She said she was going to call me when she got there and that was very unusual. Aunt Melissa always had that phone. I called again that evening. The young lady said she was at the hospital now but Aunt Melissa was asleep. Asleep indeed.
I remember very well the last time I saw her. I had gone to visit at the hospital. I thought I was late but I got there and the others hadn’t arrived. We spent the time alone talking about her and what exactly was happening to her body. And why she wouldn’t tell us. It broke my heart a bit when she said all her trips to the hospital were battles against cancer. This same Aunt Melissa that answered in the negative when I asked if she had had chemo because she was wearing her hair unusually short when I returned from school after my first semester of Uni. This same Aunt Melissa that asked me what chemo was and how I learned about it was now confessing she had been battling cancer the entire time. I saw the others through the window when she was talking about her son Sena; the one who was living his name and being God’s gift to her. I stepped out to show them where Aunt Melissa was. We spent about two minutes out there assuring the nurses that our friend, Aunt Melissa was expecting us all.
It was all smiles, laughter, exchange of how-are-yous and I’m fines and confessions of “I miss you, Aunt Melissa” when we got in. Then she asked about boyfriends and girlfriends and before we knew we were having a conversation about relationships and marriage. I still do not know and understand why she didn’t ask me if I was in a relationship.
“Ahaa so Aunt Melissa what exactly is going on? Why do you keep coming back to the hospital?” Aseye had asked. The question I would have yearned an answer for if I hadn’t already had that conversation with Aunt Melissa. The Aunt Melissa we know did exactly what she does every time the question about her health comes up, except this time she coughed amidst the laughter. She held still as if to prepare herself and us for all that she was going to explain, “I hadn’t been well for some time and so daddy took me to the hospital.” She smiled faintly and continued. “They said I had fluids in my lungs and then got rid of it. But they made me stay at the hospital until they thought I was well enough to be discharged.” And with a hint of sadness mildly moulding her face she concluded, “Barely ten days after, the symptoms resurfaced. And now here I am.” If sighs could make music I bet anyone could put words to what we collectively expressed and create a hitmaker.
Aunt Melissa resumed, “Three days ago I tried walking to the bathroom and fell. And when I couldn’t get up that’s when I knew there was trouble.” She looked across our faces and added, “Later, the doctor had said I had lost sensation in my lower body. But I am actually fine. I feel fine. It is just physiotherapy that is keeping me here.
I believed her. She looked really fine. She looked like all that was left was for her to regain sensation in her lower body and then she could go home. She looked like she was never going to have water fill up her lungs ever again. That evening, the nurses had sent us away with the ever mechanical, “Its time for her to take her meds.” I made a mental note to come by again before leaving for school. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Even though I had made time to visit Yoosi who lived about six minutes away from the hospital.
Today I am here at the same hospital. I am here to see Owiredua. The adventurous I-will-do-all-it-takes-to-get-it-if-I-want-it Owiredua. The soft-hearted Owiredua. Owiredua that understands my struggles. The Owiredua that pats my back and gives me the cold shoulder when the need be. She had broken down again and the doctors still can’t tell what exactly is happening in her body. She looks tired but she says she’s fine. I believe her.
We’ve been talking and laughing about everything and nothing for some two hours now. It’s past six and I can see the nurses approaching. One of them informs me, “Hello, it’s past visiting hours. We need to give her her meds now.”
“You can do that while I’m here. I am family. She’s my sister. I can’t leave until our dad gets here.” I replied smiling.
But Owiredua holds my hand and assures me, “Toni, its okay. I will be fine. I will be out of here before you know it. You can come by before you leave for Takoradi. I will be here. I promise.”
“I believe you Owiredua.” I affirmed. “We have a lot to catch up on. See you tomorrow.”
Yoosi brought my phone to the balcony. He said it had been ringing for some time now. I checked and it was Owiredua’s dad. I called back and could hear sobs in the background. The voices in my head screamed “end the call” but I didn’t.
I’m so sorry Toni, Owiredua is gone. She just left.
I heaved a sigh and ended the call. I asked Yoosi to drive me to the hospital. Yoosi wore a look of confusion and concern. Confused about my reaction and concerned probably because he was so sure there was so much going on in my head. The short ride was a very silent one.
Its half past 10. Owiredua is still in the bed. She seems to be wearing a smile on her face. What is it with people I love and leaving earth with smiles on their faces? Owiredua left without giving me a hug. Owiredua. My Owiredua that always kept her word, left when she promised I will see her tomorrow.
Owiredua is gone and I will have to live wondering how she too left.