Broken Rosary

By Sifa Remmy

Mama has always been overly pious and heeding to her call meant prayers from different men of cloth of various sects.Well,If such meant to put a smile on her face or grant her good health then so be it.Hence, when mama calls ,each one of us is forced to board the next bus to the village.None of us has options other than to capitulate.

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We gather around Mama’s bed where she lay frail.She is delighted to see her entire family and for a moment you could see a sweet and beautiful expression of countenance ,a smile full of tenderness across her face.Closer to her is the Man of God who has his entire palm stretched out over Mama’s head.Staring back at Mama ,I see how her skin is pale.There is no color in her lips.I know she is loosing it.What scares me the most is the dread in her eyes.What is she afraid of?Is she worried when blood will drip from her nose after the chemotherapy?Is she worried about leaving her own life or that of her children?I can feel loss lurking on the surface and it’s inevitable.Does she know about her prognosis? How does she want to die?

Whilst trying to shake off these thoughts,I am immediately drawn to the noise around me.Everyone has their eyes closed.The man of God is praying fervently,sweat trickling down his nose.His voice is high pitch cutting through the air .I stare up at the sterile white ceiling thinking that it would fall from the intensity of the prayers.He continues to pray invoking the name of God,then the deities of the land to the spirits of our forefathers. He calls for healing upon Mama .He calls for healing throughout the world.He deviates to pray for war in Ukraine.He is back at Mama’s health then suddenly shifts to pray for manna for the hungry children of Africa.I hate that he begins to sound a little gibberish as I am confused by the complexity of his prayer. I hate that when everyone opens their eyes there would be nothing to see.Mama would still be in a deplorable state.However, I would rather tap in the faith of this man for my own ,is a haul up of dark thoughts.

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There is a chemical build up in the dying body forming a horrible stench.The body crawls with ants and maggots,eyes gouged out, tongue being devoured by worms and limbs rotted.I am jolted from my sleep confused ,anxious and terrified because of the dream I just had.Whose body is it anyway? I cannot help but wonder what unforseen evil lurks in the depths of my mind.Immediately, there is a certain discomfort at the pit of my stomach.This is not a novelty because I have slipped into such feelings before, long enough to know that there is a storm looming.

Thus,when Nuru calls and it’s 4am in the morning,I let his call go unanswered because I am not ready to face the wave of bad news he may have for me.When Nuru calls in the second time, I am forced to receive his call and when I fail to catch words from his end ,my anxiety is tipped because of the gnawing need to know why he is calling so late in the night.I begin to imagine it has everything to do with Mama . Nuru,my brother has always shouldered the responsibility of providing hospice care to Mama .Hence,the silence from his end becomes a monster on my chest suffocating me slow.

But just then my phone vibrates with an incoming message from Nuru.The message reads ” Mama rushed to hospital come quick”.I knew better to brace myself and anticipate the ugly but my stomach drops anyway.The clock ticks 5pm in the morning and the urgency in Nuru’s message is propelling me fast towards the road to the bus-top.The street is silent and beneath the veil of silence is fear.I hold tight the rosary around my neck as I count whispered prayers and the long strides I am making.I manage to board the first bus to the village and the trip takes longer than usual. I sit inside each minute and feel time crawl and it’s weight pressing on me.I count the beads on my rosary, repeating prayers until I alight.

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Inside the hospital is a mayhem,a confusing swirl of activity.I see Nuru as I walk down the hall .When I approach him, I wrap my hands around his body,pressing him so close until I could hear the frantic heart beat under his chest.He leads me to Mama’s room .There she lies ,her body full of tubes with the only sounds in the room being her labored breathing and the steady drop drop of the infusion dripping from the IV bag. I can feel a wave of internal collapse.A deep seated pain lurching within me.There is a scream at the back of my throat but I take it back ruthlessly .I want to fucking weep but not with Mama on sight .I run to the toilet in the Oncology Unit to cry but I cannot withstand the pong of toxic urine and chemotherapy vomit in there and so I step out. I step out through a deluge of tears but lucky enough to find solace in the prayer room next to Mama’s room.

This room is baked with the heart drenched desperation of the heaviest of tears.The atmosphere is gloomy and holds the constant unpredictability of life and the unfailing nature of God.I begin to read the holy scripture upon my knees, praying over that which I know not.In between my prayer I decide to remove the rosary from my neck only for it to break .As I try to hold it in my palm ,the beads come off rolling down the slippery floor.And it is in this moment,the silence breaks with a strangled scream from Nuru.The stench from my dream is now tangible.A smell of death. I dash to Mama’s room only to find her IV has been taken out as the machines cluster around her like sentinels in mourning having failed their mission to keep her alive.A blow of grief hits me and constricts my throat. I stare at her in profound shock and disbelief wondering how many bodies lain there before her.Wondering how much suffering she has endured for the sake of added time.

Tears flow freely down my cheeks as the nurses usher me out of the room.I walk back to the prayer room. I kneel down only this time to pick the pieces of my broken rosary.To hold tight the remaining pieces I manage to find. The pieces which have not yet been stolen from me. For that which I was so afraid of, has come to pass.

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