By - Zemi Stewart -
Emotions: I have yet to understand them. All I know is that they dwell deep inside of me, in a place not even the most adept of surgeons can reach. Sadness quells within me as I realize it’s been almost four years since I lost my mummy. The other part of me is gone; erased long ago on a cold, dark night just like this one.
I still remember the day He took her away; when the first tears began to fall. I remember the night before her death and the look in her eyes. Those huge, dark eyes that bore into your soul and made your spine straighten. I hated them once, I long for them now.
Those many years ago, I endured a heartbreak unlike any other. A heartbreak I relive each and every day. I was twelve years old then. Sadly, a part of me will always be that heartbroken twelve year old. As I stare out of barred windows, hypnotized by a lone street light, I recall the events of the night that lead to her death. The night I died.
The nightmare began on November 24th, 2002. My aunts were hosting a dinner party and wanted my mother, cousin, sister and I to model Androsian outfits for our foreign guests. Aside from my childhood shyness, this event was postponed due to my unexplainable fatigue. I was blinded by an inescapable state of sleepiness, as if someone was trying to prevent me from realizing that death was lurking throughout the hallways waiting anxiously to kill and steal all that I loved.
During the entire course of the night I was found sleeping on tables, in chairs and finally, in one of the spare beds. Still Deanna insisted on waking me up to model. When I told her I was too tired she enlarged her eyes, an act she perfected to convey her annoyance and impending anger, and said, “Do it for me Zemi. Do it for me.” So, with sleep mounted heavily upon me, I did model for my mummy and the guests. In the end I even had a great time doing it, especially since I was able to witness her beautifully full-figured body strutting down the makeshift runway with a smile that could bedazzle the blind and a laugh that warmed your heart. She exuded confidence. In fact it was hard to imagine that those broad shoulders and elegant hands carried so much strife, responsibility and pain.
I don’t recall anything that happened after this. All I know is that I woke up in my own bed around 2 am to the persistent, impassioned knocking of Nurse Scavella, Mummy’s dear friend and colleague. Sluggishly, I opened the door and followed the nurse to my parent’s bedroom as she quickly briefed me on the circumstances of her visit. As I entered the room I saw my precious Deanna sitting on the floor breathing loudly with her asthma monitor nearby. Still, I thought nothing of the event. Mummy frequently had attacks and this one didn’t appear any different so I sat calmly on the bed and held her hand. Her breathing was laboured, but she was calm. Everything appeared normal so I kissed her hand, returned to my room and fell asleep.
The second time I was awakened there was a clear change in the atmosphere. This time there were no knocks, just the hands of my sister against my back. Shani was extremely frightened because Daddy woke her up frantically asking for a pen. She in turn came to wake up Zane and me because she didn’t want to endure the experience alone. As I exited my room I felt the chill from the cold tiles sweep up my legs, closely followed by a piercing fear that made my heart speed up. Nurses were running around with nervous faces, avoiding the children’s eyes at all costs; mummy’s best friend Italia was near tears as she rushed around trying to help in any way possible; Daddy was dashing to Mummy’s side and Mummy was screaming: “Lord, oh Lord, I give up!” Yeah, it had gotten worse.
The first time she went unconscious I was calm, that is until Zane started crying and then Shani. I should have held on. I should have had faith. Dear Faith, bring her through. Dear Faith, help life defeat death. Dear Faith, ensure that injustice does not prevail, just this once. Don’t let me be robbed in my nightgown with frizzled hair and no shoes when I have nothing to give, but my life. Give her my air. Give her my heart. Give her my will. Give her anything as long as she is here – with us.
Instead, I stood bewildered and silent. Within a matter of seconds, I too broke down. After four hours of turmoil the ambulance finally came and took her to the airport so she could be flown to Nassau and taken to the hospital. A drive that should have taken half an hour took two, the plane that should have been on time was late, the medication that should have been there was out of stock. Even the doctor that should have been there – wasn’t. Death had been planning this for weeks.
Mummy regained consciousness briefly as they rushed her into the ambulance, but I could see mountains of pain in her eyes. I saw her silently pleading for an escape. From deep within those dark eyes I heard her screaming for Him to take her to the son who had left her so many years before. She didn’t want Shani, Zane or Zemi. All she wanted was her Donovan, because with him there was no pain. There was no gasping and constricting and aching, but there was also no us. As selfish as it may seem I wasn’t ready to let her go, nor would I ever be. Sadly, it wasn’t my choice.
Shani and I couldn’t stay in the house. The suspense was too great. The air was too heavy. So, we got dressed, still teary eyed, and walked to the bus stop an hour early. As soon as we arrived someone from town picked us up and drove us to our Aunts’.
I didn’t want to think, so I didn’t allow myself to. Although I knew deep down,
I didn’t want my heart to know what my mind knew. I didn't want to hear it breaking.
When we got out of the car my cousin Olivia came down from the house, pink and puffy from crying. Shani followed suit. I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t. I don’t remember what I did. I don’t know if I fell, if I screamed or even if I cried, but I do remember Aunty Daisy wrapping her arms around me while talking into my ear, “No more mummy baby, no more.” If I didn’t know anything else; if I never remember another word, I know that at that very moment – I died.
Tears started gushing from my eyes. The pineapples would flourish from my rivers. I caved in; inside and out. In the background I could hear Shani’s shrilling shrieks, “No!”
From that moment until I reunited with my Daddy and brother at the airport, I was in space. Was she really gone? Outside the sky was so blue and pretty, but my world was black. How could the sun be shining so brightly and my world be so dark?
When we got to the airport and were allowed to go into the ambulance, I could not bring myself to touch her, which I regret to this day. How could I have abandoned my mother in her time of need? How could I be ashamed to hold the woman I loved so much? She would never have forsaken me. She would have held me in life or death. Why wasn’t I brave? Why wasn’t I her?
Amazingly, she had a smile on her face, which warmed my heart. In spite of all of her pain, she still found peace. I guess Donovan and Papa Reg picked her up from the airport and took her across that blue sky. But at that moment I couldn’t even fathom that idea. I just cried and cried until my tears felt like salt water stinging my pores as they fell down my face. She was gone. Right now I can hear a loud voice in my head screaming, “Not was Zemi, she is gone!”
We flew over the water, the beautiful turquoise water, leaving Eleuthera behind, but not the pain; never the pain. It clung to us for dear life and filled up every conceivable portion of space, pressing hard upon our backs, draining our eyes and stinging our wounds. Mummy was somewhere above us now, somewhere far. I could no longer touch her, hug her or hold her tightly. She would no longer call me into her room and into her bed to rock me to sleep while scratching my back or playing with my tiny curls. No, my mummy was gone! At twelve I could understand death. I could feel it, hate it, scratch it into walls and feel it on my skin, but never wash it away. One word circulates all day, “gone”. That’s all I feel. All I’ll ever feel is loss.
Looking out my window at the dark street; I’m back to reality and the blinding light. It’s been almost four years since that sad day. At 6:00 am on November 25th, 2002, exactly a month before Christmas, I lost her. The void created that day has never been filled. I get by knowing that she no longer has to cry out because her windpipe is contracting and no air can pass through; she no longer has to carry the weight of the world and mine. She’s home.
Tears: how many can I cry? How many nights will my face be streaked with tiny rivers? Tired of reflecting on a pain I can’t carry, I fall heavily upon my bed. The sheets are cool, as is my tear streaked face. The night breeze blankets us both. “Goodnight,” I whisper to my tears, the darkness and my loneliness as the gentle breeze sends a wave of peace to carry me to sleep.
I wish the breeze carried her, but as it glides across my skin all I feel are goose bumps.
About The Author
Zemi is an author, prose poet and the founder of Wife HER! ministry. She wrote "Like An Elephant Revisiting the Bones" as a high school student. Writing was her way of dealing with the pain of her loss.
Today, she proudly testifies that she has made it to the other side of grief: a place where pain has been replaced by purpose. Now, almost 17 years since her mother's death, she still feels the emotional pangs of missing someone who meant so much to her; but she knows that she would not be the HER she is today without that experience.
To connect with Zemi, follow her on Instagram at @zemiregine.
To learn more about Wife HER!