Aunt Annabell sat on the bench next to her balcony on a Saturday morning. It was 8:00 a.m and she was enjoying the rising orange sun from the East as she watched her blooming flowers. She stretched her toes out of her flip flops before looking up at the atmosphere. The sky was clear and blue, the blue was brighter than the normal sky blue. She felt the air fresher than the ocean breeze. The wind was slow and calming. She could see colorful butterflies moving from one flower to the next. She knew ‘her summer’ was approaching. She began to crawl towards the flower vases after realizing that the flowers had multiple colors. After every blink of the eye, the flowers changed from one colour to the next in a rainbow sequence. From red to violet to orange to indigo to yellow to blue to green. The leaves were curling in different ways forming shapes that resembled horns, vases and trumpets. The green grass in her yard began to split into rectangles with crisscrossing paths like those in a tea farm. She also saw charcoal black and snow white beings alternating on each parallel side of the quadrangles in her compound.The rectangular blocks rotated in a musical manner and the black and white beings bowed and danced to it’s musical rotation.
Aunt Annabell was staring and smiling at the beauty that clothed her compound that morning, when her son Vickie came running with her mug of coffee that he had prepared. She quickly crawled over near the hedge wanting to jump over the fence. Vickie put the mug down and began to help her mum get up. ” I am anxious about what’s going to happen to me. I think I need to jump over the fence to escape the sudden feeling of insecurity.” Vickie didn’t want to leave her mom at that point and he shouted out for his dad who was in the bathroom. Mike arrived in a fraction of a second with patches and smears of lotion on his skin. They helped Annabell to sit down on her bench. Vickie reached for the coffee mug that was already pouring its contents while Mike supported my aunt’s shoulders while she sat. Annabell hadn’t talked all this time after my uncle arrived. Uncle Mike squatted in front of my aunt and cupped her chin in his palms. He looked deep into Annabell’s blue shining eyes while Vickie checked her pulse rate on her neck.
Before coming, Uncle Mike had already called her doctor and an ambulance. Annabelle had been fighting breast cancer for the past ten years and had gone through multiple surgeries and therapies. Everyday, She hoped the pain would lessen with the help of her pain killers. However, with every setting of the sun,her lumps grew fuller and sore, and her pain intensified. She longed for a break, a summer. Whenever it was sunny, she basked. When it rained she stayed in her balcony watching the beauty of the flowers she had spent many years tending. Her son and her husband had been the closest care givers for those ten years. Everyday before bed, she would perform a song on her saxophone for her two helpers as a form of gratitude. Mike would sing along with her while most of the times Vickie would sob at the solemn tunes. He silently wished that her mom would one day be set free from the chains of pain and the agonizing entanglement of her cheerful soul and heart.
In the ambulance, Annabelle was all smiles and laughter as she explained to her husband and her son about the beautiful compound she had seen. She was pleased with the playing music and dancing of the angelic beings. She had found the sequencial changing of colours in her flower bed breathtaking. Mike, on her right, only smiled in desperation while Vickie, on her left couldn’t control his tears. The nurse kept on checking Annabell’s temperature and pulse rate. When they finally got into the main road leading to the Cancer Center, Annabell’s breathing intensified and her pulse rate increased. She started to cough in an uncontrollable style. The nurse attended to Annabell while her two care givers stuck with her every moment. Mike rubbed his palm on her forehead and ran his fingers through her hair while Vickie massaged her cold fingers. With the soothing of her two angels by her side, Annabell slowly got better and opened her eyes. She smiled at her husband and told him of how much she loved him. She kissed her son on his forehead and then looked back at his husband. She noticed the patches and smears of lotion on his skin and began to spread them rhythmically with her numb fingers. Mike only stared at her beautiful wife as he felt the most comforting hands on his skin. He was still the most handsome man she had ever met even at her last breathing. Annabell spread her arms to the back of her two care givers and stretched out her legs, she recited her last prayers and said goodbye to her two lovers. Mike and Vickie had their last moment with Annabell. The nurse sobbed pitifully as she asked the driver to divert from the hospital lane to the mortuary lane.
Aunt Annabell had lived to tend flowers in her home, sing and dance in the choir, and always visited the sick in hospital and homes. Her last moments while alive were all colored by the works she had lived to do.
Vickie has told me the story for the tenth time now and I still can’t help thinking about the changing colours of flowers, the dancing angels, the paths crisscrossing her compound and the musical rotation of the rectangular blocks of grass. Is this how dying feels? Aunt Annabell was smiling and laughing at the pleasure of the moments she was experiencing. Despite her pain and sores, Aunt Annabell could still afford to spread lotion patches on her darling husband while in her death bed. Is this what we call true love? Being there for our loved ones even when we know we won’t live long? Is it doing good even when we don’t know whether we have a chance to receive it back? Is it telling the people we treasure that we love them even in our lowest moments? Is it? Is love changing our diet for the sake of our loved ones because they can no longer take some recipes? I feel that love is having to adjust our schedules and routines to accommodate the needs of our family and friends. It is the act of creating time to share memorable moments with those we love. It is giving all we can for the advantage of the other person. It is knowing that we don’t have a long time to live and therefore doing good to others. It is being good in all situations. It is appreciating all the small deeds done with love.
On her wedding day, Aunt Annabell cried at the altar. When she took the vows, she swore to love in rain and in sunshine till death did them apart. See even in her death bed, she loved. On her burial, the family members wore coloured dresses and shirts. Because she believed in blooming in the gloom. A lot of flowers were bought and her favorite tunes were constantly played on the burial ceremony. In their tributes, every one attested that Annabell lived every moment of her life. In her remembrance, friends and family members expanded her flower garden and started a giveback organization to help those in need. Every one would like her love to continue for many years even after her death
The Covid 19 pandemic has claimed hundreds and thousands of souls and left millions as orphans, widows, widowers, and even some have lost all their family members. Millions of others are turning in their hospital beds listening to their whistling noses and vibrating ribs. Some are lucky to be with their loved ones who are taking care of them. Others haven’t been affected by the pandemic directly through a friend or a relative, but are suffering from its effects. Most of the economies are declining with millions of people going jobless. Travel restrictions are jeopardizing vital activities such as education, health and religion. Frustrations from the pandemic and the accompanying rules and regulations are posing huge obstacles in our daily lives.
Despite all the challenges, we shouldn’t forget to be good.
It’s been two years now since Aunt Annabell rested. I wasn’t able to attend her burial because of school restrictions. However, I learnt of it one day after she died. I was a computer student at school and therefore was among the few who were lucky to frequently access the internet connection. The first site I would login into was my Facebook page and send a message to my family. On this particular day, however, no one was online at that moment and no one had responded to my previous day’s messages. I decided to go through a few stories and posts in the feed.
Lots of flowers with Aunt Annabell’s pretty face beside each flower with RIP messages below. I double clicked the close button on my browser and short pressed the power button of the system unit before leaving the computer lab panting and heaving. I sat on my bed the whole evening looking at the picture in my hands. It was the Christmas after Class eight when aunt Annabell had invited us to his place and had bought my sister and I beautiful flowered dresses and matching shoes. Every moment with Aunt Annabell flashed through my mind that evening leaving a heavy sob in my throat. I remembered the many times Aunt Annabell brought me chicken nuggets on school visiting days and how she wanted me to excel and become a doctor. After consulting with the school administration, an aunt wasn’t considered to be a close relative if at all I was living with my parents. Therefore, that meant that I couldn’t attend the burial ceremony. This was probably one of my lowest moments in my life.
When I went home,Vickie presented the burial album and videos. I cried at every narration of the last moments of my aunt. I cried at how desperate Vickie looked. I wanted to to tell him that it was okay but I knew it wasn’t okay. He had loved her mum and everytime we met, I assured him that she was going to be fine. Now that she was no more, I didn’t know what tell him. At one point I felt that I was rapturing the already healing wounds of loss since it was one month after her demise. However, the red soil was still fresh and Vickie helped me plant more flowers on Annabell’s resting place. Vickie spends most of the time playing the saxophone his mom left him. His favorite hymn is “It is well with my soul” and “Baadaye” by Amos and Josh.
Annabell’s death is just one analogy of how millions of people lose their lives every year around the world. Many of them have died recently from the pandemic. The misery that disturbs me every day is the last moments of those dying with those near them, the desperation of those who died alone recounting on the good moments they had in their lives with no one beside them, the comfort and love felt by those who died with someone holding their hands and caressing their face like Aunt Annabell and the peace of those who died in their sleep, sleeping and never waking up. Sleeping forever.