LIFE’S SACRIFICES II

Stories from the Diaspora

By Sheillah Maonga

To read part one, click here

She picked the call.
“Hallo, Pastor.” She said, trying to hide the irritation in her voice.
“Cherop, daughter of God, I have been looking for you.” The pastor said. His voice sounded different, Cherop thought. She couldn’t understand why but he sounded different.

“Pastor, I know I pledged to send the money for the church this month. The month hasn’t ended yet.” She said, quick to get on to purpose of his call.

The pastor was silent, which Cherop also found it odd. He always spoke non-stop. Today, he was silent, yet she was talking about church money. Usually, he would have quipped how the money was needed now and she should hurry up. But there was no response from him.

“Pastor, is everything okay with you?” She asked him.
“Cherop, I just want to tell you a few things.” He said.
“Go ahead, pastor. But you will need to hurry up because I just got in from work. I have been awake working all night. I need to go to sleep in a few minutes.”
“Cherop, I am a believer. So are you. As believers, we say that God is in charge. He gives life, he takes it away. All this is His will.”

“What are you talking about Pastor? Can we have this conversation during the day so that I can participate fully? At the moment, my brain is a bit tired. I need to sleep. I will call you during the day we have an in-depth conversation.” Cherop said, the irritation in her voice now hard to miss.

“Cherop, my news cannot wait. I am sorry.”
“Pastor, what news is it exactly? About us being believers?” Cherop asked, her impatience blatantly showing in her voice.
“Cherop, my news is that we need to believe that God’s plan for our individual lives is always the best. Often these plans may not make sense to us and there will be moments we ask God why he allows some things to happen.” The pastor preached to Cherop.

“I don’t understand what you are talking about, Pastor. Can you kindly summarise your news for me”?
“Cherop, God is in charge of our lives. He gives us lives. He takes away these lives.”
Cherop was lying on the bed as she was talking to him. Once the pastor said the last sentence, she sprang up into standing position. She felt her heart race, and her head spinning round and round.

“Pastor, tell me that it is not my Zawadi.” She pleaded, her voice barely a whisper.
The pastor remained silent. It suddenly occurred to Cherop that the pastor sounded different because he was a bearer of bad news today. Other days, he came on a different mission. Today, he had come to bring devastating news. He sounded out of his depth.

“Pastor, if you have something to say to me, say it openly, without all this fluffy language. Just tell me in simple words what is the matter.”
“Cherop, early in the morning, I received a phone call from your sister Chelang’at that Zawadi was called to be with the Lord.” He said, his voice bland.

Cherop could not listen to him anymore. She had heard enough of the news. She hung up on him. He called her right back, and she declined that call too. She scrolled through her phonebook and found Chelang’at’s number. Chelang’at had been one of the missed calls on her phone. She called her. She picked the call immediately. It was as if she was holding her phone in her hand waiting for Cherop to call.

“Cherop, daughter of my mother,” Chelang’at said, and then started sobbing. She sobbed for a few minutes with no words being exchanged. Cherop just held the phone in place as she witnessed, through her ears, her sister’s heart break into pieces.

Chelang’at had been Zawadi’s proxy mother. She was Cherop’s older sister and had taken both Cherop and Zawadi in when he was a day old and they had nowhere to go. Cherop had left Zawadi in her care when he was 11 months old. Chelang’at had brought him up as one of her own. Zawadi called him mother, which irked Cherop no end. Zawadi had only started moving around relative’s houses when he was 14. That coincided with him joining high school and having a taste of freedom. Prior to this, Zawadi’s only home had been Chelang’at’s house. So, Cherop knew that if anyone felt the pain of his death as much as she did, it would be Chelang’at. She too had lost a son, for Zawadi was her son.

“My sister, take heart.” Cherop found herself saying. This is a phrase that she often dismissed as an empty cliche when she heard it touted so many times to bereaved families of clients at the care home. She detested that phrase as it always felt so shallow and meaningless. How does one take heart, she always pondered. Yet here she was telling her sister to take heart.

“It hurts, Cherop. My baby is gone. My baby is no more.” Chelang’at sobbed.
“What exactly happened?” Cherop asked. Her eyes were surprisingly dry and her voice composed.
“We are waiting for the police to tell us. Korir has gone to the police station.”

“The police?” Cherop asked, puzzled.
“Yes, the police. The police called Korir and asked him to meet them at the police station. It was the police that broke the bad news to him. Korir was the first to know. Then he called the rest of the family. He must have called you too. I did too. It went straight to voicemail.” Chelang’at explained.
“Korir? Why would the police call Korir first?” Cherop asked, still puzzled.

“Because Zawadi had been living with him.”
“Since when?” Cherop asked, surprised.
“Not long.”
“No one told me this.” She said, then hung up the phone.

This was the problem with people back home, Cherop thought. They lied by omission. They knew that she would have had a problem with Zawadi living with Korir, so they decided to withhold that information from her. They subscribed to the school of thought that what you did not know did not hurt you. She detested this narrative. She would rather know something, even if it hurt her, than not know.

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