C.G’s doctor and I got back to the hospital almost an hour later than our agreed meeting time as it had taken me quite a while to find appropriate mourning clothes.
I had finally found four black kitenge deras, a heavy shawl for the cold nights, and a pair of dark shades; not just to hide my puffy eyes, but also so that I did not have to look people straight in the eye and could mentally escape from my surroundings without anyone being able to tell that I was a thousand miles away.
“You guys certainly took your time,” Chris muttered irritably when we finally arrived.
“I didn’t find anything to wear; so, I had to go buy stuff,” I explained.
“Women!” he shook his head. “Well, we’re pretty much set to go. The bills are cleared, and the funeral van has been waiting for the past hour. My cousin has come to pick us up; so, he’ll drive you, your sister and I, and the van will follow,” he then turned pointedly to the doctor. “Everyone else will follow the van.”
“Actually, I’ve got a few things to handle here first; so, I’ll join you later at the house if you can send me the directions,” he answered quickly.
Ever since we had left my place, there had been an uncomfortable tension between us, which we had attempted to cover up by trying too hard to act normal. I knew it was this that he was trying to escape from and I wanted him to know that I understood and felt the same. So, I held out my hand to him.
“Thank you for everything; we’ll send the directions,” I promised.
“Please do,” he nodded, briefly accepting my proffered hand and then quickly taking his leave.
I don’t remember much about the drive to Chris’ home, other than that I spent most of it staring vacantly out the window, wondering at how the rest of the world could go on like nothing had happened, while I led my son to the first of my last two nights with him.
Upon our arrival, a loud simultaneous wailing erupted, like our arrival was some sort of cue for the mourning to begin. In disgust, I mentally switched off, for those wailing the loudest were old female relatives of Chris that in all likelihood had never even met C.G.
The car had barely stopped before it was surrounded by the press, jostling amongst themselves, each trying to get the best shot of the bereaved parents arriving at the house.
Thankfully, this lot was quickly shoved aside by burly members of the ‘organising committee’ who cleared us a path and ushered us into the living room where we stood waiting for the pallbearers to bring in the coffin.
I remained stoic and dry-eyed until they brought the casket in, and then once again my tears began to flow, seeping round the rims of the sunglasses I was wearing.
My sister had done a wonderful job in choosing the coffin; it was white with gold trimmings, and I remember thinking it was a fitting bed for my angel. Ever the professionals, the pallbearers somberly set it up on a stand, and then invited me to come and view the body.
As they lifted the lid, I collapsed into my sister’s arms, for although the body had been treated, the firm imprint of death was obvious on my son.
His tiny frame looked somewhat swollen – one had to know him as intimately as I did to notice – his skin was ashy-pale, and when I reached out my hand to touch him, his skin was cold and spongy.
Overcome with grief, I pulled away from my sister’s arms to lean over C.G, and once again, this was a moment the press had been looking out for, because their cameras instantly started clicking furiously.
Part of me wanted to scream at them and ask what was wrong with them. What kind of sick human being thrived on a mother’s pain, and did they have to be so oblivious about it? Did they have no shame?
But I was drowning too deep in my grief to be able to, and instead allowed my sister to lead me away to a couch that appeared to have been reserved for us.