When she was old enough to speak, “mummy I want to go home” was her first fully constructed sentence, of course there were single words “momma”, “dada”and things like that, but that was her first full sentence.
She was a sickly child: always falling sick. If it wasn’t malaria it’ll be diarrhoea. If it wasn’t an ache in her tummy it’ll be her head or a skin rash. There was always something wrong with her and she was always blurting out “ mummy I want to go home”. It baffled me for a while why she would keep on repeating the same sentence over and over again until I figured it out.
I work long hours and she goes to nursery school. It breaks my heart to leave her there but I can’t afford a househelp. As soon as I turn up at the school gate she’s bounding out with her little pink back-pack strapped to her back screaming “ mummy I want to go home”. It was as if she couldn’t wait to get out of there.
It was just after her sixth birthday when she fell ill and had to be admitted to hospital. She’s been admitted before but only for a day or two.
This time she’s been in for over a month and the doctors were baffled: they didn’t seem to know what was wrong with her. All their tests proved inconclusive.
I had to take time off work so I could be by her side.
As I kept vigil at her bedside she would drift in and out of consciousness muttering “ mummy I want to go home”. With tears streaming down my face I would re-assure her that as soon as she was well enough I would take her home.
One night I woke to her gasping for air. As I cradled her in my arms I summoned the duty nurse who came running. She took one look at her and dashed off to find a doctor.
When the doctor came he did all the usual checks: took her pulse, listened to her heartbeat and flicked open her eyelids.
By the time he got up from the side of her bed the look on his face said it all.
He pulled me away, to the ward’s side office, and gave me the news I was dreading.
She was sinking fast and there was nothing he could do. Hopelessness was written all over him.
How long has she got, I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders: he didn’t know.
It was too late to call anybody so I rushed back to her side with the doctor in tow.
Her breathing was becoming shallower and laborious and all the equipment she was hooked up to were beeping away in a language of their own. With tears streaming down my face in torrents I turned to the doctor for an interpretation.
He didn’t say anything. He shook his head slowly, put his hand on my shoulder, as if to reassure me, smiled weakly and walked away.
She looked so peaceful and serene as she lay there: you wouldn’t think anything was wrong with her.
She must have heard me sobbing for she opened her eyes and what could be described as a smile crossed her face.
“ Mummy…”, she began, struggling to get each word out,”…I’m going home now”.
She closed her eyes and was gone.