There’s never enough time. That’s the one thing I’ve learned in this whole bitter lesson. In between asking God to forgive me yet again, and feeling like a piece of shit, all I realise is that there’s never enough time to do what you say you’re going to do; to be human, to do right.
Writing this has been so hard. I simply wanted to stay in the dark hole I had hidden in. I didn’t want to face the consequences of my inactions. I am so ashamed. And while i write this not for pity or sympathy, it does have to be written. I have learnt in the most reckless way (on my part) how toying with the time given could kill someone.
I woke up feeling like a winner earlier today. Only because i had beaten the very alluring temptation of going back to bed and failing on my promise to wake up at 5:15am
for a walk/jog with my brother. Hell, I even put it on the snap! My pores were opening and I was feeling the sweat coming on. I felt good! We normally do about 45 minutes of walking and jogging and then come home for some skipping and sit-ups. I had been trying to get him to walk/jog with me for a fee for months and i was finally glad we were doing it and for free, i might add. It was a good morning of sibling chatter and clear fresh air.
We turned a corner that would bring us to the street that would take us home. In between houses, I saw an old woman i know, bending to pick weeds or something. I was contemplating just jogging by without stopping to say hello because of my own guilty conscience. But I decided to stop being an wimp and say hello. It was a weak hello.
‘Good morning Ma”, I said.
“Morning my daughter, how are you?” She said, smiling.
“It’s been a long time, how is..”? I couldn’t say it.
“Esther?” She said looking puzzled, as though she expected me to know. But i didn’t and i was not ready for the answer she was going to give me.
“Esther is gone”, She said, throwing her hand back.
The thing is i already knew her answer before she said it. I had been dreading it. As her face clouded in reaction to my question, i prayed silently that she would say that Esther was back in the wooden structure they lived in with her ten-year old daughter. That she was asleep or laying down. That “gone” meant she had been taken out of town.
But it was none of those. Esther was dead and i did nothing to stop it.
Of course by this time all that morning joy had gone out of me. I was standing there in my trainers looking like the fool that i was. Shame and guilt had washed over in inconceivable measures. I had promised and failed miserably. A piece of shit. How would I fix this?
Let me tell you about Esther. Esther Ameku was a 40 year old woman who was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor that was growing alarmingly,at the side of her mouth. She had a ten year old daughter who wore dirty school uniforms three sizes too large for her, around their home. Esther was my neighbour,you see. Because even though the perception of East Legon is that it is a suburb that inhabits the rich and powerful of Ghanaian society, in between those beautifully-build houses you see are make-shift homes, wooden structures or unfinished buildings that have other people living in. Squatters, as we carelessly refer to them.They come and stay as caretakers as you build your home. Esther and her family were living one of these structures on someone’s property. I had seen her a few times as i drove by. Her condition was scary to see and it was easy to see she lived in pain. Frail and in pain. I always wondered whether anybody had seen her too.
So when my boyfriend asked me at the Christmas holidays at last year, if there was anybody we could do something kind for, I thought of Esther easily. More so because i had seen her just the day before. A day after that conversation, I woke up at 6am
, took a bag of rice, a couple of tin food, some money and walked down the road. I felt determined and silly at the same time. Happy i was doing something kind but worried about their reception to it. What if I was just invading?
When I got to their home, Esther’s mother and daughter were outside doing morning chores. She stood up when she saw me walking towards them. She smiled and came to speak to me. So for 10 minutes, we spoke. I told her I was a neighbour who drove past their home occasionally. I told her I stopped to say hello and to give them something for the holidays . She lit up, smiled and thanked me profusely. Her daughter, Esther, came out of the rooms to see what i figure, she had been overhearing. It was hard to look at her. To see her pain. I tried to be brave and i was not sure if i was doing any good at it. The growth on the side of her mouth had pushed her upper gum and teeth beyond the scope of her mouth. The weight of the protrusion forced her left eye to squint. Her mouth was constantly dripping and to keep her herself together she carried an old towel that would wipe her mouth. Her frame was small and fragile. she moved slowly and tentatively. She has sparse, short baby hair which was gradually receding. Her daughter who was playing on a heap of cement on the open property, rushed to hold Esther’s hand. She supported her till she sat on the third kitchen stool next to me.
Her voice was small, the sound almost similar as that of a whistle..She whimpered a greeting at me. I smiled at her small eyes. Another ten minutes told me that she had in fact three children, two of whom were in the village. Esther had began treatment her illness sometime last year when they realised after a few months that it was not a boil but a tumor. According to her medical report and an open letter that was written by her doctor, she needed six stages of treatment which would give her more than half a chance of survival.
So she could survive this. I thought to myself. I realised something could be done. I wanted to help. I wanted to see Esther here in the future with her children. I wanted her to work, be alive and living. Being here because she needed to be here.
So I took a copy of her medical report with a new purpose. I was somehow going to help this family get help. I didn’t have a plan but i wanted to do this. I bid them goodbye and left the small family.
I left them purposeful and determined to help them.
But I didn’t.
Yes, I made calls, I spoke to doctor friends i knew. I began making posters on I could use on social media to get the attention i needed. And then i stopped without even realising it.
My own challenges had set in at the beginning of the year and began to drag on. Slowly, I spent less time thinking about Esther and her child. Somehow I forgot her pain. I became engulfed in my own challenges, I forgot how pressing it was to help them. Sometimes i would pick up the Esther’s report feeling a heavy weight, because it was telling me, i had work to do. That’s always easy to do when you are not the one carrying the load.
It’s too late to bring Esther back. I CAN’T do anything about it. I can’t say I have made my peace with it either.
It’s too late to bring Esther back. I CAN’T do anything about it. I can’t say I have made my peace with it either. But this sore experience is what life really is like, when you fail to apply yourself to what is important. We are all, clearly, down here to do what is beyond us. We make a choice to be more , to be a part of or responsible for a love story that makes a significant impact or to simply watch. And sometimes,the price is more than we can bear.
I see Esther’s mother every morning. I have become a part of her life. If not for my own redemption, for her forgiveness.