By Alara Charis
The sound of the phone ringing jerked Beatrice back to life, to reality; the few moments of sleep granted her the luxury of living in the figments of her imagination ‘where everything was normal with no such thing to be worried about’. But here she was, back to reality; her younger sister was sick and she didn’t know what to expect next. Picking up her phone, her mum’s voice startled her and she strained her ears to hear exactly what she was saying. Her sister had been rushed to the hospital again and this time around, it was really more complicated.
A visit to the hospital from her college to check on her sister caught Beatrice off guard. Never had she envisioned what she saw, right there on the hospital bed laid her little sister. Blood shot eyes had replaced one so white, swollen face and a swollen belly. She stood there at the entrance glued to the ground for several seconds; it seemed at that point all her senses were frozen. The look in her mum’s eyes jolted her back to reality, as if on premonition, the tears that had welled up dried up instantly. She couldn’t afford to cry at this point, she needed to brace herself together and be strong for her mum and sister. As she got to her bed side, the smile on her face reminded her of the lovely sister she had before the sickness took its toll. They usually didn’t get along too well sometimes, they quarreled, argued and fought but amidst these periods, she still remained her beloved sister. Watching her in that condition was more than she could possibly bear.
She remembered the fun times they shared together, one of such periods being an occasion where they both got chased by a mad woman on the street. She remembered that moment vividly, both of them running helter skelter on the street screaming at the top of their voices, no one came to their rescue. They ran till their legs could no longer carry them, they finally came to a halt and all they could do at that point was burst into laughter. After that particular escapade, they would both reminisce that event and laugh over and over again.
Beatrice’s mum had to leave the hospital to attend to some other things so she had to take over from her. she sat by her sister and waited for the doctor on duty to attend to her. Few seconds later, the doctor came accompanied by a group of interns. She watched as the doctor read her sister’s file to their hearing and all of a sudden, she couldn’t hear his voice clearly anymore. Curious, she strained to hear what the doctor had to say to them. That was when he dropped the bombshell, ‘this particular patient has lymphoblastic leukemia (cancer of the blood), we will do our possible best to cure her but the truth is it will only take a miracle for her to survive’. After saying this, he looked towards her direction to see if she overheard them. she shifted her gaze the instant he turned to look towards her direction. Prior to this period, she knew very little about leukemia but she knew cancer was a deadly disease. At that juncture, she gave in to the tears that had welled up in her eyes. She had to rush into the rest room to let them loose. The thought of watching her only sister dying of cancer was excruciating, she just couldn’t bear it. Alone in the rest room, she cried my eyes out and said words of prayer to God. If she had ever put my faith to work, it was that period.
Hours passed into days, days into weeks and finally it was her sister’s eighteenth birthday. This was a day she had always looked forward to, it arrived but only in a different dimension than was envisioned. She was celebrated right there in the hospital room and on the bed that had now become her home, she was excited all day and even talked about the things she would do once she got discharged from the hospital. The day came and passed, blood samples were taken and transfusion was made, huge amount of money was paid for chemotherapy, prayers were made ceaselessly, faith was put to work, donations were made, hopes increased and decreased. It was a period where their lives stood still, her mum was stronger than ever, she prayed like never before, loved like never before. Her sister’s sickness taught her about real love, love that grew stronger in periods of hardship, love that endured till the end, love that believed in hope amidst contrary winds. It drew her closer to God, increase her compassion, opened her eyes to see the beauty in people’s eyes even at the point of excruciating pains and death.
All these went on and eventually, Beatrice’s sister was transferred to another hospital in a different state for advanced treatment. At this point, arrangements began to fly her out of the country for complete blood transfusion. She accompanied her and her mum to the bus park, bade her farewell with the promise that she would pay her a visit as soon as she got a break from her college. She couldn’t be more wrong. Subsequent days after, they communicated everyday on phone, her constant words after each conversation were ‘please pray for me’ and Beatrice always promised her to do just that. One particular night, she called her phone but got no response. The following day, she was told her sister was no longer allowed to receive or make calls because of the situation she was in. On hearing this, Beatrice began having mixed feelings, her mum called assuring her everything was alright. These words of assurance didn’t calm the feeling of fear that continued to increase within her.
Examination period came and passed in Beatrice’s college, she was overwhelmed with joy at the thought of going home to see her sister once more. It’s been about one month since she bid her goodbye at the bus park and looked forward to seeing her again. Several thoughts occupied her mind in the course of the journey home, she really did not know what to expect but kept her hopes high. After five hours of journeying on the road, she eventually got home. The house was the same way she left it, nothing changed except for the way she felt inside her. Deep down within her, she was disturbed even though she couldn’t place exactly what was wrong. Everyone welcomed her; everything seemed in place except the way she felt within. Her mum served her dinner and saw to it that she ate to her satisfaction. No one’s attitude gave away any hint whatsoever about the situation of things. Beatrice asked after her sister and why no one was with her at the hospital, she was told nobody was permitted to sleep over at the hospital. This further heightened her curiosity but she concentrated on finishing up her dinner.
At about 8:30 pm, she was summoned into her mum’s room by her friend (who had been with her sister in the hospital all the while she was in college). The way he said it “I want to hand over things to you so you can take off from there” made her feel like he was going to give her some files, details of the hospital and the situation of things there so she could continue from where he stopped. His next phrase took her completely off guard “don’t expect Dammy anymore because she is gone for good”. Beatrice’s legs suddenly went limp and before she could think of what he said, she already landed on the ground crying profusely. She had heard of people’s death, seen them in movies and the way people react to the death of a loved one but never had she envisioned herself in that position. Her mind went blank, she felt like the world was closing up on her. It was just more than she could believe. He went further to explain that she passed away about a week before she got home but no one could tell her because of her exams in college.
Everything began to make more sense now, the uneasy feelings of death she always felt inside me. As at the time, she thought she was just being weird in her imaginations and would rebuke the thought as soon as it came. She wept till she could weep no more, she quietly withdrew into her room; the same room she shared with her sister. She missed her terribly and it hurt her so much that she wasn’t there with her in her last moments. She knew she was with God, which was one consolation she had. Beatrice had gotten her born again during the early periods of her illness. She would never have forgiven herself if she hadn’t taken that step of leading her to Christ.
Her sister’s demise was one that brought so much pain and at the same time taught her the most valuable lesson of her life; that of love and giving full expression to the love she felt in her heart towards everyone regardless of the situation. Love became formed in her heart and she willingly shared it with all that came in contact with her.
Image – Portrait of Two Ladies in Belle
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