Abiku. That was the expression in Yoruba culture for those children who were born only to die shortly after. But I am not sure whether there was an expression for those children who came to take someone else away. It is a dilemma to be asked to choose whether to loose a mother or to lose her child. Asking someone to choose one or the other was, to say the least, sadistic. Eric didn’t have to choose, it was shoved right into his laps and it felt like God had thrown him a curved ball. Who else could it be. God was after all the giver of life and the taker of it. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh …” according to Job.
To Eric Danquah, death was not something he could have planned or prepared for. He was planning for life with Susan. He had planned to start his first home at a property they just acquired. He had planned to take a trip with her to Dubai, their first trip outside the country. He had planned for her to start her Masters’ Degree in the same year. He had planned to start open an account to save aggressively for their family business of the future. Every plan he made with her was for life! He did not expected death.
Death does not send us a notice. Death does not profile us, nor respect our position in society, our age or religious affiliation. It even seems death does not care whether we are extremely committed to God or not. Of course, I suppose death would have some deep respect for God Himself. Death definitely cannot do anything about God’s own life, but what about God’s children? Does Death have any respect for them? Is there a prayer that can avert Death or overcome Death or do we all have to wait for the resurrection at the Last Day. Eric was in no mood for such philosophical considerations. He had just faced Death.
The reality of the experience tends to take away the appeal of an academic or philosophical discussion of the subject. The blow of Death hits a person’s heart much harder that it hits his mind. The impact of the blow seems to take away the pleasure of need for any rational discourse on the subject either with oneself or with another. Losing someone to a phenomenon that cannot be reversed was an experience that consumes the deepest of our emotions. Anyone still discussing the subject must be distant from it, those with whom the experience is practical can hardly say anything. Death was with Eric.
Susan Danquah had spent nine long months carrying Alberta. Yes, they had even named her. She wrote about her experience every other day and had a following of over ten thousand readers. Everyone in the world seemed to be expecting her child along with her. She would read the long list of comments and wishes every day, smiling and rubbing her tummy. Gestation seemed to be a very special shared experience among women, and though it was her first, she described it excellently in her blog posts. In her last post, ended with the line “…Alberta will be writing the next post by this time tomorrow evening…”Almost like she knew she wouldn’t be there herself.
She was a strong woman. She had taken all the precautions including the exercises recommended by the midwives at the antenatal sessions. She had eaten all the right food and she wasn’t even overweight considering her condition. The birth was calculated to be perfect but it wasn’t. She spent almost four hours trying to “push” and could not dilate beyond eight centimeters. Eric was confused. More confused when the midwife said he had to sign a consent form for his wife to go through Caesarian Section. He panicked but tried not to show it, he had to be strong for her. Strong emotions brought tears to his eyes but he held them back. It was difficult to believe childbirth would be this difficult.
As they wheeled her into the theatre, a nurse asked him whether he would like to be present during the operation. She had a warm smiled and did her best to reassure him. CS operations were very common these days and some people even opted for CS rather than natural birth so it was nothing to worry about. Some experts even considered it safer than natural birth. He tried to return her smile and heave a sigh of relief. He definitely needed to hear something reassuring at this point. He had seen his wife in too much pain.
“It’s time,” called the visiting surgeon from inside, “please close the door, nurse.
Eric watched the door swing gently on its hinges and the light thud as it closed. It was a thick door, probably sound-proof. He wouldn’t see anything and he would hear anything either. It was probably better for him to find somewhere to pray while it all went on … behind closed doors. He walked around a bit trying to find somewhere to be alone within the building but he didn’t find any. Even at this hour of the night, the hospital was milling with people needing attention. The somber faces made him feel sorry for them, or maybe he somehow identified with their pain as he experienced his own. The number of people who patronized medicine in the world made the profession look attractive. Sickness seemed to be great business.
Eric found his way out of the build and walked a few blocks to the car. The interior of the black sedan would be good enough to talk to God. He felt heavy and needed to offload the weight somehow. It almost was lie something unpleasant was looming. As soon as he go into the vehicle, he shut himself in, locking out the chirping of crickets, the occasional “zoom” of a vehicle and some distant voices coming from the hospital entrance. He turned on the engine and the air conditioner came on. He found himself praying repeatedly:
“God, please do not let my wife die, God, please do not let my wife die…”
He went back into the building and up the stairs all the way to the second floor. Just as his right foot his the last set, the nurse whose smile had made such an impression him stepped out of the theatre carrying his baby girl. She didn’t have the smile anymore and she didn’t stop either. She was taking the child back to the maternity ward. “Nurse…” he called but she didn’t stop. A film of tears grew over her iris but Eric didn’t notice, she had her back to him and almost rushed through the ward entrance.
Eric decided to venture into the theatre and check on Susan. His eyes met the surgeon’s. He was taking off his gloves, cleaning up. He looked away momentarily and washed his hands quickly then turned back to Eric who was now staring at his wife.
“I am so sorry Mr. Danquah. I am so sorry…” That was all Dr. Owusu said and walked out of the theatre. Two other nurses were there. One of them closed Susan’s eyes with her right palm while Eric was watching and covered here face with the dull blue sheet.