When he walked in that evening, he did not know what he was walking into. It had been years since he was home. He had left home to study abroad and ended up settling there after securing a job. That was not an easy decision to make given that he was the first born son. His parents were proud of him yet on the other side they were already missing him. He had not yet left the country but there was a void already. Theirs was a close nit family and everyone was in everyone’s business. When it was time to leave, the whole family went to see him off at the airport. The next four years would be characterized by long phone calls, letters and gifts.

School brought out the best in him albeit he yearned to be home with his family and friends.  He missed his mum mostly; they had a special bond; the mother/son kind.

He will never forget that fateful day when he found a missed call, the kind that freaks you out simply because you did not expect it. I mean, barely a day before he had called home and everything was fine. He did not return the call immediately; an emergency distracted him and had to go back to work. By the time he was finished, it was too late to call home and he promised himself to call the next day. Early next morning, he was woken up by yet another emergency. His profession had too many emergencies he quickly learnt while he was a resident. He enjoyed it and thrived at it. It was one of those days and he forgot to return the call. The night had so much going on but he had vowed he would make the call. So when he had finished attending to who he hoped was his last patient for the night, he sat down to grab a cup of coffee.

As he dialed the number, his thoughts went astray with the activities of the day. What a day he had had. He waited patiently as the phone rang. His sister finally picked up, exchanged greetings in their native dialect. The next second or so was characterized by awkward silence, the kind that makes you ask why you even dialed the phone in the first place.

Clara, is everything alright?

It is mum, she is not fine.

What do you mean?

She was suddenly taken ill and by the time we got her to hospital, it was too late. Dad has been trying to get a hold of you but his efforts were futile.

There was pin drop silence on both ends of the phone. Clara had already started crying and she could no longer hold back. He felt his world crumble as pain went through each of his veins. Guilt hitting him so hard and pain so deep he could feel it cut through his veins. So many unanswered questions rushed through his mind. How? Why? What next? He could not move, he was too weak, too in pain to take a step, the news of his mother’s demise kept playing back at the back of his mind. His pain held him captive. He was a prisoner of it, for how long he did not know. He lay on his bed till morning; his alarm is what freaked him out. It was morning again and he had to gather himself. It was his day off so luckily for him he did not have work to think about. He however had to get himself back home. Booking a flight, taking time off work and inform his close friends of what had happened.

His flight back home was the longest he had taken; characterized with so many questions, emotions and everything in-between. He did not inform any of his family members of his coming home, only his childhood friend who picked him up at the airport. The drive to the village was long but bearable. Fresh air combined with the serene landscape was beautiful to behold. Craig filled him on what had been happening at home and how far the burial preparations had gone. It was heartbreaking to listen; never in a million years had it crossed to him that he would one day have to bury his mother.

When Craig pulled up at the drive way that afternoon, he did not know what to expect. He stepped out of the car and walked slowly into the house. He had not been home in so long and a lot had changed. He admired the manicured trees and the well-kept compound. At the far end of the compound, he noticed a tent pitched and seats, he made his way there just to have a feel of what was happening. The tent was empty, but on the table was his mother’s portrait. He picked it up and looked at it, smiled and then put it down. After he made his way to the house, not sure what to expect but he still made the long walk.

When he walked in, there was pin drop silence in the house. A sense of solitude filled the atmosphere. His siblings were happy to see him but they too were also coming to terms with what had happened. His father was relieved to see him. He embraced him with so much love, comfort and assurance that everything would be fine. He felt the love and for a minute, all the pain he had bottled up left him. He loved his dad and they had an amazing relationship. Having him embrace him the way he did that day was one thing he needed and he was grateful. Over the next several days, final preparations of his mother’s burial were finalized. He also got a chance to fully understand what had happened to her and how she had rested. He was at peace knowing that she had died with those she loved and cared about.

He broke down as her coffin went down the graveyard, there was so much going on at the back of his head. He let the tears flow, probably because he knew that he had to let the pain go somehow. It was therapeutic but just as painful. He did not have his last moment with his mum and he had to live with that. He felt that pain over and over again but he was at peace.

He had to go back to work, but not just yet, he felt the need to spend time at home. Recollect his thoughts and fully come to terms with everything that had happened. Several days after laying to rest his mum, the house felt empty. He struggled to get by and so did his siblings. They missed her, longed to hear her laughter and presence.

For him he felt like a toddler, re-living life all over again, except this time there was a permanent void, that of his mother. He was taking baby steps in life without the mother. He knew that he would be okay, he just did not know when but he knew he would.

‘Give yourself time, process all the emotions, cry, scream, drive around, visit new places, pray, cry again but whatever you do make sure you heal and come to terms with your loss. Let time heal you and when it is time to go forward, you will know you are ready. Before then take the baby steps till you are fully healed.

Baby steps.