My mum had been in and out of hospitals too many times to count since her breast cancer diagnosis in 2012. On this day last year she was discharged from a hospital for the last time.
December 11 2017 I left the office at 4:20 p.m. and went to Cedars for a glass of wine as I waited for my mum to finish up the discharge process. She got home around 6 p.m. and unbeknownst to anyone she would die 31 hours later. It is surreal how the numbers 13 and 31, mirror images of each other, have been so prominent in my life since my mum died on the 13th.
When I got home one of the first things I asked my mum was how she was feeling. She said she was tired but glad to be home. My nieces were also home so she asked them for their report cards as well as the list of books for the upcoming school year. That was textbook (pun intended) JS. Always putting others first. My half-sister more or less abandoned her daughters so my mum stepped in and cared for them when no one else would. When she got home from the hospital the first thing on her agenda was ensuring the education of my nieces would continue the following year.
We did not speak much with my mum that day. She was tired and I think the last of her energy was spent on my nieces. At around 7 p.m. she said she needed to rest. She made her way to her room and I went back to my place.
And that was it. We had been talking for almost three decades but our last face-to-face conversation lasted approximately one hour. If I had known it was the last time I would ever hear her voice … I do not have the strength to complete that sentence. Just thinking about it makes me feel too many emotions I am unable to process.
Once I was at my place I sent her a WhatsApp message saying:
Welcome home my love. U were missed. Happy holidays warrior queen.
The next morning at 10:17 a.m. I texted her to say good morning and ask how the first night back in her bed was. She did not reply and I never called her. December 12th is a public holiday in Kenya as we celebrate Jamhuri Day. My favourite thing to do on public holidays is day drink so I slept really early that evening.
At 0:58 a.m. my brother called me to inform me they are rushing/have rushed mum to the hospital. At 1:07 a.m. one of my aunts called and even before I picked up the phone I knew my mum was dead. The tone and urgency in her voice as she asked me to make my way to the hospital confirmed it.
The next morning my BFF came to help me with getting the burial permit and … absorbing it all I guess. She has also lost her mum to breast cancer so she was exactly who I needed at that moment. I told her that I had texted my mum the day before but she did not reply and I never bothered to call her as I was day drinking. I was struggling with the fact that if only I called her then we might have had a more meaningful last conversation. My BFF immediately told me to cut that shit out. Of course she did not put it like that. But she told me that I cannot allow myself to think like that because it will only lead me down a never-ending spiral of guilt that I could not afford in that moment or ever. With those words I snapped out of it. The thought did not immediately go away forever though. It crept into my mind a couple of times in the weeks following her death but I refused to let the guilt in.
My mum and I had been talking for almost three decades and as I got older I became one of her closest confidants; she told me things she never told anyone else. I choose to remember that rather than the fact we barely spoke on this day last year. After all I could not have known she would die 31 hours after she got home.