It was 5am or so on a Sunday morning when I heard a knock on the bedroom door. I was in between sleep and waking up. I am also a very light sleeper so got up when I heard the knock.
It was my younger sister, Stephanie. I was spending the weekend at her place, as I usually do when I am bored at my own place and needed company.
I opened the door but couldn’t find her in the corridor leading to the bedrooms but I heard voices, hers and her husband’s coming from the living room so I went there.
When I got to the living room, she was with the husband and she told me another of our sister, Rita who lives with yet another sister of ours, Pauline had called that Pauline was rushed to the hospital in the wee hours of that morning and she wanted us to pray.
So we prayed. Believing in the efficacy of our prayers and trusting God who told us in the Bible that when we ask, it shall be given unto us.
And then we waited for news. For good news with great confidence, that all is well and she has been discharged.
My sister, Pauline gave birth two weeks prior (November 3rd to be precise) that time. To a bouncing baby boy. The naming ceremony was held on the Friday (November 9th) before the Sunday incident. Her first born, coincidentally celebrated his 3rd birthday (November 16th) the previous day and I called to sing the happy birthday song to him. He was happy.
I talked with everyone in the house that Saturday. My mom,(who went to help out as is the tradition in my country when a child gives birth), kid brother Sam (who accompanied my mom) and Rita and of course the celebrant, Richard.
Except Pauline. I was told she was having her bath so I promised I would call later in the day.
Alas, I didn’t.
Something I now regret deeply because I feel if I had, perhaps something may have happened to trigger something and possibly avert something.
She was bleeding when she was rushed to that hospital that fateful Sunday morning.
My family is a close knit one. I called my immediate younger brother who happens to live in the same city with me to alert him.
We waited and waited. We got news from Rita that Pauline had been stabilized after blood transfusion.
We all breathed a sigh of relief.
That was around 1pm or so. And then 3pm, my mom who also was at the hospital called me, panicking that we should all pray. That my sister’s condition has worsened.
I had to call my pastor but was unable to reach him and then left a message telling him about the situation and asking him to pray.
The Text That Changed My Family Forever
When my mother called, I was scared. Panicked and called my younger brother again. I told him the way my mom called me has got me really scared.
He felt I was being over dramatic. I can be like that. Over dramatic that is.
But that day was different. I was scared but also kept reminding myself that all will be well.
I kept telling myself Pauline is a strong girl. She will pull through. Everything will be fine.
It was my belief. It was our belief.
We held on to hope. We held on to God.
And then the ceiling came crashing down and life as we knew it, changed irrevocably with a single text.
A text from my sister, Rita
‘’We lost sister Pauline’’
The text was sent to me. I and Stephanie (the sister whom I was spending the weekend with) were sitting down in her living room. Silent with our thoughts when the text came in.
When I read it, I threw away my phone and started screaming. Screaming at the top of my voice. Stephanie, held me and asked what was wrong that I shouldn’t tell her anything has happened to our sister.
I ignored her and started searching for my phone frantically. I was sure I had misread the message. I remember thinking to myself that day, that something is wrong with my eyes. I can’t read well.
I searched frantically for the phone. My phone that I had thrown away. Thinking back, I believe if anyone had seen me from afar, they would have thought I had gone loco.
For long moments, I couldn’t find the phone and when I did, reread the message, it was still the same.
My sister has passed on.
At the age of 37. Leaving two kids behind.
I was inconsolable. My sister was inconsolable. My entire family was inconsolable. We screamed and wept for hours, for days. For months. Indeed we are still mourning. Still inconsolable.
We pleaded with God that day. So much so, we held a night vigil asking God to perform a miracle and to let her wake up.
None of us slept that day. None of us has been sleeping well since then.
It was and is a huge blow.
I didn’t get to talk to my sister the day before she died.
My sister died and I didn’t get to talk to her.
The trip I had planned to go see her the following week was never to be.
We Lost A Queen, A Great Sister, Woman and Mother
My sister was a great woman. A queen. A loving sister and super mother. She loved fiercely and did everything with passion.
Our last conversation, she told me how the eldest child wanted to suckle at her breast because the baby was suckling. That was 4 days before she died. She said the eldest boy was jealous and she told him that day, that he is her first love
And I was like, ‘’don’t spoil that boy’’ and we laughed over it.
She loved her kids fiercely. Always willing to do anything for them.
She was my best friend. She was the only one I could confide in on just about everything.
We fought a lot also because we are two strong willed women but our love for each other and family was greater.
She was a great sister. The one person who always tells me when I am moody that everything will turn out right.
Pauline, had so many dreams. She would often tell me things she had planned or was planning to do.
She had so many dreams. She talked about where the kids would go to school. Plans to buy a house, to build a great family with her husband.
She wanted to further her studies.
But she died with all the dreams.
November 17th, 2019 is etched in our memories forever. It was a black day and the sunniness of January to October was dimmed greatly by that day alone.
I remember a Facebook post on my personal Facebook profile asking that November be beautiful.
Little did I know that death was lurking in the corner, ready to strike home. Poised to strike our hearts
And death succeeded.
God left us. Or so it felt on that fateful November day.
The Birthday We Didn’t Know was the Last One
Pauline’s hubby flew into the country early February and I also came into the country a week after, We were all at home. She, her husband, Rita and Richard and myself.
I went on to stay for months. Then relocated to another city in July.
The husband threw a surprise birthday for her at a swank hotel. The birthday was all planned by him and my other sister, Rita.
I was put in the know two days before the birthday party.
On that day, she told me that her husband said we will be having a family dinner and that she should wear something gorgeous.
My sister is gorgeous and is a girly girl and when she came out from her bedroom that day, I wasn’t disappointed.
We all piled into the car (husband, herself, Richard and I) and drove to the party venue.
Meanwhile, Rita was there with all their friends. Everything set.
I can still remember vividly her pleasant shocked surprise when she entered the venue and everyone screamed ‘’happy birthday’’
She was holding out tablets and literally threw them on the floor on seeing everyone.
But we didn’t know it was her last birthday.
Remembering that day breaks my heart all over again
But then, I think at least she had that wonderful birthday celebration but the thought still won’t bring her back from the dead.
We will forever Miss Her
Pauline, you may be gone but you are not gone forever.
You will forever be in our hearts.
Words cannot describe our feelings and thoughts.
There is no day we don’t think about you. There’s no day we don’t talk about you.
I am weeping profusely from writing this.
For months, I took to drinking so I could sleep at night. Oblivion helped but dawn comes with the stark reality that you are gone.
Richie would wake up in the middle of the night asking God to perform a Lazarus miracle.
Clinton was all alone in the Middle East mourning you.
Rita, oh Rita. Rita. I worry about her because she was the one that rushed you to the hospital, saw you die and then had to take you to the mortuary.
The trauma she and Mom has had to deal with, no one can fully appreciate it.
Stephanie, is heartbroken because the last time she saw you was at grandma’s burial and that was like 2 years ago.
Tega, is inconsolable. She had relocated with her family out of the country and didn’t even get to attend your funeral because she couldn’t make it.
Sam almost went crazy when you died but God has pulled him from the dark.
Mommy, the love of your life went crazy with grief. As we all did but being a mother, I can’t begin to imagine the pain she feels, losing a child and at such an early age. She can’t mention your name without crying but she’s hanging in there.
So many things have happened after your death. Life as you knew it, is no longer the same.
The thin thread we had all held on to, to keep the family together was broken.
Your death brought a dominos effect which revealed friends and family alike for who and what they truly are.
Perhaps one day, we will look back and be able to forgive and forget.
It dawns every single day that we are no longer 8 kids but 7 kids
But still, a place is prepared for you in our hearts forever.
You are still the 3rd child.
You are still Paupau. You are still Poni. Like Richard calls you when he wants to go all crazy on us.
You are still our sister. Forever.
Like I said at your grave during the funeral, I am sorry.
I am sorry for failing to protect you as the first born. I should have done more. I should have been able to see beyond everything. That is what firstborns are meant to do. Protect their younger ones.
But I failed. And I am so so sorry.
Wherever you are, find it in your heart to forgive me. Pauline.
I love you. We love you.
Pauline, you are forever in our hearts and the kids you left behind, will know that you were a great woman and mother who loved them and life with great passion.