This story is personal because I lived it- five years ago. My heart goes out to all the families dealing with the loss or sickness of a loved one. If you missed the first one, here it is.
Merry Christmas again everybody! ❤
He looked weak.
Weaker than he did the day before.
Dede swallowed hard and blinked back the tears.
Daddy had a smile on. He always put on a smile for his girls- Momma, Korkor and her. Momma was there every morning and afternoon to bath him and feed him. The girls came in the evening to cheer him up and take over the care giving so that Momma could rest a bit. He always put on a brave face when the nurses came to look for his veins to give him injection, always smiled as Korkor tried to trick him into taking another spoonful of soup, always laughed at the girls’ jokes, always acted as if this was just another day.
Except it wasn’t.
This was the first Christmas that Daddy wasn’t home. He wasn’t helping them to set up a Christmas tree or buy some drinks for the house. He was not sampling the cakes Momma baked and making jokes about his waistline expanding by the second. He wasn’t harmonizing Christmas carols with Dede or promising them that this year’s Christmas family outing would be fun.
It wasn’t like every other Christmas.
Daddy was surrounded by beeping machines and wires. There were no Christmas decorations, no carol singing, no smell of freshly baked cake. There was only the smell of bleach, the sound of people moaning in pain and nurses with grumpy faces, almost as though they blamed Daddy and all the other patients for being stuck during Christmas.
Dr Boama stood at the door, watching the family huddled around their father. It was a bittersweet memory- it reminded him of his father 7 years ago. Same scenario, except his father never left that Christmas. He died a day before the New Year.
Dede looked up and saw Dr Boama.
‘Hi, I didn’t want to interrupt.’
‘No, it’s fine. Please come and see him.’
He could feel the girls’ eyes on him as he checked the file by the bedside and spoke to their father.
‘Can our father come home for Christmas?’
‘Not this year, I am afraid. We still need to keep him close for observations.’
Korkor tried to hide her disappointment.
‘When can he come home?’
‘I am afraid I really can’t tell.’
Dede kept her head down to make sure that nobody saw the tears, but Daddy did. He reached out and rubbed the back of her hand. He always knew these things- he knew when she was sad, angry, frightened, jealous, insecure, name it. He could always tell.
‘Remember when you were little and you were afraid of not being able to wake up in the morning if you fell asleep?’
‘Yes I do’, she replied, using every ounce of inner strength to keep her voice from breaking.
‘Remember what I told you?’
She nodded this time because the tears were now tumbling down.
‘I told you that you should not let the uncertainty of tomorrow rob you of the joy that today brings. Ir doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow- let’s enjoy today. I know you are strong girls and even though Christmas looks gloomy, we can still have a great time because at least we are together.’
The girls leaned in to hug their father. An idea dawned on Dede and she got up to go and execute it.
An hour later, her mother showed up with food and Christmas lights. The girls strung the lights around Daddy’s bed whilst Momma dished out the food. Dede knew what would be the icing on the cake- music.
She started singing softly:
Once in Royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed
where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed..
The rest of the family joined in the singing. Some of the other patients also hummed along.
As for Daddy, he had tears in his eyes.
Amidst the ‘three French hens’ and the ‘Tis the season to be jolly’, he pondered over what he had asked the doctor not to tell them until Christmas was over- that he won’t live to see another Christmas. The cancer was spreading. Like he had told Dede, the uncertainties of the future were not going to stop him from enjoying the present. Today was perfect- his entire family was with him and they had brought Christmas along with them. Tomorrow could wait.
He joined in the chorus: ‘O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!’