FOOTPRINTS - Episode 2

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Bagamba paced the floor, shaking in fear. Gonza had been in the theater for six hours. He looked towards the theater every few minutes,...

Bagamba paced the floor, shaking in fear. Gonza had been in the theater for six hours. He looked towards the theater every few minutes, hoping for an answer. His mother sat opposite him rocking little Najja who was too young to understand what was going on. Bagamba’s mother’s eyes were teary. She had come to like and adore her daughter in-law over the years. Gonza loved and adored her son and herself beyond words. She was willing to give anything to save her from the cancer that suddenly struck her down. “If only there was anything I could do to save her,” he said to Bagamba. “I am willing to donate any organ to keep my beautiful Gonza alive,” she continued. Bagamba did not reply. He was in a painful trance. He was jolted out of his trance by a noise outside. He stuck his head out of the door and saw nurses wheeling Gonza out of the theater. “She is out mama,” he announced. His mother lifted little Najja and they dashed towards the stretcher.
A few minutes later, Gonza was laid out on the bed. She was still breathing. They all heaved a sigh of relief. “You must let her rest. I would recommend you all stay in the room next door tonight. She needs all the rest she can get,” the doctor told them. “Is she going to be alright?” Bagamba asked. “We will find out tomorrow,” the doctor replied. Neither Bagamba nor his mother slept that night. Every hour, Bagamba would go next door and check on Gonza. He would stare at her beautiful face as she breathed heavily in her sleep. Even his mother could not keep herself from going over to check on Gonza. By morning, she woke up in pain. She cried as pains ravaged her body forcing the doctors to send her back to the theater. Bagamba and his mother prayed fervently. Two hours later, Gonza passed away. The cancer had spread far too much in her body to be contained by surgery. Bagamba threw himself to the ground in anguish. “What am I supposed to do? He asked the doctors and nurses. “She was the joy and love of my life. Please do something. Please help me…isn’t there anything you can do?” He asked desperately. His mother left Najja on the cot and flung her old body to the ground. She felt a searing pain cut through her body.

After hours of crying, Bagamba sat on the couch gaping into empty space. It felt as though a part of him was gone. He could taste pain in his mouth. Emptiness and sadness stared menacingly back at him. For the first time in his life, he considered suicide. Gonza had been my rock, he thought. Where do I go from here? “You must pull yourself together, brother,” his younger brother Mulogo urged him. Mulogo planned the funeral, as Bagamba was in far too much pain to pull himself together. One night, about three weeks after Gonza’s death, he sat at the kitchen table with a cup in hand. He had prepared a concoction with rat poison. He glared at the cup as he pondered his next action. Najja began to cry just as he was about to raise the cup to his mouth. He placed the cup down and dashed to the bedroom where his mother was trying to calm Najja down. He took her in his arms and rocked her gently. Like magic, she stopped crying, and started playing with Bagamba. He placed her on the floor and they played together. His mother left them and headed to her room to catch some much needed rest. After about an hour, Najja began to sleep. He placed her on the cot and looked at her for another five minutes. She looks just like Gonza, he thought. He returned to the kitchen and washed the poison down the sink.

He went to his room, took the envelope that Gonza had addressed to him, ripped it open and began to read. He could no longer wait. He wanted to touch something that had been a part of her. The letter was covered in Gonza’s perfume. He could smell her. He placed it over his nose and took a deep long breath with his eyes closed. Finally, he opened the letter and began to read. His hands shook!

My Dearest Bagamba,
If you are reading this it means I am gone. I want you to know that I will never be gone from your heart. I can only imagine what pain my passing away has caused you…I know it must be deep. If you passed, I know what I would think of. I would think of taking my life. I would find life useless and utterly empty without the one that brightened my day and made my nights glow. Yes, I would think of that, but in the end, I would think of our daughter. How would she cope without the both of us? I want you to be strong. Be strong for her and hang in there. If I could have beaten death, I would have brushed it aside and returned to earth…for your sake…for her sake. You are the most amazing man I ever knew. Please remember that I still dwell in your heart. Do not give up. Hang on to tell our story. If you quit, then death would have beaten us both. Shame death by battling through the pain to narrate to our daughter and the world our story of love, resilience and pain. She deserves it. I wish I could do more. I will be watching over you two from above. Sometimes, when I can, my spirit will whisper in your ears and my love will caress your spirit. Life may have eluded me, but I have no intention of allowing my spirit to elude you and Najja. Listen to your heart at times my love…I will always be there. Guide Najja in the way that will make her a mature and intelligent woman. Love her as you have loved me, and teach her to love as you taught me. Teach her to smile and care for others from the core of your heart.
Live on, and battle through life’s pains my love.

I love you so much, even in death.
Your loving wife,

Bagamba placed the letter on his chest as a torrent of tears descended down his face. He lay still, clutching the letter tightly. Gonza’s perfume wafted into his nose, making him miss her even more. “I will be strong for Najja! I will be strong for your sake, Gonza. I will love until my dying day,” he said out aloud as though Gonza were there. A feeling of peace enveloped him. Soon, he fell asleep with the letter still sitting on his chest. When he woke up in the morning, he searched for it frantically. He found it rumpled among the bed sheets. He carefully unfolded the letter. He took it to the business center nearby and had it laminated and then framed. He placed it by his bedside. Each night, he read it out loud before going to bed.

Eleven Years later…
“Papa, how come you never married after mama died?” Najja asked her father, Bagamba. It was her twelfth birthday and Bagamba had thrown her a party. Friends and family had left while she and her father sat in the living with a pile of gifts around them. “I think we should organize the gifts now,” shouted Bernadette, her grandmother. She had remained an important part of Najja’s life following Gonza’s death. She stood by the kitchen door as she spoke, pointing at the gifts. “I want the answer to my question papa, after I have moved the gifts to my room,” Najja said and she began to cart the gifts away. “I will give you a hand sweetheart,” Bagamba said. “I will answer your question of course, when we are done.” “I can’t wait,” said Najja whose eyes were burning brightly with excitement and expectation. “Okay, papa, tell me now!” she said. He voice was filled with elation as she curled up on the couch beside her father. She peered intently into his eyes, barely blinking as she wanted to hear what he had to say.

“I have a gift for you, first. Or rather, a gift from your mother on your 12th birthday,” Bagamba said. “Really? How can that be?” “Even when cancer was ravaging her body, your mother had time to think about you and I. She wrote us letters to share her deepest thoughts and love with us…she wanted to be a part of our journey even after she was gone. I wish I knew what is inside, but I am sure your mother had nice things to tell you on your 12th birthday.” He handed her the envelope. Najja was in the habit of staring at her mother’s pictures for hours on end. She would wonder what she’d say to her if she were there. She wondered what she sounded like when she laughed and when she spoke. Her heart was beating fast as she opened the envelope. Her hands shook furiously too. She worked her way quickly to the letter and began to unwrap it.

Najja my beautiful daughter,
Happy 12th birthday!!! I can see your eyes in my mind burning brightly with life. I can imagine you have long dark and rick braids. Your beauty sparkles in my eyes as I write this. Looking into your face a few days ago, I had no doubt that you’d grow into a beautiful girl. I am sure you wonder what did my mother look like? Who was she? Forget my pictures which I am sure your father must have shown you. Your mother was a woman who loved you and your father with every breath that she drew. I was excited to have you…to raise you. If I had the opportunity to fight death in the ring, I would have donned my gloves and gone to war, dueling with death and I can assure you, I would have slammed death to death, just to get one more day with you and your father. Unfortunately, death hit below the belt by ravaging my body with cancer. Even in my weakest state, I was willing to give everything to be with you two. Do not cry my daughter. My spirit has been watching over you every single day of your life. I am confident that you are in good hands with your father and grandma.

I hope to see you again someday on the other side. Please love your father and your grandmother. Listen to them and learn from them. They taught me so much, so I am sure they have a lot to offer you. When I was twelve, I was a charming little girl, full of life and dreams. I can’t say that I achieved all my dreams, but I achieved the most important of them all – I met the love of my life your father, and I had a baby girl – you! Those were very important to me. Dream big my child. Let nothing hold you back. Love big too and allow yourself to be loved. Be happy, no matter what you face and remember, if you don’t win today, tomorrow is another day. Please don’t cry…It will break my heart to look down and find you crying. I had a good life before I left. Plan on doing the same my child. I shall visit with you again at your 15th birthday. No matter what you go through…no matter where you are, always remember that mama loves you more than she can explain in this letter.
Your beloved mama,

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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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