A Journey that Changed my Life

Dedication: To everyone who has lost their parents or loved ones

There is not a more devastating moment in life than the day you are told you are HIV Positive or the day you are told you have cancer. The day you are told by your doctor that you only have few weeks, months or a year to live. It’s not until a moment like this when you start spending your everyday questioning what it is you have done with your life. It’s not until a moment like this when all the things you’ve done start coming back to you. It’s not until a moment like this when you truly get to know and see who your true family or friends are. It’s not until a moment like this when you truly appreciate the meaning and beauty of life. It’s not until a moment like this when you truly start living your life to the fullest, for to you, every ticking second counts. These were some of the moments my mother Angelic came to experience and feel before her dying day. Here is her story:

It was the year of 2003 when my mother went to hospital and found out the most devastating news. That Tuesday afternoon of April 20th, was the day she was diagnosed with HIV positive. From that day, her body, mind and souls were like placed in another planet. She was confused and couldn’t understand how it happened as she had never once slept around with any man apart from my stepdad. And to make matters worse, she couldn’t find a way and courage to tell her children, so she kept it to herself for 3 months. One Friday, I got out of school and found my mother crying. Her eyes looked as she had been crying for hours. Never in my life had I ever seen her cry. As 11-year-old, I didn’t know what to do or say. I just did the only thing that came to mind. Crying with her as I tried to get her up from the floor. When she saw how terrified I was, she stopped crying, then tried to calm me down. Few hours later, I asked my mom why she had been crying, still, she couldn’t tell me. That Friday night and weekend passed, then she was back to her normal self. To her joy and smile that shined through everyone. On Monday morning, my mom got up, prepared breakfast and helped me pick up a nice outfit for the school, as usually. I went to school happy because my mom was happy as well. When it was time for lunch, I walked home to eat as school did not provide meals for the students. A distance that would usually took me 40 minutes of walk, it took me 20 minutes that day. I ran fast to reach to my mom and give her a hug, to find out she had been crying again. By that time, I knew that me crying made my mom very upset, so I stayed strong, and did not even ask questions. As she tried to get up and prepare lunch for me and my younger step-siblings, I encouraged her to lay down and let me take over the cooking. Even though she had taught me to cook some simple meals, I wasn’t good at yet. But all I wanted was for my beautiful mom to rest and be happy. So, I was willing to do anything for that to happen. After all, she had done and sacrificed so much for us. I did the best I could with the cooking. After I was done cooking, I dished a plate for my siblings to share, then took the other one to my mom in her bedroom, where she had been resting. As I tried to get her to eat, I saw that smile of hers, again. The one I had been longing to see that afternoon. I kissed her on cheek, then walked back to school for my afternoon class. Even though my mom felt it was best to keep what she was going through to herself at that moment, she knew I was smart little girl, and one way the other, I was going to make her tell me what was going on. So that same Monday as I walked back into the house from class, she had prepared one of the most delicious meal I had never eaten. After we were done eating, she told me not to worry about my homework, but to take my backpack in my room then walk with her to the grocery store. In our way there, she was very quiet and scared for reasons I didn’t know at the time. As for me, the last thing I wanted was to make her feel as she had to do anything, especially with everything she had gone through. So, I stayed quiet as well. As we were walking to the store that took us 30 minutes to get to, we ran through many people in the village, doing different things. When we reached to the store, my mom said to me “my daughter. Get anything you want whether clothes or food. Anything at all.” That was her first time giving me the freedom to pick out anything I wanted, so I was very terrified and wondered why she would say that. Before we left home for the store, she had mentioned she had something important to say to me, so I reminded her. After that, she had me go with her to her favorite thinking spot. A place where she loved to go and think. By that time, my stomach was full of all the delicious food I ate, especially the candies. So, I felt as I was ready for anything. Maybe it was the sugar in me thinking like that! As we sent on the bench under the tree, she kept on repeating the word “I am sorry” over and over. She was not saying anything else. I could see whatever she wanted to tell me was becoming hard for her to say than she had imagined. So, instead of placing it on, I just held her hand and waited until she was ready. A half an hour, an hour or two went by with her just repeating that exact same work. Except the last time, she added “I am sorry my beautiful daughter.” Then she said, “I feel horrible for what I am about to say to you, but I must do so for your safety and because I love you more than anything.” I responded saying, mom, you can tell me anything. I am strong little girl, you said it yourself. And then she finally found courage to say the words she had fighting hard to tell me. She said ” three months ago. I went to see doctor Bennett…. He told me that I was HIV positive.” To be honest for a kid growing up in Africa, I had not cruel what she was talking about. So, I asked, what is HIV mom? And why do you cry or feel bad when you talk about it? Should I be worried? My mom wasn’t surprised to find out I didn’t know what she was talking about. So, she decided to explain it to me word by word. She said many words, in which many of them I don’t remember. But all I could think of as she explained was how I was going to survive without her. She was my whole world. My everything. For about 10 minutes, I couldn’t contain myself, so I started crying with anger. Mostly I was angry to myself for letting my mother fight the battle alone those past last 3 months I didn’t know. I hated myself and felt as I should have known or placed her to tell me. Both my mom and I continuously kept on crying. However, she contained herself first, then tried her best to calm me down. She said to me “it’s not your fault you didn’t know sooner, and you’ve been my strongest hold through it all. Look, you’ve been taking care of me and your siblings, even though you didn’t know what was going on with me. I love you my daughter.” That alone helped me calm down and stopped crying. Even though she told me, she had me promise to not tell anyone, not even my siblings or aunts and uncles. She wanted to do it herself on her own term. As we walked back home, I could see a relief in her. She was much happier than before. As the days went by, she started teaching me all safety procedures to help her prevent me, my siblings and others from being affected by HIV. She had me start taking notes to everything she was saying, and will make me review them every day after school. Few weeks later, we divided the housing stuffs in two categories. One for me and my siblings and the other for my mom. So, I gathered all my siblings. I showed them which items of the house they should use and the ones they shouldn’t use. They were too young to understand what was happening, but I tried to explain it to them without telling them the reasons for all the changes. They were so unlike me, and made it easy for me by not asking too much questions. I just don’t know if I would had been able to hide it from them if they had asked. My mother continuously followed through with all her treatments with her doctor, but instead of getting better, she was getting worse day by day. That time she knew it was time to tell the rest of her family. When everyone heard of the news, there was a lot of tears and confusions in the hospital room. My mom was amazing, very respected women, they all couldn’t understand how that was possible. But then they forgot that my stepdad was womanizer. On November 22nd of 2002, my stepdad got offered a job in another town. Two months later, he left home for his new job, where he was gone for 6 months. The business trip he was sent to was getting paid to sleep with hookers in the big city of Dar Salam. But he lied to both mom, me and his own children that he got offered a job as a police officer. Two weeks before returning home, he had found out he was HIV positive. But due to his selfishness and wickedness, he did not stop once to think before sleeping with my mom. So, he was the person whom my mom got it from. Her own so called alcoholic and prostitute husband. The hurtful thing of it all was when he found out mom was sick, he took off and never returned home. We tried contacting him, but he was not where to be found. To make matters worse, all his family blamed my mother and did not want anything to do with us anymore. They stopped contacting and visiting us. A year later, my mother had gotten even worse. She had become so skinny to the point when we looked at her, all we saw was bones, not a single muscle left on her body. From time to time, looking at her alone for someone my age was scary enough, but I stood by herself through it all. My mom side’s family tried to help the best way they could as well. On June 9, 2003, I paid a visit to see my sibling’s grandparents seeking for help, but they threw me out like a garbage bag. I had never been so angry in my entire life. However, there was one of my stepdad sister who was always so nice and would visit us from time to time. I went to her for a help. She came with me to my place and helped me get my mother to hospital with the help of my mother’s brother. When we got to the hospital, doctor told us it was best she stayed in the hospital. My mother stayed in hospital for another year and half before she died. And that whole year and half, I stayed with her. I never once left her side. As I watched the HIV seeking in her and eating her alive, I felt powerless and unworthy because everything I did was helpless. It was not helping her feel better. But during the time she was in hospital, she made sure I knew and understood how to take care of myself. She taught me everything she believed I would need to survivor once she was gone. I made many promises to every lesson she taught me, to always follow them no matter the consequences.
You see, you might wonder why I am sharing this store of my beloved mom, whom I highly believe is in heaven right now watching over me every day of my life. See, my life changed the day my mom found out she had aids, even though I didn’t know until 3 months later. My mom suffered a whole lot more because people or family who was supposed to be there for her weren’t there as needed. She was strong and a fighter. She fought hard to live a little longer for her children even though she was in a lot of pain. That’s the kind of mother she was. If she had all the support she needed from everyone, there’s not a single hesitation in seeing her living another 5 or 10 years. Again, because she was a fighter who never quit and gave up. If the man who brought the sickness and his family would have stayed by her side, maybe she would not have died carrying a lot of burdens. My mom died with lots of pain, not from her sickness alone, but mostly from others. The night before mother died, I slept by her side. When I woke up in the morning, she was gone. I started crying, screaming out loud saying why me! I was left with a broken heart, feeling lonely and scared than ever before. I became an orphan without a mother, father or a home that very moment.
You see, my mother was kind, caring, loving women toward everyone. She did not deserve what she went through. After my mom died, I dedicated my entire life to never allow anyone else to be treated like she was. I promised myself to always be loving and giving. I promised myself to be there, especially when people needed me most. I promised myself to be better and a good different. I promised myself to never allow people like my stepdad take control of others. And I am determined to keep on with the promises I made to myself in tears, at my mother’s funeral until the day I die.

By Epiphany Emmangelic

Story shared by...

Epiphany Emmangelic