For Those Of Us Left Behind, Every Day Is Never The Same Again

2016-04-11 15:16

Memoirs from a decade of pain: A Tribute to the Ellen Fiya Manyowa, the love of my life.

Friday, 8th April was one of those days drenched in pain, that never really seems to get better each year. 10 years have passed, yet it all seems like minutes.

Having battled cancer for a long time, and with advanced age, we had been told to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

I remember, a few days before that i had visited her at the hospital.

I was greeted by the sense of humour, and mean jokes about her being my wife, and everything else i had known and loved about her.

But i could tell something was wrong. She seemed drowned, drowned by the pain. Her physique, tormented by the pain.

I was 15 then, and for all my life i had never felt so powerless and small.  With regards to her, i had never felt sorry for her, felt heartbroken for her. I had always seen her as an indestructible force of nature. Maybe because she was too awesome.

There was no debate that she was strong. She had seen so much torment for years, largely by my own hand.

One time i visited her for winter break, i jumped into a swollen river and was swept over 2 km away, saved by a sharp curve in the river bed, which threw me back into shallow water and to the banks. Seconds from drowning.

Another time, i had played devious fight maker, and caused brutal brawls among the cattle herd-boys, which resulted in nearly the entire community rising in uproar and causing a scene at her house.

Then there is the summer i stepped on a plough rod. The steel pipe went straight through my leg and came out the other end.

There was the spring i shot a fellow friend with a stone catapult as he sat on a roof. He was knocked out unconscious and fell head first from about 2 meters.

There were several of these incidents.

At times i slipped to the cattle kraals and drank all the milk from the cows. Leaving the household nearly stranded without a supply of milk.

Raw milk is dangerous and a few times i ended up in hospital with major infections.

Sometimes i threw pebbles at the chickens, or chucked everyone's left boot into the deep well.

Her husband was a strict disciplinarian but a soft man. Even till now, it is rumoured that in all his life, he only ever lost his temper with me.

When we ended up at loggerheads, she stood by me. Needless to say i was often the uncouth offender.

Most of this happened before my 12th birthday.

By the time i became a teen, her torment at my mischief had subsided.

Somehow, she had always loved me. She had always handled me well. And i was difficult.

But that day, the 5th day of April 2006. I had felt overwhelmed and defeated. The disease had taken its toll. Taken much of her body away.

Yet in all that, there was something that had remained.

Even as she was losing a battle against terminal cancer, she was not broken.

When i shed a tear while holding her hand. She had laughed, and teasingly said she was not going to have kids with me.

"ndinogara sei parupasa ne murume anochema?" (How do i take a man who cries to be my wedded husband?)

I left that hospital a badly broken teen. I struggled to visit her again. Too traumatized to see her in so much pain. Too horrified, too hurt. Too angry that there was nothing i could do to take the pain away.

It took somedays, to gather courage. I decided, on the Saturday, that i would go. My sister Ruth, who too had shied away asked me to come fetch her. Together we would accompany our mother.

By the time we were ready, the call arrived. The telephone handset fell through my mother's hand and crashed with bangs. My sister ran to the room, and a scream ensued.

My heart sank, without being told, i knew. She had rested.

Almost everyone who came for her funeral kept saying, "It will get better in time"

Well, it never got better. It still hurts. It hurts even more. It hurts because, human minds can conceptualize time, but cannot perceive it until they experience it.

We knew she was gone forever. It hurt then, but hurts more as we go through forever without her.

Time has only made us miss her more. We miss her more today, because we missed her yesterday, and the day before. As the days we missed her increase. It just hurts even more.

She was a warm kind and soft spoken woman. She had a wicked sense of humour, and had a way of brightening an entire family gathering.

She was especially wise too. In her absence i have seen several of her life lessons hold true.

She was patient, tolerant, and hard working.

She gave birth to 6 children. 1 beautiful girl, and 5 handsome boys. The girl, Judith, became my mother. The men, are my uncles, and the greatest companions i have ever had.

She was my grandmother, and i lost her 10 years ago.

I try to celebrate her life. She really gave me so much. My mother is an absolute gift, and my uncles are gems. She taught me key lessons, and she let me torment her with childhood mischief as i grew.

She demonstrated amazing strength. Even as she was slipping away, she was still the strongest person in the room.

They say cancer tears you apart, and everyone who loves you. With my Nana, it was not so.

We cried, desperate for her to get better, we were depressed, haunted by the prospect of losing her.

But, she was jovial, and remained a strength giving mother right till she left.

I remember all of this, and fall in love with her more each day.

I miss her more. I wish she was still here all the time.

Often times i wipe tears off my cheeks. It is the same for my mother, for my uncles, my aunts, and my cousins. It has been the same for a decade now.

It is slightly worse each 8th day of April.

#RIPGrandma #iLoveYou

  • Ellen Fiya Manyowa was Maynard Manyowa's greatest friend, companion, and biggest fan. She rested on 08-04-2006. Her life, her battle, inspired this tribute. It is dedicated to all those living in the shadow of cancer, because, for those left behind, everyday is never the same again. This article appears on

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AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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