Between The Sheets is an inspiration story about hitting an option-less end. It’s about facing death to be precise. But don’t take my word for it, read the story and see for yourself. Sip your coffee and sit tight. If you are in a plane or car fasten your seat belt. It’s gonna be rough, rough, rough…
(Tuesday, March 3, 2015; 6:10 PM)
The ceiling became faint as tears of anguish flooded my dull and sunken eyes. I didn’t wipe them. Instead I used the last reservoir of strength left in my body to pull the sheets and covered my face. I didn’t want the other patients in the ward to crowd my bed and sympathize with me, telling me ‘it’s gonna be okay’ when they didn’t know how the torment was going to end. It was a fact too big to be ignored – the morgue or home, were the two possibilities staring at my face. But the morgue was more promising. Actually, it seemed inevitable. Being hopeful about home was the right thing to do, but it could be destructive too – for me and my little ones if things took the ugly turn. I was really afraid to hope.
The darkness under the sheets brought flashes of me in a coffin. Even the smell of the sheets didn’t give me a break. They stunk terribly, but I had no choice. It wasn’t a smell of rottenness or bad odor though. It was a smell that was neutral in a hopeless way – like feathers of a dead chicken. I wished to remove them from my face, but I couldn’t since the tears were still pouring, running down my cheeks, down to the bed.
I cried with attentive ears though. I didn’t want Mrs. Dube, the social worker that took care of me, to find me crying. My plan was to quickly bring myself together when I heard her chatting and greeting the other patients and their relatives. She was a kind and loving woman, so she always greeted them. But if she could decide to be mean then I didn’t know. I didn’t know what I could tell her – why I was crying. Was it because I was dying and didn’t know what would become of Thandi and Musa? Or because I had no parents and was a mother to my young sister and brother? The volume of tears increased when I recalled they even called me Mom, yet I was still at high school. My crying worried me, it threatened being loud and hysteric – I quickly enveloped my mouth with my right hand.
Awkward as it was, but it pleased my heart that my parents never lived to see me diminish in front of their very eyes. The magnitude of my anguish would overwhelm and kill them.
My father always gave mom and us hope for a better tomorrow. It would be an awful experience for him to see that I had run short of hope to see tomorrow – hope to play with Thandi and Musa again – hope to finish my final year of high school. It would kill him more than me. More than all of us. He would run from pillar to post, soliciting money for a private clinic. He would act strong, of course, but it would be eating him inside. In no time, he would be admitted in the male diabetes ward down the concourse. The diabetes that ended up taking them one by one would seize him. That would make my heart terrible.
My loving mom would sleep in the congested and stuffy ward with me, on a small camping pad, next to my bed or under. She would cry day and night, praying for my recovery.
So I was glad they were gone. I was glad I had no one to upset. Thandi and Musa were still too young to comprehend the magnitude of the monster facing their big sister – their mom technically.
I wished it was possible to shut my ears. The other patients talked about sad, hope draining stuff. They were talking about some lady who died in our ward in the morning. I wished they could shut up or talk about something positive. Their kids, maybe.
Their negative topic pushed me to a slippery road of thinking about who could take care of Thandi and Musa if I could die. I tried to pinch myself for losing hope, but I failed. My system failed to send enough strength to my fingers. Tears filled my eyes the more. I felt like I was facing death but I didn’t want to admit.
The biggest source of my doubt and fear were the facts the doctor gave us two weeks ago. Dr. Mavuso told Mrs. Dube and I that they failed to establish the problem in my body. No possible test they haven’t done. Then he said if they consider the rate at which my body was deteriorating, I only had two weeks to live. That was it. Two weeks.
The weeping gained momentum again as it crossed my mind that that was the last day of the two weeks. But I thanked God for a new mom I had in Mrs. Dube. She was more than a social worker of Soweto to me. She told me to disregard what the doctor said and believe that God would heal me. But the problem was that it seemed the doctors were right. It was the day they pronounced as my last and indeed I had dropped to the point of not being able even to sit up or eat on my own. What could be worse than that? Mrs. Dube had to bath and spoon feed me.
I really wondered what was eating up my strength and body. My body was finished – my sallow skin only covered the skeleton. My hair was thin and grey. My breath was terrible. It was hard even to turn on the bed of misery. My back, sides and front were sore – I didn’t know which side to sleep on. The only meaningful thing was dying, really. How could I live if I couldn’t sleep, sit, walk and even eat? What else is life besides those things?
Doctors and nurses looked at me with somber faces. Of course they did wear their professional smiles, but I was old enough to see beyond. Seventeen years was a very long time given the type of life I led. My life was ending – I only had to admit. Mrs. Dube’s ‘believe, believe’ thing was too good to be true.
I heard a familiar quick click clack of high heels down the concourse. Mrs. Dube had come to bath and give me supper. I quickly wiped the tears with the sheets. I also did my best to stop crying even though it wasn’t different from hitting breaks on a speeding car. Yes, she was a well-fed woman, but she was very active. I removed the sheets from my face and stared at the ceiling.
The rain was still pouring outside. It beat against the windows like it would break them. A thought about seeing the rain for the very last time crossed my mind, but I didn’t entertain it, lest I started crying again, yet Mrs. Dube’s footsteps were five seconds away from the door.
She came in and greeted everybody with her bubbly personality that made her round face even more beautiful. When she prepared to take a step to the lady at the far end of the ward, she froze because the bed was empty. She was in the morgue already. She passed away at midday – about an hour after Mrs. Dube left the ward. She held her long black hair for a moment and shook her head.
“Sorry. They took her about two hours ago. She died,” said the lady whose bed was closest to hers.
Mrs. Dube shook her head again. “Okay. That’s bad.” She wanted to cry but didn’t for the sake of us all, more especially me. She was experienced enough to understand that hope was the scarcest resource in any ward. She wouldn’t want to evaporate the little we held on to. But we would understand. She really had to mourn for that woman. She was strongly attached to her. She would pray for her everyday after greeting everybody. She would go to her bed, place her hand on her forehead and pray for her. Yes, she was looking at one spot on the ceiling and snoring continuously, but Mrs. Dube believed she could survive.
When she took a step towards me I was surprised and ecstatic to see Thandi and Musa mushrooming at the door. It had been a long time since they last visited me. We had agreed with Mrs. Dube not to scare them by bringing them to the ward. But for some reason she brought them. I couldn’t think of any other reason except that she finally believed in the doctors report that indeed it was my last day. Fear cut through me, leaving a hot sensation in my stomach and stickiness in my mouth.
Musa climbed onto my bed. As a three year old boy, he didn’t even understand what was really happening. He kept asking when I would be back home. He couldn’t realize that probably I would never go back home ever again. Thandi stood next to my head after bending for a hug. Her eyes quickly filled up with tears. Somehow my right arm got the strength to rise and wipe the tears welling up in her eyes before they wet her blue secondary school uniform. I wished Thandi was as young as Musa. Whilst Thandi lamented for her big sister and ‘mom’, Musa was busy playing – pretending to be sleeping and snoring inside my bed. Mrs Dube watched at the tail of the bed. But then she wept for the very first time. I became convinced that she had lost faith I would survive. I felt like I had just realized that my rock was actually a big block of ice that melts when exposed to extreme temperatures. I didn’t blame her though – nothing brought hope anyway. I didn’t even have strength to hold a spoon and eat, let alone sitting on the bed.
I also wept. I knew no one would ask me about it, because they were all crying besides Musa who was still snoring inside the sheets. He didn’t even notice that we were all crying.
Mrs. Dube then decided to disrupt the flow of the negative emotional energy. She got busy with spoon feeding me and also made Thandi busy with preparing my warm bathing water in a basin.
The meal was so good. It tasted like the last supper indeed – beef stew, roasted chicken, rice, potato salad and green herbs. Somehow I managed to finish it and the guava juice she gave me. Wherever the appetite came from, I failed to understand. I felt like I had achieved something extra ordinary. I guessed my appetite was boosted by seeing Thandi and Musa.
Mrs. Dube then bathed me with Thandi’s help. They took Musa out of the bed and bathed me. When they were done a feeling of freshness went through my body. It was so lovely. I feared it was indeed the last bath.
When they had finished everything they got chairs and sat on the right side of my bed.
“You will be okay, Sindi. Don’t lose hope. We will never lose it,” Thandi said with damp eyes.
Mrs. Dube gave her a quick glance. I could tell she was surprised by the young girl who still had faith when she had lost it. She never spelled it, but actions speak louder than words. I could tell she was prepared to adopt Thandi and Musa and raise them as her own – she had written me off, just like the doctors who expected to find my bed empty by tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, I also was failing to picture myself still on the bed at dawn. I had just eaten the best meal ever, but I felt like I had become even weaker. I was even sweating unnecessarily. Outside it was still raining and cold, but I was sweating heavily. My breathing was my biggest source of worry – it had become very faint and reluctant. At times I failed to breathe completely. The energy to breathe wasn’t available anymore. I was afraid. Very afraid. Afraid of death and its uncertainties. What really happens to the soul at death was one question that troubled me a lot.
Mrs. Dube said, “Sindi. Thandi is right. As I told you, just believe. God will do it, my baby.”
Musa turned his little face towards Mrs. Dube. “Mom, what will God do?”
Mrs. Dube looked down at him. “God will bring Sindi home, darling.”
Musa said, “Okay, that will be cool. But when, Mom?”
I smiled faintly, loving the power of a child’s innocence. Here was I dying, but Musa couldn’t comprehend that. It was clearly displayed in front of him, but he could not get it. As a result he was stress free.
Mrs. Dube rose from the chair and wiped the tears that had started welling up in my eyes. But that made the situation worse – the love in the tenderness and warmth of her hands and the love in Thandi and Musa’s eyes released more tears. She took out a bigger stack of Kleenexes to cope. “Don’t worry. You will fine, my baby.”
I gave a soft hesitant nod. But I couldn’t tell whether her faith had been boosted by Thandi’s faith or what. Her words sounded more convincing than her eyes though.
Avoiding another sad moment, Mrs. Dube told Thandi and Musa to say bye to me. She also said, “Bye, bye, baby. See you tomorrow.” Then they took the plastic bags with the dishes and left.
I started crying again. I knew I would never see them again. When they come in the morning my bed would be empty, I knew. I didn’t worry myself about covering my face, because the lights in the ward were already off – the other patients were sleeping.
I literally felt like Jesus when he was arrested – when his disciples had run away, leaving him alone. The breathing shutdown attacks were more frequent and scarier. I was very afraid. I continued weeping helplessly. I wished my dad and mom were still alive. I wished they were in the ward with me. At least they would be with me in the middle of my fears. They would assure me till the very last moment.
At midnight I was tired of crying, yet I was afraid to close my eyes and sleep too. So I thought probably I should pray just one more time before giving up. Just one more time. I decided to use the most powerful prayer I learned from my father. “When the going gets tough, stop praying and start talking with God, my daughter,” my father used to say. I hadn’t practiced that praying method, but, obviously, there wasn’t any right time to try it except that moment. It couldn’t get worse than that.
I applied a lot of energy and pulled the sheets to cover my face. I closed my eyes and whispered with tears running down my cheeks, “Lord Jesus, my dad said when I have no option then you are the only option I have. He said I must forget about praying and talk to you. So, Lord, please come into this bed I am sleeping on – just lie next to me, I want to talk with you, Lord.” There was silence as I waited for the Lord to lie next to me. I opened my eyes. There was no one by my side, but I believed that the Lord was already on the bed next to me. “Thanks dear Lord for coming. Lord Jesus, two years ago you took my parents in the same year. I really felt horrible. Very horrible. I wished to die, but you didn’t grant me my wish. Then I became a parent to my young brother and sister – I was fourteen by then. Thandi was eight and Musa was one. It was hard to make ends meet. At times I had to sleep with men just to have money to support my siblings and I. I am so sorry I did that. It was against my morals as taught by my father and mother. But what else would I do? Musa was even a baby, demanding money like all was normal. I also had to go to school like other kids. Lord, my life ran like you don’t exist and I even started thinking that probably you don’t exist. But I refused to entertain that thought. Yes, I had nothing to prove that you exist, but I chose to stubbornly believe my parent’s teachings about you, Lord. I believe you exist in theory. But, now, here on this bed, the luxury of theory ain’t good enough, Lord. I need a proof that you exist, my Lord. Prove that you are on this bed with me now. Lord, I need this proof very bad – without it, my bed will be empty by dawn. I will be in the morgue. When…”
My feet were grabbed by a hot wave. It was like they were splashed with hot water. I stopped everything, afraid. The wave climbed up my body slowly. My stomach became hard like a rock. Death had finally come, I could tell. And I was petrified to open my eyes and look at the being called death. I sweated terribly. My heart accelerated. When the hot wave passed my thighs I decided to open my eyes. I was dying after all – I had nothing to lose.
A very brilliant light moved up my body. I quickly closed my eyes. It was impossible to gaze at that light scanning my body like a paper in a scanner. Sweating continued. I was confused and terrified. The scanning went past my waist, stomach, chest and head.
When the hot wave vanished I opened my eyes quickly. The brilliant light was gone. But when I removed the sheets from my face my hand moved with full strength. I couldn’t believe it. I tried to sit up on the bed. It was as easy as eating pepperoni pizza. I kicked the sheets and rose to my feet.
“Jesus,” I said, shivering, scared that the Lord was really in the bed with me. “Now I know, Lord. You really exist and you are God, Lord.”
I danced next to my bed wearing my pink night dress. One nurse found me dancing. “What happened to you?” She said, switching on the lights.
I quickly stopped dancing, embarrassed she found me. The other patients also woke up.
I stared at her bulging eyes and said, “Jesus happened in my bed, nurse.” Tears flooded my eyes and I cried uncontrollably.
Some of the other patients wept as the nurse ran out calling, “Rose. Rose. Wake up. Come here. Come. Now.”
Still crying and shaking, I fumbled for my cell phone in my handbag. I wanted to tell Mrs. Dube, Thandi and Musa to come and take me home early in the morning.
I hope you enjoyed the inspirational story that was designed to inspire you to face life. It’s based on a true story by the way. If you haven’t already, subscribe so you can get inspirational stories through your inbox. Don’t forget to leave a comment below.
Photo Credit: Mark Hillary.