‘If I Die, Live for Me’

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The August rains fell like hell, when I arrived. The house was old, and the faces of family members who seemed like the living dead, stared me back in silence.

 “What is going on here, aunty?” My question went straight to my mother’s oldest sister, who had raised me when mother died just when I was two years, according to family sources.

 With teary eyes, aunt Bornyonno turned her face to look at the assembled crowd outside the zinc shack, and with a mournful cry of hopelessness, said, mournfully, “He is gone.”

  “Who is gone?”

 “Uncle James.”

 “What happened to him?”

 “Deborah killed him.”

  Her answer almost made me laugh, since she was making reference to Ebola, the deadly disease that had invaded Liberia, and wreaking havoc in many families and communities.

 “Aunty,” I said, “Deborah is a name but the disease is Ebola, so now you know,” and amid her teary eyes, attempted to smile but could not.

  Suddenly, a number of health workers in their space-ship suits emerged from the house carrying the wrapped remains of my uncle. Neither I nor any of the family members could go near and so we had to content with our position.

  Though Aunt Boryonnoh wanted to rush to feel her brother’s body, I restrained her, saying, “Aunty you remember the Ministry of Health said even shaking hands or hugging each other could make anyone without the Ebola virus get it.

  “I know you loved your brother but now we cannot help him and neither can you do anything to assist him.”

  She said, with tears in her eyes, “Dying now for me will be better than living.”

  I said, “Aunty you cannot say that after all he did not choose to die.

  “Remember he died because of this dangerous disease that had come to our country, and the best we can do now is to follow instructions from the Ministry so that we can stay alive.” She shook her head, but by then the remains of my uncle were already placed in a parked ambulance nearby and the back door firmly shut.

  The health workers then moved on with attention to details to spray the house and the surrounding area with clora water to kill any possible remains of the Ebola virus.

  Seven days later, my aunt invited me to her residence and told me she had a letter to show me.

  I was not sure what letter it might be, but since her brother’s death had affected her so much, I readily responded to her call. Seated at her home on Bushrod Island, she came to me with some excitement and though I was not sure what was going on, I remained calm.

  She joined me in the living room, and handing me what she said was a letter, I realized that it was a document from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, with a report on what apparently killed my uncle.

  Tears filled my eyes when I read the cause of his death, since the report said though my uncle exhibited symptoms that were associated with Ebola, he did not die because of the virus. It was a vindication for my family.

  In another letter presented to me by my aunt, a letter written by my late uncle, it said:

  “I may not survive my sickness,” my uncle had written, “if I die this is my instructions for my nephew Tom to live for me.” Joining me, my aunt also began to cry, and after sometime past, I gathered myself together and encouraged my aunt to remain strong in the Lord.

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