© Folakemi Emem-Akpan
It took all of three hours for my home to turn from full to empty. Three hours, a drunken truck driver and a faulty traffic light.
They called me at work, buried in the midst of the ancient tomes I was quite proficient at translating. I can’t remember going down the elevator, getting into my car, driving. But I found myself at Mary County Hospital, in the ER, clutching at the blue scrubs of one of the attendants.
I was in the wrong place, for there was nothing more that could be done for my two kids. They were pronounced DOA by the attending ER physician, had been transferred to the walk-in refrigerators.
The week passed in a blur. At the funeral, our pastor tried gamely to speak of short but eventful lives but even he was at a loss. How can a ten-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother have lived eventful lives?
I retreated into myself. Mark sank to the bottom of whiskey bottles. For the first time since we’d been married, the house was exceptionally quiet. No laughter, no sounds of children horsing around, no false-cheer of early morning cartoons. Even the old house refused to creak. It sat there like a dead mouse, unmoving, deathly still.
I walked unceasingly through the barren rooms of my home, expecting to see Sarah and Michael as I turned corners. Sometimes I saw them but by the time I hurried to gather them in my arms, they were gone.
They took me to a sanatorium where there were no sharp objects, where I was constantly monitored. But I wasn’t suicidal, merely empty, merely hollow.
For the two weeks that I spent in that white forlorn room, Mark visited only once. And then he wouldn’t look at me. His eyes were glazed, as if his soul was on another planet. I remember thinking that he needed to be committed even more than I needed it.
When they finally let me out, I was surprised to realise that the sun was still shinning, that people still went to work, that the world had moved on without me.
I returned to work, and it was good for me. Not that it made me forget, but it made the pain more bearable. It faded to an itch below the skin, accessible yet distant.
I returned home late one night, found Mark in the living room, his eyes unusually clear. He smiled at me and my heart started to race. Even though he hadn’t smiled in a long time, he still had such a lovely smile and the haggardness of his face lent him a somewhat exotic but handsome form.
When he put his arms around my waist and I smelled not whiskey but shampoo on his skin, I gave in to the tears I’d not shed in months.
“It’s okay baby. It’s okay.” He said as he shushed me. “We’ve got each other. We’ll be fine.”
In the kitchen, he’d broken every last bottle of whiskey, dumped the contents down the drain. In the middle of the dinning, he’d made a picture collage. When we were newly wedded, when I was pregnant with Sarah, Sarah’s first picture, Mark with Michael. In the centre of them all, in the most prominent place, he’d put a picture of Jesus, torn from Sarah’s preteen Bible.
“He’s the one that makes our lives full.” Mark said, “Not alcohol, not work, and not our pain.”
In that moment, I started to let go. Not of the memories, because how does one forget ten years of being a mother, of sticky smiles and mischievous grins? But I began to relieve myself of the hurt, of the pain that gripped my heart every time I thought of my children, and of the bitterness that stung when I thought of the drunk driver.
And for the first time in months, my heart was full again. Filled with Christ and His healing grace.