My mum was 35-years-old when she died and I was nine turning 10. She’d been sick for a little while but I didn’t know what the problem was. She’d gone into hospital for a procedure and on the day she was supposed to have the operation, she passed away early in the morning in her sleep. It was the 21st of March, 1994.
I grew up as an only child, but I spent a lot of time with my cousin, my uncle’s daughter. She was a year younger than me but we were like sisters. My mum was a fun loving mother. She used to take us to lots of places, the school holidays were always fun. She taught me and my cousin to cook at a really young age, even if it was just eggs and bacon. She loved to dance, and she laughed a lot. She was a strong and courageous woman, who loved life and loved us. Even though I was only nine when she passed away, I had an awesome childhood and I still remember her.
When my mum died I remember thinking that her death wasn’t real because on the day she died, my cousin and I had actually been to school without knowing (the family hadn’t been told yet by the hospital) so when we got back from school and the house was full of people and I remember thinking, could she be dead? But then I thought, no ways, she’s fine, maybe people are just visiting us. But when we got into the house we were told the news by my grandmother. I was in such a state of disbelief.
My grandma was my rock though. Even though my father was in my life and supported me a lot, after my mum died my grandmother became our guardian and raised my cousin and I. We lacked for nothing, but she was a school teacher and she was used to an old way of life so some of the things we used to do with my mum, we never did with my grandma. After my mum died I grew up fast because I kept worrying about my grandma and my cousin. My aim in life was to do the best I could for the both of them.
When I got married I really wanted my mum there. I kept thinking, who’s going to advise me on how to be a good wife to this new person? Whenever my husband and I had issues I would go and visit her grave and talk and cry to her. When I fell pregnant I was ecstatic but again I longed for my mum to be there to share this precious moment with me. When I heard I was having twins, well, I was both excited and scared at the same time. I kept thinking, how am I going to know how to take care of these kids when my mum isn’t here? In our culture when a woman has a child for the first time, she goes to stay with her mum so that she learns how to take care of the child. I kept thinking about that. I think I missed her more then.
Unfortunately one of my twin girls died in the womb at 25 weeks. We managed to keep them both in for a few more days before my labour started. I cried for my mother then more than I had in a long time. I kept asking myself why this was happening. Fortunately, our other baby survived even though she came at just 26 weeks (my little miracle). We stayed in the hospital for 64 days before she was discharged and when I took her home for the first time, I kept wishing my mum was around. She would have loved to be a grandma and she would have loved spoiling my baby. That’s the kind of women she was. I remember that after we came out of the hospital I was obsessed with finding out about the dead because I kept seeing images of my mum holding my little angel in heaven. When I had my 2nd daughter that’s when I really cried because she was the spitting image of my mum. She was as light skinned as she was with the same forehead and facial features. Everywhere we went people kept saying, “she looks so much like your mum”. It was kind of bittersweet really because it meant that I would be reminded of her daily.
Not having my mum here for me still really affects me emotionally. At times I just feel like confiding in someone that’s not my husband, but there’s no one else. I always feel like if she was here I’d have someone to talk to about everything. I think about her when my kids reach milestones because I look at them and see a little bit of her in them. I know she would have enjoyed babysitting them as much as my grandma enjoys them. It’s been 22 years now but I still miss her deeply.
Most of all I have this feeling that I’m missing out on having someone to guide me on what to do, someone to confide in, someone to laugh with about the silly or amazing things my kids do. I’m missing out on someone to tell me what a fantastic job I’m doing as a mother, and someone to vent to whenever I’m frustrated.
Tariro with her mum and extended family
Not having my mum around has made me cherish my kids more. I’m a softie where my kids are concerned. I parent in such a way that I want them to have as many good times with me as they possibly can because life is so short and it could be snatched away from us any moment. I do my very best to make sure that they are happy and spend a lot of time with me.
One of the last memories I have of my mum was when she was sick and she had just had some tests done. She came home and we were sitting in our lounge. She was an avid rhumba dancer so we put on a rhumba cassette and she immediately stood up and started dancing in her nightie. We all laughed and joined her. It was such fun because we were all laughing and having a good time and we forgot that she was sick. That memory will forever be etched in my mind because it’s one of the last happy moments I spent with my darling mother before she died. I miss her horribly and my prayer always is that my kids never go through what I went through.
Tariro is 32-years-old and lives in Harare, Zimbabwe, with husband and two daughters, Toto aged three, and Bunny aged two.