On that chilly cold morning, I woke up with my mind ready telling myself that no matter what, I had to do this and nothing in the world was going to stop me from going there. Earlier in the week, the doctor and I had had a very deep discussion on how the procedure is done and how one could live a long healthy life.
I remember him staring at me in the eyes and saying “My dear Miriam, just when people think that they’re healthy on the outside, they might be dying inside. It can be you or anyone”.
Never in my life had I known what he meant till I had a loud scream coming from the hospital corridor. “He was healthy and Okay but Why!!!”,Clad in a dirty green t-shirt and black skirt that looked like a mop with a black cloth tied around her head, she cried out, stripping off each one of them one by one and throwing herself around. I could see that she needed help for her weakness was visible from her sickly red teary eyes. Her fast and uncalculated steps pushed her body forward hitting her on any bed. She did not care for the pain of a lost loved one is unbearable.
As I stood there staring at her, I knew that her world had been crushed down and nothing else had meaning. The doctor then told me that he deals with dying patients even the healthy looking ones every day and there is nothing else he could do. He had tried. While the rest of the country celebrated the female race, I was ready to go and face my fears.
It was Women’s day Friday 8th march 2013. In all the 21 years I have lived, I had never seen a dead body but as I pushed the door open in the hospital’s ground floor, with a green inscription Do Not Enter, I had braced myself to see one. I just did not imagine that I would find several scattered all over the place. She lay right there in front of me naked, frozen and lifeless. Her skull was bare, and white with hints of her blood all over the metallic slabs. The skin that normally covers the skull had been pulled away and was hanging firmly in front of her face like an iced-visor. The pathologist had drilled a round hole, the size of a tea cup, in the back of her skull and pulled out her brains for the postmortem. Water was running through the gaping black cavity in her dead skull. Her chest too had been cut open to expose her rib-cage and water was flowing through it as it underwent a postmortem. She was an old woman in her 60’s, one I did not know.
But if this sight was bad, the next was ghastly. Six bodies of different sexes, different ages and sizes were laying on the metallic post mortem beds and two others on the floor. “Do some have to be naked?” I asked myself as I pictured how while still alive, they must have been willing to give up anything to hide their privacy. But here they were, naked for everyone to see including strangers like me.
I imagined a young girl having to deal with the sight of a naked body of her father or grandfather or any other relative. I had always known that there are two most important occasions in a human being’s life.
When they are born and when they die. At birth, the feeling is of joy, they are an addition to the world. But when they die, I had always imagined the emotion is even stronger. That the dead are respected and feared and everyone wants to treat and say only good things about them since it is their last moment on earth but not here. On the filthy floor, the water used to wash them flowed past other bodies particularly the two unidentified ones. And a sharp stench cut through my nostrils, it could have been this nasty water or the corridors in this small place that long rented its air to horror. They lived with death. But if I thought it was grisly, to the mortuary attendants it was business as usual.
One man particularly cut an image of a butcher; it is just that he didn’t have a machete. Putting on white, blood-stained boots, he walked past me; he must have noticed the fearful look in my eyes. “Don’t worry, he said, “this is how I look after carrying out a post mortem,” his voice was sharp and cold, nothing seemed to bother him, not even the stench. Well that explained the semi-cut mineral water bottles that I had seen with bloody body part specimen in them waiting on pathologists for check up.
As I looked around, standing in the middle of the room, another mortician looked buried in thought. But he had been looking at me and it must have been the reason I re-gathered my already blown courage and approached him.
Clad in a red t-shirt and a brown trouser, he too looked cold but there was something about him, he looked empathetic, like he understood what I was going through. Little did I know that the poor soul was experiencing his worst moment in life, he still had to work. But the next thing he told me made me feel his pain. “As I am talking to you right now,” he said and posed, on looking into his eyes, they had turned red and the tears in them were almost flowing freely down his cheeks, then he said it, “my sister is lying dead in the same mortuary. It becomes worse when you lose your own; this is when you carry a heavy burden on your heart.” His sister had died due to over bleeding during child birth however the baby was saved, his only solace.
Most people live a life of smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, carrying out abortions without knowing that it’s killing them on the inside.
From that day, I learnt that life should never be taken for granted for it doesn’t last long. I had every reason to go back home and write a story that shocked everyone that read it. The doctor gave me a reason to put my life in focus, back in motion and thank God for it each day because some who would have loved to stay with it, had lost it.
Never would I have known what he meant by his statement in the start if I had not taken a lonely walk to that mortuary.


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