Itís Christmas day Ė again. This year is different! Last year, there had been plenty to be thankful for. We had been alive!
Although food had been scarce, my dear husband had resourcefully scrounged around and provided a meal for our family.
We had started off the day in church and sung our hearts out. Around us, faces had been raised up to the heavens. A mixture of despair and hope could be heard in their voices. We had walked back home together happy and alive.
I recall the saddened feelings that were evoked as I had looked around my neighbourhood. The city had been rationing our electricity and water for the past two years. As such, people had resorted to cooking using firewood and anything else that could burn.
There was this constant smoky smell in the air accompanied by loud coughing. The outside paint was peeling off some houses whilst a smoke like screen covered the roofs.
Sadly, a few houses had been accidentally burnt down leaving in their place charred remains. Some families had taken to erecting tent-like structures made out of clothes, sticks and plastic to provide shelter. They did the best they could with the nothing they had.
That Christmas day, the children had been out hunting for firewood for their mothers. The grown-ups had been knocking on neighboursí doors, hoping to get some food.
Gone, was the tradition of children running around and saying ďChristmas box!Ē to the grown-ups with the hopes of getting a present, usually, in the form of money. Gone, were the new pretty dresses, suits and shoes.
Also gone had been the joy of celebration that had been reflected in the smiles, greetings, yummy smell of chicken cooking and most of all, the loud blaring radios and the boisterous voices singing along.
Regardless - there had been this weird sense of hope in the air.
Looking back, I think we had hoped that we had reached the worst possible place and Christmas had symbolised for us, the dawning of meaningful change.
My prayer that glorious day of miracles had been for that miracle to translate into our lives.
Hope had woke me up that Christmas morning, and it was that same hope that had then sat my clean-smoke-smelling three daughters and husband down to our smoke-aroma-ed Christmas meal of soup and bread.
I close my eyes as I remember how my youngest one had thanked God for the food. My heart lurches and squeezes tight. I can smell the soup, and hear the laughter filled with smoky joy.
I remember eating very fast hoping to finish before someone figured out we had some food and came knocking. My stomach had hurt afterwards. I remember my youngest asking for more...
I had given her what had been left from my plate.
So, itís Christmas day Ė once again! Oh how things had changed since then. The electricity has been gone since last Christmas. Even running water is scarce.
In the air, there was a combined smell of sewage, smoke and death. So many deaths!
As I look around me I see nothing. My kitchen is bare with only the stove and what had once been the fridge gracing the room. Our furniture had served us well - as firewood. Some of it had been stolen I suspect for those very same reasons.
I donít notice the bright shining sun. Some modicum of life is still going on around me. I donít understand why the world hasnít stopped yet. In the distance, someone starts the yelling of death.
I donít respond. Whatís the point; people were dying every two hours anyway. Some bodies were rotting in their homes. Its Christmas day, shouldnít that count for something?
I have asked God why so many times. There is no excuse for this devastation. No need for us to struggle this much. How did we become the forgotten people, left to die - alone?
My family is gone, all gone.
Iím left alone.
Who will bury me?
Does it even matter?
For the first time in thirty years I didnít start off this precious day in church. I just couldnít! Not like this. Not alone.
I do have a prayer though; my hope is that this Christmas God grants me this one wish Ė death!
I have nothing else left to live for Lord. Please, have mercy on me, and just bring me home!
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