they awaken

How I Fell From Riches To Rags

“Hey Rose, please pass me the iron box. You know I have to look my best today, right?”

Visiting days at school were always my favourite days. But this day was going to be better than the rest! They were giving away prizes this time, and I had achieved the highest score in six subjects! I was so proud of myself. I was going to receive the prizes in front of my parents and siblings and the whole school! I couldn’t wait!

I dressed up in my neatly ironed school uniform and headed to the school hall where it was all going to take place. It was 9 am and the parents began to flood the school compound. My parents were coming from pretty far, so I was expecting them by 11. I couldn’t wait to see them. I knew that I was about to make them proud. I checked my watch every five minutes. Time felt like it stood still.

I tried to be patient, and soon enough it was 11 am. I got up from my seat and headed to the gate to usher my parents in. But they still weren’t there, and it was unlike them to be late. I kept waiting and waiting. Soon it was noon, and it was time for the function to start. Everyone needed to go back to the school hall. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to rush back to the hall to avoid getting in trouble with the principal. 

Where Is My Family?

The function began with performances from the students. I was one of the students who was entertaining guests that day. I was in low spirits. The program began and soon it was time to receive our prizes. Still, my parents hadn’t arrived. I felt disappointed and betrayed. How could they miss this day?

 I kept hoping they’d arrive. It was time for the students to spend quality time with their parents. I tried to check and see if my father’s car was anywhere near the school vicinity. But it wasn’t. So, I went back to my dormitory to cry myself to sleep.

“Hey, Lydia, over here!” My heart skipped with joy. I thought they were finally here. I turned to see who was calling. It was Rose, my best friend. She wanted to introduce me to her parents. She knew that my parents couldn’t make it so she decided to invite me over to kill the boredom. I had no choice but to agree. 

I took advantage of the situation and asked for a phone to call my mom. When I called, her phone was turned off. So then I tried to call my dad’s number. It was ringing but no one was picking up. This made me even more angry. I tried to play it cool in front of my friend’s parents, but deep down I was burning with anger.

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An Emergency At Home

It was finally over. All of the parents left the school compound and we were left alone once again. I went straight to the dormitory with sadness written all over my face. I didn’t want to talk to anyone so I headed straight to my bed. I don’t know how long I slept. But I was woken up by the Matron’s voice calling my name. 

Why would the Matron call me so early on a Sunday morning? It was our rest day and I wasn’t expected to wake up this early. Did I do something wrong? Her face was not as vibrant as it usually was when I saw her. And then she told me, ”I received a distressing call from your people last night, you have to go home. It’s urgent!”

I stared blankly for some time. I was so confused. What could this emergency be about? Why am I needed at home? All of these questions flooded my mind. I just had a few days until I had to write my main exams. “But my exams are just around the corner, can’t this wait for just a week until I’m done with my exams?” The matron just hugged me tightly. I noticed a tear or two in her eyes but she tried had to hide it. All she said was “Just go find out what this is all about and come back immediately for your exams. Don’t worry about it.” I was so relieved when she said that.

Twenty minutes later, I was ready for the five-hour drive home. I was home by 10 am. 

“MOM?! MOM!?… DAD!? MARK!? JUNIOR!?” … No response. There was no one home. Not even our house help! Where was everyone? I was so confused. I didn’t understand why I had to rush home when there was no one there. I sat on the couch and turned on the TV to wait for whoever came home first. 

The Day My Heart Shattered

Twenty minutes later, my relatives began coming to our compound. I ran to my grandmother and gave her a tight hug. I had missed her so much. Then she began shedding tears uncontrollably. I still couldn’t understand it. My family wasn’t home and my grandma was here crying. That’s when I finally realized that something must be wrong.

“Where are my parents?! Where’s Junior? Where’s Mark?!”

It was so silent, you’d be able to hear a pin drop. No one uttered a word. 

I saw the pain and remorse in their eyes. They were heartbroken. No one wanted to speak to me. Finally my aunt held my hand and took me to my bedroom. She tried to calm me down by hugging me and telling me that everything was going to be alright. I was like a mad dog, I was uncontrollable. All I wanted were answers and nothing else. 

“WHERE ARE MY PARENTS?!” I shouted angrily. My aunt had no choice but to tell me the truth. She said, “we lost them in a tragic accident yesterday. Junior and Mark are no more.” She began to weep uncontrollably.

My Unbearable Grief

I can’t remember anything else that transpired after that. I woke up in a hospital bed with my aunt by my side. I had passed out when I heard the news. I began screaming my lungs out for my parents and siblings. How could they all die in that accident? They were just coming to visit me at school. Was that a sin before God? Had he punished them with death? 

I kept screaming. I blamed God for taking my family away. I tried to question God and even demanded answers, but there was nothing I could do. My aunt and the doctors tried to console me but I was adamant to have a chat with God.

I crawled out of the hospital bed onto the floor. The pain was unbearable. I was crawling on the floor crying. I was choking on tears. I tried holding it back but it was close to impossible. The scene was heartbreaking. I could see everyone in the hospital including the doctors sad. The agony was unexplainable. The whole ward had drifted into a somber mood because of my pain. 

“But why?” I held my aunt’s hands and stared into her eyes. I could see the pain in her eyes. “Why did God have to punish me this way? Am I not a good child? Wasn’t I a good child to my parents? Was I cursed? Why did they have to die coming to visit me at school? Is it my fault aunty? I wish I was never born. This wouldn’t have happened. I wish visiting day never happened.” I blamed myself for what happened. I wished I was the dead one and that everyone else survived. 

I was discharged from the hospital that day and went home with my aunt Melly. Everyone was in a somber mood. I kept hoping that this was just a dream. I pinched myself and even hit my head on the wall really hard just to prove this wasn’t a dream. Tears streamed down my face as I pictured disgusting images of my family. I didn’t want to believe that I was never going to see them ever again. I was still in denial. 

I’m All Alone In This World

all alone

I wanted to believe that my parents and siblings had gone for a trip outside of the country and they were just being mistaken to be dead. Five days later, the mourning was over and it was time for the burial. My uncles speeded up the mourning process so that I could recover faster. They believed that I could only move on when they were buried.

Burial arrangements were made. Seeing the bodies in a casket shattered me completely. I cried till I could cry no more. There were no more tears left in my eyes. I honestly think that my tear glands had dried up. I had passed out more than three times. I was staring blankly into space. I think I lost my mind. I behaved like a zombie, to say the least. My world had crumbled right before my eyes. I didn’t want to believe that these were people I was never going to see ever again! This gave me chills whenever I thought of it. 

Two days after the burial, people started packing out of the compound. One by one they started to leave until they were all gone. I was left alone with aunt Melly. She tried to help get rid of my sadness by trying everything she could to make me happy. I thought it worked. When aunt Melly thought that I was able to handle the situation on my own, she left. 

Barely two hours after she left, it dawned on me that I was all alone in this world. I couldn’t control my tears anymore. I stared at the compound and everything reminded me of my family. I could see my dad’s car at the entrance of the compound and my mom following suit in her car. Junior’s toys were scattered all over the backyard. I could see him shoot me with the toy gun I bought him during my last school holidays. Mark’s shoes were scattered all over. He was used to wearing about six pairs of shoes in just one day. He loved shoes. 

Everything I looked at or laid my hands on reminded me of them. I couldn’t clear the memories from my mind. Our house was very big but so empty. I was all alone in this big world. I tried to be strong just like aunt Melly had told me to be. She wanted to stay with me but she couldn’t. She was also sick. So as time went by, I tried to put everything behind me and turn a new leaf, but everything reminded me that I had lost parts of me. The house was too big and I could not stay inside alone. I decided to invite a few friends to stay with me. I hoped that this would help me move on.

The Day My Uncles Turned On Me

Three weeks later, two of my uncles came over. They were so caring when my parents were alive. They loved me so much—or so I thought. I was so excited to see them again; but to my surprise, it seemed like the feeling wasn’t mutual.  I ran towards them when they entered the gate. I was so overjoyed about seeing them. I hugged each of them so tightly, but they were so cold towards me. It was unlike them. 

Was there anything I’d done wrong? Uncle Jeff pushed me away. “It’s your fault our brother is gone. You are a witch!”

I couldn’t believe what uncle Jeff had just told me! This pierced my heart. Why was he saying this? I was still struggling with the pain of losing my whole family. I followed them to the house, and I was shocked to see that my uncles had both taken the car keys from my parents’ bedroom. Then they started to collect some of my parent’s stuff from their bedroom.

“Wh…wh…what are you doing? Where are you taking all that? Wait…wai…” Is all I could get out.

“Don’t you dare question us witch! You have no right to any of this. Women own nothing so everything that belonged to our brother is now ours, including the house. We will be back soon!” 

My legs felt weak—they could no longer carry me. I fell like a sack of potatoes. I never expected to hear these words from my uncle. He was always the loving uncle. I wouldn’t have been surprised if those words came from my other uncle, Jeff’s mouth. He was always mean to my brothers. In my culture, if you’re a woman, you’re not allowed to own anything. I had no right to any of my dad’s properties, but I didn’t think they’d kick me out of the house! 

My uncles drove off the compound and the compound was empty! My dad’s cars were gone!

My Uncles Took Everything

Life was now becoming difficult. All the food in the house was gone. The money I collected from my parents’ bedroom was also gone. 

I hadn’t written my main exams, so I couldn’t move to the next class. I had to repeat my year. School fees had never been a problem for my parents. They always cleared school fees for the whole year, but now everything was different. I was worried about going back to school. Where was I going to start with no money to pay for my tuition? That night I went to bed hungry. I had never imagined in my life that I would go to bed hungry. I never imagined that I would be stranded.

The next morning, I was woken up by the honk of a vehicle outside the gate. I rushed to the gate and what I saw almost made me jump out of my skin. My house had been sold! There was a post with the words SOLD written in bold letters. I tried to inquire and guess what? My uncles were in with a lorry to collect everything. They were kicking me out of my dad’s house! The new owner was to move in that very day. 

My uncles came in and didn’t even talk to me. They went in with some guys and the first thing I saw was our expensive leather seats being tucked into the truck. Then my bed followed suit. It then dawned on me that I belonged to the streets. I watched hopelessly as they took everything from me. I developed so much hate towards them. This hate was more than the love I once had for my uncles. In about five hours they were done, and the truck was leaving the compound. I waited for my uncles to take me with them but they just stared at me spitefully as they left.

Here I was, trying to figure out what was next. They threw me out of my house and left me in the cold. I was deep in thought when another truck came in. It came in so fast it almost hit me. They honked several times, but I hadn’t heard them. The owner was so mad that he grabbed me and dragged me out of ‘HIS’ compound like a dog. 

I tried to plead with him to allow me some time to figure out where to go next. I even tried begging him to allow me to stay as one of his workers. But he wouldn’t listen. I was completely broken. The world was so cruel. 

My Life On The Streets

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My dad was a very generous man. He would have never done this to anyone, not even a stranger. This man was the exact opposite of my dad. I missed my dad. I couldn’t understand the turn of events in my life in the span of one month. At some point, I began to think that I was cursed. I reflected on what my uncles told me and thought it was true that I was the reason my parents died.

I began sleeping on the streets and in unfinished buildings. I even begged for food. I had no money. This was my new life. This was me. I thought I was better off dead. I was on a very busy road, and I thought about getting in front of a fast-moving truck. I wanted it to run me over and crush me to death.

I thought about my idea for a while, and I decided that it was the easiest way to end my suffering. I spotted a lorry speeding down the hill. I counted to three and I jumped on the road facing the oncoming lorry. The lorry screeched so sharply that people gathered to the scene in a second. My eyes were shut. I was so disappointed to realize that the driver had stepped on emergency brakes. People started scolding the driver. They thought that he was driving carelessly, but it was my fault. I felt bad for getting the driver in trouble, but at the same time I was disappointed that my plan failed. 

I decided to go back to the streets and beg like everyone else did there. I even thought of joining a gang to rob people of their hard-earned money. After a long period of suffering, I came up with a plan. I started begging for money, and then I began to save. Four days later I had collected enough money to take me back to my grandmother in the village. 

My Next Tragic Loss

My grandma was glad to see me. She was also all alone. My parents played a very big role in my granny’s life and their absence meant the end of her world too. She was all alone with no one to take care of her since her caregiver left due to a lack of payment. My uncles never bothered to help.

My schooling was over. My dreams of becoming a doctor like my dad were completely shattered. So, I decided to stay home and take care of my grandma. Despite going hungry for days, I was better off in a home than on the streets. But grandma fell ill. I tried to tell my uncles and aunty Melly, but my uncles didn’t care. Aunt Melly tried her best to come, but she was sick too. She came and helped grandma for a few days until grandma was better, then she went back to her home in the city. She also left us enough food and money for grandma’s medicines. It was enough to last for about a month, and then she’d come back.

Grandma took her meds as instructed. She was okay, or so I thought. One week later, on Thursday morning, I woke up and headed to my grandma’s bedroom as usual. “Grandma, porridge is ready.” No response. I moved closer to touch her and my grandma was ice cold. She was dead! She also left me! All alone! Just like my family did! 

I gave a heart wrenching scream and people were at grandmother’s house in no time. Grandma’s body was collected and taken to the morgue. People gathered in grandma’s house for mourning. My uncles were nowhere to be seen. They only came two days later to the burial. They were so good at rushing the burial arrangements, just as they had done with my family’s burial. In the span of a week, grandma was buried and my uncles disappeared once again. 

My Loving Aunt Melly

Aunt Melly was the only one left to console and comfort me. She was the only one who cared about me. Her love towards me was so genuine, I could see it in her eyes whenever she was around me. My aunt decided that I should go with her to her home in the city. She knew that I was left alone, and she was so heartbroken when she learned that my uncles had kicked me out of my father’s house. Her tears said everything and aunt vowed never to leave me.

Early the next morning we set off to the city. I stayed with aunty and she even enrolled me in a school nearby. She was always there for me whenever I needed her. Aunt Melly helped me get over the pain and trauma I had gone through in the past few months. Life was so much better now that I had my aunt Melly as my family. 

Aunt Melly was always sick but she never knew what was making her sick. One evening aunty fainted as she was headed to her bedroom. I called a neighbour and we rushed her to the hospital. She was given some drugs and discharged. She took her meds and took stayed in bed to rest as advised by the doctors. Two days later, the same thing happened. Aunt felt dizzy and fell on the floor. I called another neighbour who drove her to another hospital. This time serious tests were done on her.

Tragedy Strikes Again

Aunt Melly was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. I almost ran out of breath when I heard this. “NOT AGAIN” I shouted. Not aunty Melly. It turns out she only had a few months to live. I had to drop out of school again to take care of her. She was very weak and pale. Her hair had started falling out and she quit her job.

 I was back in tears once again. I asked myself the same questions every day; why is it that everyone who cares about me has to die? Why does it always have to be me? I couldn’t bear to see aunt Melly in so much pain. I thought of taking my own life first before I had to see aunt Melly take her last breath. First my family, then my grandma, and now aunt Melly? This was too much for me to bear. 

As I was tending to aunt Melly, I saw a bottle of sleeping pills. I took them with me to my bedroom. There were about twenty-five tablets in the bottle. I took almost all the tablets with water. Again, I was disappointed that I woke up. It was Friday afternoon. I had slept for three days. Why can’t I die?

I went to check on aunty in her bedroom. She was still breathing. I cleaned her up and gave her  her meds. A few hours later I heard some commotion in my aunt’s bedroom. She was struggling to breathe. Soon, aunt Melly was gone too. Watching her die was traumatizing. I couldn’t get that out of my mind. As expected, my uncles showed up to make funeral arrangements. They were so wicked. Once aunt Melly was buried, my uncles were at it again; they came to forcefully inherit aunt Melly’s property. I had to leave at will since I knew what would follow.

Living On The Streets Again

Again, my uncles called me cursed. They claimed that everyone who associated with me had to die. I also believed I was cursed. I didn’t want anyone else to die under my watch. So once again I left for the streets where I belonged. Every night I’d sleep in unfinished buildings, and very early in the morning I’d go look for work. I often did petty jobs for pay. Sometimes I was lucky enough to get jobs as a house help. I was so happy when I landed those jobs because I was guaranteed a roof over my head and security. This was unlike the unfinished buildings where people would always try to rape me. So, I tried to move from one house to another to work as a house help.

Life had ups and downs but I had to embrace the challenges. I had already gotten so used to pain that I had no more fear. I couldn’t believe that I was once a doctor’s daughter who went to one of the biggest and most expensive schools in the city, and now I was doing petty jobs for survival. Life has a way of humbling people, but I think my journey was more than humbling. 

The Prayer That Changed My Life

they awaken

One morning I woke up, as usual, to look for work. This time it was different. I prayed for God’s intervention before leaving my the unfinished building. I didn’t understand where I got the strength to pray. I had lost all my faith in God. I took my rags and began job hunting. I was like a nomad. I’d walk around in the day and then when night came I’d find shelter in any building I could, so I’d always have to keep my rags with me. 

That day I saw a job post in one mansion nearby. It was a house help job. I was able to do the job, so I went up to the gate and rang the bell. The security at the house sent me away after seeing how disgusting I was; I had tatters on my body for clothes and rags for my luggage. I turned to leave but a car was coming in so I had to wait. It was the owner of the house.

She interrogated me and learned that I was there for the job, so she let me in. 

Her house reminded me of my late parents’ house and this made me cry. The lady welcomed me in and asked me some more about myself. I told my story to her and she was so heartbroken for me. She wept as if it was happening to her. I later learned that she had no children of her own. I worked in her house and life was so comfortable. 

After two months she decided to take me to school so that I could continue from where I left off. This was like a dream come true. I never imagined that I would ever go back to school. The lady cleared my school fees for the whole year and I resumed school immediately. I did my best at school and passed my final exams. I did so well that I qualified to go to university. She also paid for my fees to university and catered to my needs. I stopped only being a house help and became her daughter.

I did my best at the university and I was able to graduate three years ago. I never thought that I would ever go back to school but here I was, a university graduate. I still thank God for coming through when all hope was lost. He sent me help in the form of an employer. May she always be blessed. It’s amazing how life can take a sharp turn in a blink of an eye. I still can’t believe that I lost everything in less than one year. But life is looking up again, thanks to my answered prayer.

This story was selflessly submitted by Lydia Odhiambo.

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