The Light in the tunnel

“I really miss you.”

“It has been such a long time since I have visited you and I am planning to come by this year. What do you think? Life is so short these days. We need to be closer to each other. We need to be surrounded by our loved ones. It really will be good for us all to come together and celebrate Christmas at the end of this year. You know?”

Our conversation was long and enjoyable. We talked about many things and by the time we know it, our phones were already heated up with a notification indicating that one of us have 15 per cent or less batter left. “Oh, oh. My phone will die soon. I need to charge it up. I am afraid to say that our time is up. Lol. I will talk to you soon. Have a good day Sister. God bless you.”

After hanging up the phone, I noticed that we have been speaking for an hour and forty-five minutes. My mother sent me a WhatsApp message and I had three other messages on messenger. One from my fiancé, my big brother and my friend. However, the phone really needs to be put on charge. It also needs to have a rest and cool down.

It was the 3rd of May 2020 in the afternoon when we spoke. Hearing her voice, chatting about life dramas and laughing is always a blessing. My big sister’s voice always lights up my days or evenings. Even heaven knows that she means a lot to me. The evening went by, and it was quickly a brand-new day. I was up with my daily activity. Once again, I stressed and complaint about my day as usual. I thought about calling my big sister to vent about my schoolwork, but I refrain from doing so and carry on with my day.

I went for a walk at around 10 am. Attended my online classes, eat food, go through my school assessments and chatted with my fiancé and friends online. My life is boring, but I liked it the way it was. I was never a party person, so I mostly just kept to myself and watch each day goes by slowly while I took part in the activities I enjoy.

This year is meant to be the year of new beginnings, achievements and celebrations. However, my family quickly learnt that God’s plan is something else and no human can plan for tomorrow. The year 2020. The year of my nightmare. The year of loss and disappointment. I didn’t know what to expect. I was not prepared to face it either. However, life must go on as we wake up each day and see the morning sun shining through the sky.

By the end of May, my sister told me that she hasn’t been able to sleep much lately. I expressed my feelings of experiencing the same thing to her. She then indicated that our sweet mother was having the same issue. Noticing that we are all tired, extremely tired, but could not sleep when our heads fall on the pillow is somewhat worrisome. We told each other to pray. “Open your bible. Go down on your knees and call out to God the almighty, she proclaimed.

My big sister, ‘Odette’ her name was. She was an extremely caring person with a treasured heart that warms every broken heart. She was a person of sympathy. A friend that will cry with you for all your pains and laugh with you through all your joys. Odette was so kind to everyone that she meets and due to her personality, you would miss her after meeting her once. My big sister was a light in my darkness. She was my morning sunshine. I have a big family and I love each and every one of them dearly, but my sister and I have a bond like a mother and a daughter.

She either calls me or I call her. Always checking up on each other on a routine of every third-day calls. Sometimes she would call more frequently when she asks me to run some errands for her and post them. Even so, her very words would be “how are you, my dear? How is your studying going? Have you been through the bible this week? What have you learned? Do you have any questions regarding the chapters I asked you to read?” I would answer her questions truthfully and ask away my questions. Every time, our short phone calls end up being an hour or almost two. It never bothered either of us and always has been pleasing to hear the voice of the one we so much loved.

In the early days of June 2020, we discussed topics like marriage, travelling and watching our siblings grown into gentlemen. With four boys and a little sister, both Odette and I always felt like we have a duty to educate and protect. With the boys growing, both her and I laughed at their choice of a laugh, their choice of girlfriends and social circle.

I praised the girlfriend’s personalities, elaborated their features to her so that she can pray for them and bless them in spirit. We both imagined watching each one of the boys get married and have little minions. “oh, how great would it be when one of the young ones have a kid? Ha-ha-ha-ha. I could imagine Mone’s junior running around biting everyone”, she’s joked. We would laugh with joys of tears.

It was only phone calls. We would have video calls and text messages too. I took it upon myself to help her learn more about her smartphone (GalaxyA30) and her unfrequently used laptop. She enjoyed learning about ways to strengthen security on her phone and laptop. Teaching her all the things I learnt from school was an honour.

I would laugh at her for finding the little things difficult only because she didn’t know where they were located on the phone. “I can’t believe you didn’t know where they backup data was installed. Oh, if you click on the internet and click on the setting, you’ll be able to activate the adblockers”, as I directed her. Odette would laugh at every mistake she makes or get annoyed when she pressed the wrong button.

Odette was patient and calm, but I was not. I would be grunting my teeth at her slow speed, but she only laughed. “I can’t believe you still do that thing. No wonder your teeth remain small in size”, she would joke.

From a baby, Odette had always looked after me and my siblings. Being a refugee and experiencing life’s worst traumas, she still remained positive. To us, she was our second mother and we all looked up to her for that. At the age of 32, she wishes to get married and have kids. As a Christian woman, she explains that she is waiting for the right man, “God’s time is the right time. No human ca plan for tomorrow”, she said.

Odette lived in Cairns, Queensland about 31 h (2,838.3 km) drive away from our Victorian regional town Ballarat. She moved there almost five years due to the search for a new environment and weather like our western countries Togo and Benin. I was fortunate enough to have visited her in 2016, in my first year of university while I was working as a kitchen hand at L’espresso in Ballarat. My visit to Cairns was short, only two weeks. I wished to have spent more time with her, but my break from university was over and classes were commencing.

Odette said that she would come to visit and attend my university graduation. I graduated in April 2019, but she could not make it due to work. A phone call from her made me happier when she expressed her feelings of being extremely proud of me. “I knew that you would become something great in life. You have such a bright future, my dear. You are the backbone and the success of our family. Do not let anything stop you from achieving your dreams. God will continue to bless you with more life and knowledge. I am very proud of you and I know Dad would be too. Keep pushing forward my dear”, she stated over the phone.

This year, the year 2020 was meant to be the year of union, celebration, joys of tears and new promises. However, mother nature had a different plan in store for the world. For my family, the broken heart was only days away.

On the 30th of June 2020 at 2:30 am in the morning, the Victorian police knock on our door. As I opened the door, they asked if I had a chair. I smiled and said there are plenty of chairs. I ushered them into the room, they asked me to sit only to deliver the shocking fainting news. Your sister Ayawovi ‘Odette’ was announced deceased on June 29th.

My mind raced a thousand miles an hour. I felt like my heart had stopped. I felt the cold icy tears of my cold heart strike my face. I could not think of a word as I hear my own voice breakout in a cry only to wake up everyone else in the house. I unsteadily wandered into my mother’s bedroom only to wake her up with the news. My policemen stoop in the lounge at the dining table as they watched my family let out painful cries.

The only voice I hear in my mind every day now is, “my dear………...”

To my dearly beloved big sister Odette. I love you. I will never forget you.

Rest in Eternal Peace in the arms of our father God.

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