The Day My Father Died

By Aimerance Ziga
Aimerance Ziga's stories

My family consisted of one male and four females when I was born. We all resided in a four-bedroom house in the Burundian city of Bujumbura. The Republic of Burundi is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Burundi is a part of the Albertine Rift, the western extension of the East African Rift. The major ethnic groups are Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. Burundi’s culture is based on local traditions and the influence of neighboring countries. The culture of Burundi encompasses mainly songs, dances, stories, and legends. Poetry is sometimes recited during social gatherings. Staple foods include plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas, and maize. Stewed beans are traditionally eaten at least once a day, while meat (mainly chicken and goat) is only rarely consumed. Close to the shores of Lake Tanganyika, fish is popular and prepared in similar ways to meat.

The house we lived in was not very large, measuring only 3 meters in each dimension. However, it was a lovely place conveniently located near the main road. I am the firstborn child in my family, a position that instills in me a sense of responsibility and ambition. I feel that I have much to contribute to the sustainability of my family.

So, who am I? I am a young woman who loves to write stories about her own experiences. I enjoy recounting what I observe or experience. Writing stories is of great importance to me, and I am passionate about it. It allows me to release my thoughts regarding my life. When I write stories, my primary goal is to inspire and educate people. I also deeply care about my family and want to see everyone succeed in their endeavors. I support myself and my family financially because I was working as an interpreter. I encouraged my siblings to pursue education to enhance their knowledge and improve their lives. I want them to learn and know how to be independent and responsible in life. I am always there to assist my family members whenever they need me. When I assist them, I feel a sense of comfort, even though at times I may lack the means to give them everything they need. I never complain.

My mother sometimes calls me “Wangu” (mine), which allows me to share some secrets with her. For instance, whenever I was proposed to by men, I always approached her and confided in her. After listening to me, she offered sound advice, “you need to be more careful with men to avoid unwanted pregnancy and early marriage.” I remember a time when we visited a park, and my mom and I had a lot of fun, spending time eating, drinking, and taking pictures. She always wants to know what we are up to in every daily activity. My mother was a welcoming woman. “You are most welcome, good folks. Please sit down while I prepare something to eat for you.” The visitors were delighted and appreciative when Mom said that. A little while later, my mother requested me to serve lunch to the guests at the dining room table. It only took her a few minutes to prepare the meals, so when she advised the guests to enjoy their meal, they were excited and surprised. After finishing their meal, the guests thanked my mother for her kindness and hospitality and left. Typically, I envision my mother caring for us and performing the regular housewife chores like cooking and laundry. Additionally, when I think of cooking and my mother, I think of the rice and beans she cooks. What surprises me the most is that any type of food my mother cooks, I love it because she is an expert in the kitchen. Most of the time, I support my mother in her decisions to make our lives better and to raise us to be well-mannered children. My mother detests bad behavior and she wants all her children to be role models in the family and the community. My mother is unique in that she tries her best to please everyone and excels at extending a warm welcome to newcomers. She used to be social and welcoming. Each time she saw someone, she was ready to greet them and wanted to make the person feel comfortable no matter what. I can still see the guests we had back then. “You deserve a commendable present in addition to compensation,” one of the guests stated. These events all took place in 2000 when I was still quite young. I was in high school at the time. My father was still alive and employed by a tailor. He was frequently unavailable at home due to his job. He worked six days a week, and only on Sundays could we catch him at home during the day.

One day, my father committed to work as usual. He wouldn’t come home as early as usual, arriving home at 10 pm every day. Around five o’clock, one of his buddies arrived to notify us that my father had passed out and had been taken to the city hospital. When we went to see him a few hours later, the doctor informed my mother that my father had passed away. When we learned that Dad had passed away, we were all shocked and surprised. My mother collapsed and her friend assisted her in regaining consciousness after 10 minutes. We all cried a lot in those days, and some of us remained quiet for two to three days, contemplating what had happened. It was a really terrible time for our family. After a week, we planned a funeral and buried him. After losing him, I remember how we all continued weeping and regretting for a very long time. This happened because we did not think that my father would have died so quickly. His body looked perfect, strong, and healthy. Losing my father was a great shock, and due to that, we all remained there trying to figure out what might have been the cause of his death. A few days later, we learned from the doctor that he died due to a heart attack.

28 September, 2023