NINETEEN years can be such a long time. Long enough for a child to be born, pass childhood, overcome the temptations of adolescence and morph into an adult preparing to placate itself from the pampers of parents.
But for the next 100 days, beginning tomorrow, you will be branded cold and condescending, callous and such adjectives if you think in terms of the numbers. To millions of Genocide survivors home and away, Nineteen is last month, last week, yesterday; but never 19. So, Nineteen is as fresh as they come.
Picture a 25-year-old today. She was just six in April 1994. She could be any of the thousands of children who survived but would have wished they died that cold month.
Like Fergal Keane quotes in Valentina, the girl who refused to die in the UK’s Sunday Times (article published in 1997), “The killers moved into the terrified crowd of men, women and children, hacking and clubbing as they went. If they found someone alive they would smash their heads with stones. I saw them take little children and smash their heads together until they were dead. There were children begging for pity but they killed them straight away. Other infants, crying on the ground beside their murdered parents, were taken and plunged head first into latrines.”
Now, this is such a chilling ordeal. It calls for one thing: wearing gray and participating in the mourning period.
You are absolutely not to tell your love things like “I understand how you are feeling”. Don’t even try to urge her to get over it. Like for Valentina above, getting over such an ordeal is not something your words alone, however charming, can do. But with compassion, you will make the next 100 days more bearable for her.
So, when she comes back from the memorial service or any such ceremony and breaks down, offer her a shoulder to lean on. She needs such a TLC to reassure her that she is alive and must continue looking ahead. If you must say anything related to the subject, let it wait until she is cheerful enough.
Your role during this period is to play the G in her gray, since she is mourning. Gray is the new colour of mourning. Since you will be so much like a baby’s pampers, the comforting and reassuring demands that you do things like reading for her. Anything that can lull her and bring her out of the reverie into the present or thinking about the future is okay.
At no time should you say “I’m going to miss the premiership because bars won’t open.” And if you have the services in your own home, then don’t even try it if she is not in the mood to see you calling names such as Carzola and Walcott in the home. Consider instead playing for her soothing lyrics like Bette Midler’s From A Distance and such songs that give us hope when we are down.
But when she is cheerful, you can talk about why she is alive. Tell her that the loved ones she lost are watching over her, and that they are probably happy that she survived and that they would be disappointed if she did not live to complete the mission in life they were denied a chance of accomplishing. But this, too, depends on the mood.
May the souls of the millions who perished Nineteen years ago rest in eternal peace. And may their dying wish for justice be achieved.