Friday, April 08, 2016

Without Keita

It is just as I had already understood it would be: I had thought it would be incomprehensible.
It is unfathomable that Keita no more exists.
 But certain things I had not understood: such as the importance of remembering small things and noting them down. There are several diary pages without any notes. Keita and I were at Eva’s on the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth of March. But all I know of these days is that Keita was resting and bleeding slowly from his nose. But surely there were other things happening? Precious little things and conversations, just ordinary things which will now never happen again and which I just wish I could remember. Keita was alive then! We said things to each other and I can’t remember what they were and that breaks my heart.
 I can remember travelling across the Bridge of the Martyrs in Guida’s car –Keita’s last journey- on our way to Point G hospital  on Sunday the twentieth  at sunset.  A large red sun hung low over the hazy  Niger river: “Is that for toubabs Keita?” I tried our ancient joke again and Keita replied like he always did: “yes that is for toubabs”. But he said it so quietly I could hardly hear him...

Keita slipped into unconsciousness from Tuesday twenty second onwards. Before that I made a mistake:  I thought there might be something he wanted to talk about before he died. It was clear to me that he was dying, so I said gently” you may be leaving us Keita, is there any thing you wish to clarify?” But Keita just replied: “who says that! Who says  that I am going to die?” So of course I backpedalled and said “noone Keita, no one says that, don’t worry cheri”.  And I understand now that he was fighting for his life and wanted to keep fighting . That fight does not allow any conferences about after death arrangements...
And Keita did fight, oh yes. Even after he had slipped into unconsciousness on the twenty fourth and twenty fifth of March his poor bruised and traumatised body kept fighting  and his great heart kept beating at breakneck speed , refusing to give up.  During his last night he developed a high fever- it went up to 41, and we were unable to get it down although we wrapped him in ice cold towels. His body was burning as he tried to stay alive but his feet and hands were icy cold- the blood had left them to serve his vital organs.
His fever continued the following morning and his breathing was short and very laboured. I still held his cold hands and spoke to him since I thought that maybe he could hear me somehow.
 I was not with him when he died, we had left him for a few minutes while he was being seen to by his doctors including Guida. While I was waiting I looked out of the window and suddenly the lyrics and melody of the Bob Dylan song Knocking on Heaven's door came to me out of the blue. It was a favourite of Keita's:
'It's getting dark , too dark to see I feel I'm knocking on Heaven's door..'
The the door opened and they all came out and sat down. "We have lost him' said Guida.

About ten minutes later they brought his body out lying on a trolley , wrapped in the sheet I had bought at Azar Supermarché a few days earlier. I remembered last  summer when we had seen a body being taken down to the morgue wrapped in a flowery fabric, it had passed that very place. “That will be me soon” Keita had said with uncharacteristic pessimism.
 I walked with  his body to the morgue, holding on to his feet and saying Hail Marys:
..... Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death....

The idea of his body lying all alone in the morgue was tormenting me that night, and for days after I could not seem to separate the idea of Keita’s soul from his body, but thought of him lying under the earth. “Que la terre lui soit légère “ say the French condolences (May the earth rest lightly upon him).

The funeral was very big, many hundreds came from Djenné, from Kayes , from Mopti and Sikasso. Keita was deeply loved and is mourned by by many. His three children came down from Segou and I brought them with me to Djenné.  Now they are gone and life is clamouring for my attention in other ways: there is the Djenné festival and I have been roped into making banners and feel better when I am working anyway so I continue to muddle on as best as I can in this new, cold  and unfamiliar place which is life without Keita.

This is the last picture of Keita, taken on Saturday nineteenth at Eva's under the great mango tree. Keita spent the day there with his old friend Levy, they had tea and lunch and chatted with the guards who loved Keita too.This was the last pleasant time he spent with friends.


Blogger David said...

I don't know how you found the words, but you did, so eloquently. Thanks for your unflinching observations. See you soon. xx

8:33 AM  
Blogger Tabor said...

Each person dies in his/her own way, but your ability to be with him so much of the time was important. He died knowing he was loved and your words are very honest in conveying this transition.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Love from here Sophie. Marianne and everyone at Foreign Correspondent.

9:14 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you dear friends.
Sitting at Casablanca airport waiting for my flight to London. I have memories from here of course with many memories everywhere.

10:07 AM  
Blogger jm.herraiz said...

I am sorry for you, Sophie. He is in paradise, indeed. I send you all my support from the distance.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, Sophie. Long Time I don't see you ,I don't contact to you. I'm Japanese named Yuko Natori. I remember you and your hotel. Maybe you don't remember me. But I hope we will meet again in Hotel Djenne Djenno. I hope..

1:47 PM  

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