She used to tell me that there was no good in ‘goodbye’ and that it was the reason why she only said bye. Bye Mom.
As much as it hurt to admit it, the truth was that from all that pain emerged something unrealistically beautiful. She would forever be a role model. Sheryn Tellier. A Mother and a Friend for all. Those were the words that were written on her grave but they were not enough. I wished I could have summarised it better. However, a whole book would not have been sufficient. She had been the most perfect thing in a life full of imperfections, full of imperfect people. It might seem as though I no longer had regrets but I did. I should have told her I loved her more often, even at the most random times. I should have told her I was grateful for all the things she did everyday without ever complaining. I should have told her how proud I was to have such a great woman as mother and that I was thankful for the education she gave me, one that I truly considered flawless. Many people used to judge her for being what they called a ‘single mum’, which was not really acceptable in our conservative society. How despicable of them to reduce her many qualities to that one label. She was not simply a ‘single mum’ but a single woman, one of a kind. She was a powerful entity, one that did not even need support to stand up straight. And all her life, she had been standing up straight, for herself, her daughter and friends, and for humanity as a whole. She might not be a world-famous superhero but she was my superhero; a marginal Superwoman, never trying to fit in, but always standing out.
She used to tell me that there was no good in ‘goodbye’ and that it was the reason why she only said bye. Bye Mom.
I found myself at the hospital because of a drop in blood pressure. As I was insisting, a young nurse finally agreed to tell me about the whole scenario. I learned that the killer was actually Anita’s husband. The couple had been fighting in the parking and out of control, he had pulled a gun from his coat. In trying to protect Anita, my Mother had been shot. She had sacrificed her life for someone she barely knew. She had not done it for a political reason nor to save her soul from God’s wrath, not even as a way to stay immortal in people’s mind. She had done it simply because she firmly believed that it was her duty as a human being to save another human being. At this moment, she did not think about her age or everything that she would leave behind. At this moment, she just knew that somebody needed help and she was in a position to provide it. Some scandalmongers, willingly or in spite of themselves, might say that this act was purely out of feminine solidarity but the truth was that she did this for the sake of humanity and had it been a man, she would not have hesitated to reproduce the same schema. She had never been a man-hater. She had simply been unlucky for encountering only bad guys during her life and had fought in order for the young ladies, including me, to immediately recognise them, sense their intentions and never, at any cost, lower our standards. She used to say:
“You’re born a woman. You may become a girlfriend, wife or mother, but even then, you’re a woman first”.
I never found it difficult to live without my father. I never felt like I missed a man’s presence in my life simply because she had both been a mother and a father to me. Of course, it was much easier to avoid thinking of someone I had never known than someone I had lived with, from the very first day of my birth. Now that she was gone, I realised that she was not only a woman I loved and respected; She was the Sun and I was an insignificant planet that had been revolving around her since Day One. I had clearly been depending on her as she affectionately offered her help, even for the most trivial things.
People usually hated Mondays for silly reasons. It unnerved me when they were complaining about Monday being a shitty day because they had to go to school or to their workplace. The reason behind my hatred for that particular day of the week was much deeper and it would haunt me forever. On Monday 4 August 2014, my school holidays were not over yet and I decided to pay a visit to my Mother at her workplace. The NGO Fam Ensam was found in Port-Louis, the capital city of Mauritius, which was to me a gigantic ant heap. If someone needed peace and tranquility, Port-Louis was definitely not the place to go. On the rare occasions that I went to Port-Louis, I would tend to forget that I actually lived on ‘Paradise Island’. I personally believed that the NGO was not well situated at all since those abused women most probably needed a quiet place but I never shared this thought with Mum as I did not want her to be under the impression that I was questioning her choices. I was aware that all her life, people had tried to bring her down and I did not want to be one of them. They might have seen the tough woman that she was but I had also discovered the other side of her, which was soft and sensitive, like a fresh wound. I was walking down the road, with my head facing down so as to prevent the dust from irritating my eyes when suddenly, an unexplainable tremor of fear crept through me. I looked up just in time to see a man looking back at me, expressionless, who quickly turned away and melted into the crowd. I crossed the road in haste and arrived at the parking in front of the NGO. There, I witnessed the most awful scene that I would never have dared imagine, even in my worst nightmares. Strangely enough, I saw her face first. She was no longer beautiful; her face was all contortioned. Then I realised that there was blood all over her torso. By the time I approached, she had already died. I did not notice Anita’s presence until I heard a loud sob. She had been there all along, petrified. My first reflex was to shake her again and again so that she would come to her senses and explain what had happened. However, I did nothing of the sort. I just stayed right where I was, staring blankly at her. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears and I felt like my head was about to explode. I did not know if the police sirens were in my head or if somebody had actually called the police. All my certainties had just evaporated in thin air. I was a child left in the dark, praying that Mummy would come and lift her punishment. Suddenly, I felt the ground collapse beneath my feet…
My Mother was at the head of a Non-Governmental Organisation called Fam Ensam. These words are in Mauritian Creole, the language spoken by people living on the island and could be literally translated as ‘Ladies Together’. Not only was she respected by the women there but she was also a friend and a confident to every single one of them. One of them, Anita, had a really hard time with her husband as he had beaten her almost to death several times. Of course, her situation was not much different from that of many women there, except that unlike most abused women, she did not seem depressed at all. Her behaviour left everyone in the association feeling intrigued. They were wondering whether she was in a state of complete denial or if she was the next Oscar winner for being such an amazing actress. She was nearly as light-hearted as my Mother, and made it clear that she did not need the approval of anybody before doing something since she never justified herself for any of her actions, good or bad. What was even more bewildering was that she did not find it difficult to start new things that would change her life. She gave hope to the other ladies but at the same time, they were jealous of her. None of them had that much charisma; none of them could wear a smile like hers on their battered face. She had not come to the association on her own will. Her sister had taken her there by force when she realised that if she did not, Anita would most probably die. She often confided in Mum, having no actual difficulty to express her feelings regarding her husband. Everybody said that it was really strange but Mum had never been judgemental and helped her as much as she could. Anita loved her husband passionately and even to the point of madness like her relatives would say. She was not stupid nor did she desperately need a man. She just did not want to admit to herself that her marriage, one of the most important decisions in her life, was in fact a failure.
Superwoman versus Wonder Woman
I had this childhood memory that was more vivid than all the others, where I actually remembered the spark in her eyes; one of eminent pride, one that would get a child fascinated for days. I was at school, playing and chatting merrily during recess time when one of the children began to talk about Superman. Everybody started to express their views about the various superheroes, each defending their favourite ones, comparing them to their father, brother or cousin. I started to feel uneasy because I had no male role model at home and this was the umpteenth reason why I did not totally fit in society. However, my Mother had taught me to always be proud of my differences and to actually turn those into examples for the others. For some mystical reason, she made it clear to me that I could inspire others from an early age. Like the impulsive six year old child that I was, I blurted out:
“My Mom is Superwoman!”
They all laughed at me, saying that I was ignorant and that there was no such thing as a Superwoman but they reckoned that I was probably referring to Wonder Woman. In spite of what they said, I was pretty sure I did not invent Superwoman and even if it was the case, there was no way I would accept the name ‘Wonder Woman’.
“No. She IS Superwoman, not Wonder Woman,” I claimed. “There’s nothing to wonder about. You don’t call Superman Wonder Man, do you?”
Later, I learned that both Superwoman and Wonder Man were existing comics characters but in this patriarchal society, most people did not know about them. Words did have as much power as those heroes and they affected our judgements in a sly way. The other children were speechless for a few minutes but quickly left behind this little dispute to talk about the day’s matters of interest such as Nina who no longer wore her school uniform and instead was wearing a dress that was twice her size because she had vomited all over it in class. When I got home, Mum asked me about my day, like she always did. After I included all the details, from the petty things to the most interesting ones, she just hugged me like I was made of some kind of magic dust. She had a natural gift for making anyone feel good, without even having to say a word.
Francisca Ulloa - Me as a geisha
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alosojos/316727429/
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She was beautiful. She had pale skin; not the kind of pale skin someone had when he or she was sick but one as fine as porcelain. Her features displayed a certain toughness which strangely enough, had something graceful to it. The whites of her eyes had a mysterious bluish reflection and at the centre were two little holes as black as her morning coffee. Her long black hair contrasted with the paleness of her skin yet seemed complementary, just like yin and yang. She was taller than me or so I thought, maybe because I always felt so tiny in comparison. Her whole being emitted the most positive vibes that someone could ever come across, her unique perfume being that of her self-confidence. She did not care about all those superficial things that were considered as society’s norms. The only make-up she wore was a red lipstick to remind her of her daily struggles and she would then take delight in removing all of its traces when she got home after work. Everybody was always saying how striking our resemblance was but it seemed that I just was not able to see what they all saw in me. For my part, we both had dark eyes and dark hair and that was it. Although it was true that I loved her more than anybody else in this world, I constantly had this gnawing pain in my stomach that kept reminding me that I could not rise up to her level. I could not actually blame her for it since she was always so proud of me, much more than I was of myself, and so optimist when talking about my future.
My bedroom was filled with light. It was not one of those disco lights that were so bright that they made me feel dizzy. There was something reassuring about it. Its warmth gently tickled my skin and even managed to find a way to my heart. Suddenly, this luminosity that was so pleasant a few minutes ago became suffocating. I woke up feeling confused and quite lost. One moment I was inexplicably euphoric and the next, I had difficulty breathing. At this point, I was like an insecure child that was just given the greatest gift she could have imagined to be then snatched away forever. It all came to me at once in a whirlpool of emotions and flashbacks. Oh no, no, no, NO! It was real then, not just some kind of perverse hallucination that was due to insomnia. It did happen. The light of my life had been snatched away. I might be living in Mauritius, The Paradise Island, like they called it, but it did not matter anymore. For my part, I was drowning in a sea of grief and no ship was strong enough to rescue me. Of course, I could have asked a few people how they were able to cope with their mother’s death and do the same, I could have eaten lots of chocolates and ice creams or drunk my pain away. I could even have gone to a psychologist or hypnotist or whatever therapist. But to be honest, I was not sure I really wanted help. My friends wanted me to move on but how could I? Moving on would definitely ease the pain but it would also be an insult to her numerous life struggles. I had to do something that would not only give me back my peace of mind but that would also preserve the honour and memory of the special woman who bore me and restored my faith in humanity…
Debbie - Woman In Light https://www.flickr.com/photos/debraulrich/2122332219/
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