When my mum died, the first thing I felt was relief. The pain, the shock, the screams, the tears – they would come later. But first relief.

Today marks twenty years since my mum breathed her last. But like I said, when it happened, my first thought was of how lucky I was.

You see, for  three terms, I had been losing my stuff in boarding house, from my uniforms to my underwear to my buckets to my cutlery and, if I am not mistaken, even my mattress and finally her bandanna which I’d stolen. I told her all of them were in my local guardian’s house and she had promised me that the very next visiting day, she would go with me to Mr. Mong’s house to see if it was true. She’d have skinned me I know. So yes, when she died, my first reaction was Yes!!! I don’t have to answer to her now.

Is this an easy thing for me to admit? Think again. But that’s another story. Let me leave that there as a brief foray into the innocent darkness of a child’s mind.

I’m thinking today that twenty years is all I need to know that the pain of grief is a never-ending one. It’s like when a doctor tells you you have a condition that while not fatal has no cure, so you learn to live with it, manage and know the signals that cause a flare. You learn to avoid the pitfalls. You realise that forever, you will skirt around this pain and learn to hold it at bay –  just – by sheer will. But it’s always there, hovering. Always the darkness. Close and sometimes closing in.

In another four days, it’ll be one year since Enabe died. And I regret that he died at all. But I regret that while one pain was dulling, another injury came along, a fresh wound even worse if possible than the first was dug. I regret that for the rest of my life I have this burden to carry. The burden of this pain.

I regret that life sometimes ensures that it gives you so much – I have been incredibly lucky –but then, it seems to say hey, how dare you be a hundred percent? So it takes away something huge. So that whatever good came to you, whatever the potential for happiness, always, it is incomplete. Because there will always hover  in the periphery of your mind, just outside the bubble this emptiness, this thing, this incredibly big and deep thing that tinges every smile with sadness, every laughter with a hint of tears.

Maybe it is life’s way of ensuring that in claiming our prerogatives, we never forget that we are human. Forever hurting. That we may remember how fragile we are and never become arrogant. That we will know that everything we have can be taken away. And so we learn to be thankful.

Maybe also in all of this, we will remember to be kind. Because when you stand on the precipice of your own mortality, only then can you look back and recognise another’s pain and hurt.

Only then can you be human. Yes, pain comes to us to help us be human. How can we possibly quarrel with this?