My Childhood Nightmare

Essay by Muchindu May 2004

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        My nightmare followed a series of events in my life from the age of about five when I was old enough to understand things. My twin brother Bernard was born with a heart defect that required major surgery. His condition was so acute that the doctors told the family he would only live for four years after the diagnosis. However, with the encouragement and support offered by the family, Bernard fought his condition bravely until the age of twenty when he finally gave up the fight.

        It was around midnight in summer when Bernard lost the battle. I remember lying on top of my bed that night, unable to sleep, just thinking of Bernard in hospital following his second major operation. Everything was quiet; all you could hear was the sound of hungry foxes in the nearby bushes searching for food, dogs barking in the neighborhood. I gazed from one corner of the room to another as my mind wandered as to whether the operation was going to save Bernard's life.

Following the operation early that afternoon, Bernard's condition deteriorated. He was on a life support machine and his chances of survival were very slim. The telephone rang shortly after midnight and I rushed to pick it up. It was the hospital informing us that Bernard had passed away.

        Two days later, Bernard was put to rest. Traditionally, as a twin, I had to undergo some customary practices. This is a tradition practiced among twins when one dies. There is a myth behind this that non performance of this ritual has adverse mental, emotional and social effect on the remaining twin. It is believed that the spirit of the deceased will live in the living twin's body, which in turn hinders the living twin's control of his/her life. This...