Pause, Reset, Move On
by Jacqueline Akuamoah-Boateng
I have always been strong.
Life must go on after a storm,
challenges are inevitable,
one must pause, take stock of one’s life reset and move on in life.
Those have always been my words of wisdom to friends whenever they faced obstacles, yet not even those words of wisdom would prepare me for the storm that lurked ahead, a few miles down the road on my own journey of life.
July 14 2013, room 201 University Hospital – Newark, New Jersey
Mary sobbed as she gave suck to her baby. It was my first day working on the nursery unit at the hospital. My emotions switched abruptly from delight to uncertainty as I had just come to her after serving patients whose lives were filled with love and joy. Pink balloons, blue balloons, flowers, presents, and loved ones swamped rooms across the unit as newborns were welcomed into the world by caring fathers and loved ones. In one of those rooms, a father walked his wife through the steps of breastfeeding, as he recounted lessons from maternity class while he helped to get his beautiful baby girl to latch on to suck. The joy in his eyes beamed so intensely, it was almost tangible.
I said nothing to Mary, just offered tactile support as the new mother freely let out her tears with her face buried in my shoulder. As tears trickled down my back like rain would down a glass window on a rainy day, my eyes embarked on a voyage across the room. Sadly, there was nothing to behold – no father, no balloons, no gifts. Mary revealed she had been abandoned by her baby’s father during pregnancy. She had come to the hospital the previous morning alone and had delivered her baby alone, an immigrant who has no family in this country to turn to. Some fathers couldn’t be bothered about the precious lives they bring into this world. I thought about how mine had stayed, cared and nurtured. I was not near him now. Why? Migration.
July 14, 2013, home – Edison, New Jersey
I tossed in bed that night unable to sleep. It was pitch black. The time, 00:13:02 on the digital clock, seared through the dark, lit in blue. Thoughts about Mary, alone in a terrible situation with no support system filled my mind. Then it all came back to me, my own dilemma, the decision between taking my kids out of school in the middle of the semester versus waiting until school was in recess to visit my father. The storm I didn’t see coming.
February 10, 2013, home – Edison, New Jersey
One month before his demise, my father appeared to me in a dream. He wore a sad countenance. Worried about his demeanor, I asked why he was sad and if he had fallen. He answered “yes”. I promised to pay him a visit soon to help take care of him. He said “okay”. I then asked what he would like me to buy for him. “An outfit” he answered then gave me a big hug. We embraced, his chest felt cold and moist against mine. I woke up in a panic, feeling my father’s chest against mine for a few seconds just like it had felt in the dream even though I was no longer dreaming.
I thought about my father in Ghana. I couldn’t travel immediately since my children were in school. I decided that towards the end of March, when schools were in recess for the spring, I would visit my father as I had promised him in the dream.
March 10, 2013, Presbyterian Church of Ghana – Kwahu Tafo, Ghana
The acute cause of death was pneumonia. No wonder his chest was moist and cold in the dream. Sure enough, he had come to bid me farewell, knowing that we would never see each other again in the land of the living. Hit by pneumonia, his chest had welled up with secretions. He had fallen, knocked hard by pneumonia never to rise from his sick bed. “An outfit,” a well befitting one, was all he needed as all filed past to take a last glimpse at him. He lay peacefully in his white satin lined casket, in the suit I handpicked at the Macy’s in Short Hills, New Jersey. I whispered:
Dad, you sure look good,
“the outfit” fits perfectly,
I will forever cherish that last hug,
I will forever hang on to it,
Rest in peace father,
Rest in perfect peace.
Thinking about how strikingly handsome he looked, nicely clad in his suit, a shallow smile tickled on my face, curtained with tears. “He is at peace” whispered Nellie, a childhood friend who had become part of our family. As she wrapped her arm around me from behind, she continued, “It’s a storm, pause, reset and move on.” I turned to face her in a flash murmuring back in response, “Easy for you to say.” We both raised our brows, locked in a stare, our mouths wide open. We were each thinking what the other was thinking: “Practice what you preach!” We broke into laughter.
July 14, 2013, home – Edison, New Jersey
The blue light from the digital clock now read 01:19:04, I knew I had to try to sleep in preparation for work that morning. Yes! Back to work on the nursery unit.
All are conceived,
Likewise all are brought to birth,
the journey thereafter would be different for all.
These words flooded my thoughts until a mission was birthed in me. I vowed to further my education to become a community nurse. This would put me in a position to help struggling mothers like Mary and fatherless children in the community by educating and helping them gain access to government and charitable resources. Immigrants often miss out on sharing quality time with loved ones they have left behind in their homeland. I knew I must find a platform to enlighten immigrants like myself on how to achieve a meaningful, balanced, accomplished life. I awoke to the alarm at 06:00 at peace, armed with my newfound goals, ready to move on.