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The Choir Mother's Secret

Mama Shushana had been a somebody in the Church since she was born. The only daughter of a charismatic and beloved Reverand- an evangelist who spread the gospel, helped open schools and hospitals in all the Northern District of Uchuanda. Shushana was the firstborn before 8 sons. She attended the Church school in her rural community and was one of the first girls to attend school in her village. At 17 the love of her life to be-a well-respected politician and freedom fighter one of the first post-colonial Africans saw her run like the wind at a community event and loved Shushana for the rest of his life.

Shushana got married young and assumed her position as the 'Mrsszz' [Madam] in the community. Wearing her crown was not a task that scared the big sister of 8 rambunctious boys and the winner of the village Olympics. She had been born to wear it. Shushana and her freedom fighter took their region by storm- participating in many avant-garde changes that opened doors for prosperity, women's empowerment, education, children's rights, and a more equal development. Fame and glam followed them as they spoke about nationalism to countless communities in the countryside. They were a society favorite and sat at the front of the church every Sunday, waived at school children and poor farmers with effortless grace. They dressed and lived like the colonials 'now exiting' but carried themselves with the passion, and pride of the first Africans.

And then....without warning her teas, Mercedes Benz, prestige, and position were snuffed out with the public execution of her man. That was the day life took its worst turn. The years that followed required a relentless fight to raise seven children, hold on to the ideals of freedom and maintain the family name.

On this particular Sunday - two decades after that worst day-Shushana stood with her head abit straighter than recently usual. She let the morning wind blow carelessly through her jerry curl. Shushana looked at her baby blue scarf and remembered the last time she wore it - on a grand thanksgiving service for the blessing of her married daughters. It had been a moment to stand in the sun again finally prestige and its backup financing had made their way back to her compound long after the death of their father- her man. Shushana had been intentional about maintaining a reputable network. The reward was two rich doctors and one lawyer recently returned from Europe, sons of the soil pursuing and marrying Shushana's girls. It had been a long time since she had come to the altar earnestly from heart rather than a purely keeping up appearances practice. There was tangible evidence that God had remained in Shushana's household.

Shushana busked in many suns after that, cars came in and out of her compound and she lacked nothing. Then as seasons come and go-the worst returned as AIDS came to Uchuanda and chose the beautiful ones fast. Shushana found herself the mother of widows and the heart heavy grandmother of distraught orphans. The last time she spoke at her baby daughter's funeral Shushana knew that every jewel on her God-given crown had finally dwindled and that sorrow and great suffering had become her new and undeniable portion.

And it was so for another dreary ten years, but as the old women had told her- 'stars' can be dulled -but their grace to shine can persevere and return once more incarnate through a rebirth. The next generation.

To her surprise, holding that very blue scarf Shushana stood once more hope bubbling upwards as she and the other mothers union choir members chuttered before the service.

Shushana had become seasoned at conflict with a complicated and magnanamous God. She committed to a few secret beers at night, a flood of tears, choir practice every Wednesday, Sunday for worship, and whatever it took to be. Today she was intentional about standing with her well-placed granddaughters photographs from London carelessly placed in her chorus book next to that snob of a woman-Mrs Badomino whose husband had survived and remained great. When you are a Shushana maneuvering photos to fall at the right time for the right conversation is but a tact that comes with your birthright.

Shushana's first granddaughter had crossed the Atlantic and while Shushana had been bursting to spread this news- she waited for a compounding moment-her granddaughter's graduation from an English university, engagement to a White man whose eyes she trusted. The cream on the delightful lemon cake - was that there were all going to the wedding in England- Grandmother, only living daughter, and Grand Uncle Robert who would act as father.

The photos fell and the ladies of the choir sang about Shushanas unbelievable 10th chance at life. Once again Shushana held her head high throughout the service and giggled as the women followed to her well-prepared compound to crowd in for the phone call from the Londoners.

For Shushana who till the day she died- wore her crown beautifully, your book is in the works Queen.


Amanda Thompson Agaba


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