This is an excerpt and overview of my book Girl from Zazu, which explores my story of deep family tragedy at age 13 to creating a life worth living in the last 17 years. The piece below explores some themes I touch on the book such as faith, my father, justice shame and coping with grief as a millennial.
My intention is for this book to help put into words the feelings of many when they lose a loved one, go through a trauma. As common as grief is, its hard to articulate; its as unique as it is universal. Its also my intention to infuse humour into this heavy topic, as a way to stir gratitude for the gift of life
We want to know “Why” and “Why me”. Those were my questions for a long time, but now my questions is “what now” and “what’s next”. In this book I share some of my journey of how I moved from the former to the latter questions, finding joy and purpose the way.
“Death in the Family”
My name is Tiyani and when I was 13, my mom died. But that’s not all. So did my 1 little brother and my other little brother, as well as our nanny who became like an aunt.
See folks there was a death in the family.
I stood there over the four gaping holes in the insatiable and greedy belly of the earth that were about to be closed for the obese earth to swallow up and digest.
With pain in my chest, I peered over and waved “bye mom”, “bye baby brother number 1”, “bye baby brother number 2” and “bye aunty”. I walked over to my dad and held his hand, looked over at the hundreds of people who had come to mourn with us, because see folks; there was a death in the family.
We all know, the devil is a hater. He loves (ironically) to keep us ashamed, convicted and rejected. See although it wasn’t me who bludgeoned, strangled and stabbed them to death, though I wasn’t responsible for the bloodshed- guilt and shame gushed out of my heart.
When other kids asked me “where’s your mom?” I would wish I could explain it like the story of Jesus. But that instead of a virgin birth, my dad had given birth to me- without a womb: to the miracle that is me!
See my existence led to questions about her presence and it was up to me to explain her absence. So I had to explain, see folks; there was A death in the family. Having a single child, is normal. However a child who was solo for 6 years and had brothers for 7 years and again is back at one. That’s abnormal. Even Facebook would find that complicated.
I had to call 333 and ask my Saviour what to do, because see folks; there was a death in the family. The enemy’s voice in my head telling me to quit dialing Jeremiah 3:33- Hes never going to tell you why. God would never me why there was so much death in the family. In my family and in your family.
The other day I YouTubed a video called “sexual abuse on the 13th floor”, about a girl who was sexually abused by 2 family members before the age of 10. She constantly felt guilty about something she couldn’t control. She too wanted Him to answer questions that needed urgent attention. “Why would you let something like this happen to an innocent girl?”
In my case I was only 13. “Why would you watch my two helpless brothers open the gate to help someone who ultimately helped himself to the four sweetest servings of love my soul had ever known?” I thought you were the God that helped.
See folks, there was a death in the family, caused by one in the family. My brothers were little but they were smart. They opened the gate to a familiar face, not knowing he had a strange intention. He had murder on his mind. Excuse the pun.
And for this he suffered the most cruel punishment. When I was 21, he was hung. He was my uncle. He who grew up with my mother, but his jealousy tore her body apart. His life was a lie, telling pretty young things everything she had was his, and when she kicked him out- he covered her body with a dish let her die in a sandpit. Folks, see there was a death in the family.
When I read the paper and told my dad, “Jerry has been hung”’. Another body for the belly of the earth: you fat pig! When will it be enough?
I had my justice. The fullest extent of the arm of the law had reached out for my uncle and done to him what he did to others. Yet I still had my hang ups. It had come full circle and I received what millions in the world would never know – to see the perpetrator become the victim. But where was my victory? Because see folks, there was again a death in the family.
Growing up, dad didn’t always know what to do so he bought stuff. I had the normal things other kids has, but family structure not so much. Just the two of us. He was amazing, I won’t lie. With what he had, dealing with his own grief, he gave his best try.
I grew to like nice things, closet bursting with shoes I can barely afford- wanting more I can hardly pronounce. I didn’t want to fight the feeling, I wanted to forget it altogether. Rocking Jordans, shopping till my bank balance drops, Moet popping, screaming YOLO in my Polo, while really knowing it isn’t because I believe in eternal life. Doing all I can to make best friends with faces of dead presidents, trying to numb the fact that, see folks, there has been a death in the family.
What I need money can’t buy, the pain I feel, no long drop earrings can go down that far.
There is a cross though, the wooden pole deep enough to withstand the fury in my heart and His arms stretched across my heart to comfort me. He subtracts my anger and adds peace- simple maths!
Better yet; that cross means one day, when we are in eternity, there will be no more news about a death in the family.
The one I can’t wait to see, more than my mother, brothers or aunt is Christ! The first born of the grave! Yes folks, there was death in the family but love redeemed us.
See folks, there will be more death in the family, but we have eternity too.