Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sound of Death

Death takes the good and not so good from among us. But it is the really good like Liz Banda that we mourn and miss a lot.
She was there when I walked into Nation Publications Limited (NPL) newsroom on Friday, 8 August, 2003.

Elizabeth Lisuntha Banda was also there when I worked as an intern for a month in March, 2000, and again in summer of 2002. And she was there, too, when I left NPL newsroom on 31 March 2009, for Malawi Television Limited (TVM) now MBC.

That day, 31 March 2009, was a Tuesday, the last day of my service to NPL. It was four days after I had visited Liz--for that is what we all called her—at her Chitawira house. On that Friday evening, 27 March 2009, I arrived at her house and her daughter, Yanjanani, who knew me well, welcomed me into the house.

I sat, not comfortably, because Liz was still in the kitchen. When she walked into the living room, she had a smile. I smiled too.

“I don’t want you to hear from people,” I said. “I am serving notice at NPL. I will be joining TVM next week.”

Liz then sat comfortably in her seat. “Mzati start your story again, please,” she said. I knew I was welcome. I, too, sat comfortably. We talked about life in general and life in particular to our experiences for one hour 10 minutes!

When I said bye, she walked me out of her smart house. It was the first time she did so, for in the past she could just stand at the door and wave.

But this was a special day. Outside her house we stood for a good 30 minutes, still talking. Neither Yanjanani nor the maid in the house disturbed us. Our friendship had been cemented on this evening.

Now that we did not work at the same place, we did not see each other every day. We met once in a while, talked on the phone and texted. I prefer texting to talking. Texting is sentimental, intimate too. But also accurate. Speech is unreal, sometimes. Perhaps often. More thought goes into texting than in speech.

Liz was such a good person that it is nearly impossible to meet anyone who can say she was bad. She was the only journalist at NPL, I think, who could use the short form of her name Liz. The rest of us had to use our full names. I guess it was because she first worked on the Young ‘n’ Free pages. And the name Liz made children associate with her and the pages.

Through the years she rose to edit even the most feared current news pages. These are pages one, two, there and four of your newspaper. I think it is also true that she is the only female journalist to have worked for so long in the newsroom at NPL.    

But over the five years we worked together, there are instances that come to mind. They reveal Liz’s patience, love and wisdom.

I was among the first junior staff to buy a car in the newsroom. Liz was to do so later. One evening, she came to me, leaned down. “Mzati, I will knock off late today,” she said. “I have never driven at night. I want you to drive ahead of me so I can follow you.”

That meant I had to wait for her to finish her work which I did. Around 8 PM, we started off from our offices on the Salmin Amour Road on to Mahatma Ghandhi Road, past the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine, into Kapeni Road.

She was living in Chitawira, near the Soche Nazarene Church, so at Kamba I took the Kenyatta Drive. But instead of going on to Mango Stage, to turn right to her house, I turned to the right just after I took Kenyatta Drive. We went round the road sin Naperi and then finally in Chitawira.

You may think she would be angry with my unnecessarily longer route. But she was not. Instead, she thanked me for being of good help. But that was the last times she asked for a night drive-companionship. I had taught her to drive at night the painful way. But the good thing with such painful lessons is that you learn once.

Such friendship grew when I left NPL. We would meet once in a while. But often we would text. Once she texted. “I haven’t read Things Fall Apart, imagine.” I gave her a copy the same day.

Yet I also made her cry in sorrow. Once, when she thought I had done a poor assessment of NPL, she called me while crying, asking me to be kind. I heard her and did as she pleaded. The rest is all good news.

“All boys grow up. Liz, I’m happy to report to you that I am now a man,” I once texted her. She understood me. “Amen to that!” She texted back.

Once she had lamented the evil deeds men do to women. I texted her that we are living in a really bad world. God must save us. She wrote back a long text, expressing her sorrow with our world. In the text, I saw a young woman waiting for the next world, a world without any pain and sorrow.

I know she loved life. But she also longed for the everlasting life yet to come. I know she was kind and gentle. But I also know that she was honest. I know she didn’t like poor writers in the newsroom. But I also know that she was kind enough not to shout at them as some editors do. I know she loved her daughter so much. I also know that Yanjanani will have a life, even like that of her mother—a lovely, gentle, kind lady. Beautiful, too.

Why does death take away such people? Well, it also takes bad. But we mourn those who were really great. Like Liz.

Death, I hear your sound. No, death, I hear your voice, calling one by one. But I can’t see you. Death, I hear your footsteps, walking by our homes, hospitals, roads, taking our loved ones. But I can’t see you. Death, I feel your sting in my heart as you take those we love. But when I try to catch you, I have air in my hands. Death, you have taken Liz away from us.

But death is a loser. Now Liz will live in our hearts and in our memory. Yet we will also learn to live without her.

I have hope. I study the Bible using the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. And I know death is just sleep. Liz is sleeping. Some day, when Jesus, the Son of God, comes, the righteous dead shall resurrect and fly to heaven. Liz believed in God.

Liz. She was there when I walked into the newsroom. She was there when I walked out. I believe she will be there, too, on the first resurrection. And if I do well, as she did, I shall meet her in the joy of our Lord.


Dave Namusanya said...

You've written again, quite powerful a tribute to her.

Zandi Kankhuni said...

So touching. May her soul rest in peace.