I recently got access to some videos Red Twin made while she was in Central Asia. I’ve been watching them and will watch some more tomorrow on the 3rd anniversary of her death.
The first video I watched was her telling about a fabulous night out she’d had, one where security restrictions weren’t too oppressive and she’d got to witness a local custom – a poetry battle – which is normally inaccessible to foreigners for a variety of reasons. She was on a total high.
So was I, watching the video. I was blown away remembering how smart she was. And funny. And, just, fun!
Then I tried to talk back to her. We used to have a rhythm, bouncing off each other in a mutual appreciation. It was natural to slip into that. But it was a video, of course she didn’t reciprocate. I just forgot for a moment.
It was a sweet moment. And then the air around grew heavy.
My little boys were there too, my Callum providing a running commentary on my face. “Oh Mama, you’re having so much fun! Oh Mama, you look so sad. Your whole face has gone down. That’s because your dear twin sister died, isn’t it, Mama? You miss her, don’t you?”
Earlier, they had been slightly confused. I had told them it was a video of Auntie Red Twin and they know what she looked like. But then, as they watched the video, they double-checked, “Isn’t this you, Mama? This video sounds like you and it’s a lot like you.” That’s the weird thing about twins – it isn’t just looking similar, in fact sometimes that’s the least similar thing. It’s the mannerisms and how your body moves that resemble each other too.
It reminded me of the first time Red Twin came to visit us in Dodoma. Elliot was 18 months old and he’d last seen her when he was 2 weeks old. He was a very outgoing little chap, always welcoming to people in our home, never shy. But when he saw Red Twin, he went very quiet and was a little bit unsure, withdrawing to me. He knew who his mama was; the visitor definitely wasn’t Mama. But it sure looked and sounded and moved like Mama. Not Mama, but like her. The same, but different.
I tell my boys these stories all the time. We talk about Auntie Red Twin and how she was a lefty like Callum or how his helping heart is just like hers. They love the stories of her ‘secret cupboard’ in Central Asia and how she resisted going to Central Asia so hard but God had other ideas. I tell stories from our childhood together and they re-enact how phone calls between her and Arthur used to go while he and I were dating. They love the photos of them with her and they talk about how much she loved them.
But they don’t remember her voice or how she moved or what the rhythm of conversation was with her. They think I’m the only one who does those things. Or they did until they saw the videos. They allow them to see another dimension of her that photos can’t capture.
Before this week I hadn’t heard her voice for three years. I didn’t seek out those videos until now – I don’t think I was ready. I don’t know why. Grief is weird, the reasons between your reaction to things hard to know or explain. But I think that sense of seeing her but not being able to be with her was something I was avoiding, a piece of grief work that seemed too hard.
And it was extraordinarily painful. It will take courage to watch more of those videos tomorrow.
But mixed in with the pain there was a moment of sweetness and I felt a sense of awe and thankfulness for who she was.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.