9:59am. UK time. A call from my sister Jayshree, in Durban. Our little brother was feeling ill and was taken to the doctor. I cancelled my plans for the day and sat on the bed with my mobile. My brother was not one to get ill, let alone visit a doctor. I tried to think back to when he visited a doctor. Lots! Everytime he took one of us to the doctor but never because he was ill.
11am. At the doctors surgery. An ecg was clear. The doctor was baffled and suggested checking into hospital for observation.
11:02. Calls to my British husband Paresh. His love and support was what I needed.
11:30am. Calls to Sa. Whatsapp messages. Texts. The fear of every expat has sinks in. ‘I’m so far away, what’s going on?’
Paresh kept checking up on how Kuben was. On how I was. He knows how much I love my bro.
1pm. I get anxious. He has been admitted to hospital and is in a constant delirious state. All the ‘what ifs’ that I had played out in my head upon moving here is slapping me furiously.
3pm. My bed looks like a mini office. I have been rooted to that spot since 10am. My iPad, phones, landline, laptop all in front of me. I’m texting. I know I’m harassing people. I mentally apologise. I need answers. I need to know. I need to be there. My mind searches for reason. I engage family members on social media in jokes and in jest, asking casually about Kuben. Some are busy, some reply. Leaving your loved ones thousands of miles away is very heart wrenching . It is at moments like this that you realise Skype cannot give you that comforting hug.
My baby brother whose arms I felt comfort in and whose love and advice enveloped me through all situations I was not there for him
I felt destroyed
My body is in the UK. My heart is in Africa.
5:10pm. A wild emotion envelopes my body. Hubby walks in with take out as I’ve not eaten nor had energy to cook. He looks at me howling and asks what’s wrong? “I don’t know” I reply. We go upstairs to our bedroom and he tries to contact home.
No replies to whatapps, no one is answering my calls. No replies to facebook messages. No one wants to speak to me. I shiver and continue my plea with God.
My phone rings. Githa, my sister in law mumbles ‘your brother has died’
Only an expat can understand that exact feeling. The anger, the frustration, the desperation. I should have been there.
Paresh calls my family. Gets online, books a flight. I feel far removed from reality.
My brother. 37. Healthy, pure, amazing, physically no more.
Why? How? He had so much to live for.
Getting on a direct flight to South Africa was not immediately possible. There would only be flights available the next day. I thought back to all the wonderful moments we shared and the laughter we enjoyed. I thanked God for lending you to us. I read the whatsapp messages we sent.
Rip Kuben. You truly were an angel in my life.
Kuben and his gorgeous wife Githa