My Open Letter To Febbie

Dear Febbie

Yesterday I was made aware of a video going viral on social media about a man called Lameck. He gate-crashed a funeral of a woman who had been a mother in law to his daughter. He stopped the whole funeral and chose to speak ill of the dead, declaring boldly that the dead woman had a cruel heart and was wicked to his daughter and grandchild. He poured out his heart about a particular dehumanising treatment of his beloved daughter by the deceased where she urinated in a jug and poured the urine on his beloved child. He expressed that he was angry that the evil woman had died and that he would have loved to finish with her whilst she was still alive because God had taken her too soon before his precious daughter was vindicated.

When I watched the video, I did not laugh like what some are doing, but I thought of you Febbie. It was that moment when I wished I also had someone in my life like Lameck. The video brought back some deep painful memories of not one year, not two years but of 12 years of my life.

I was raised in a culture where when you get married you are at the mercy of your in-laws, especially the mother-in-law. So I was at your mercy for 12 whole years. You had the right to treat me however you wished, and no one challenged you. I had to fight for your love, and praise you in public even when you were cruel to me.

But when I watched Lameck and his anguish over his mistreated daughter, I realised that there are some scars that can never fade. The pain may dimish over years, but the scars will always be there. When Lameck was pouring his heart out, telling the whole world that the woman who was dead was indeed an evil woman.  I said to myself that I will not speak ill of the dead.  But I will speak ill of the living according to their deeds and proclaim on the rooftop what they did in private.

I know you come across as the most God fearing woman on earth. You go to church faithfully every Sunday. You speak in tounges. You love to give testimonies of how much you fast. You are always boasting about how much tithes you pay.  But today I want to speak about those little things you did to me when no one was watching. The little things that made me think life was not worth living.

When I came to Zimbabwe to get married, you refused to welcome me into your home. Instead, you ran away,  saying you could never face me and left me a white chicken to kill and eat. Some say it’s voodoo, but I do not know why you gave me that chicken or what that was about. It was surely spooky. The day I was supposed to do the customary rituals of cleaning your house, you woke up at 4 am and told me never to touch your broom, your pots or anything that belonged to you.

I went back to the UK and thanked God I did not have to live with you.  But my freedom was short-lived, for, within months of coming back to the UK, you left Zimbabwe and migrated to England for good. This was to mark the beginning of living hell on earth, where a week would not pass by without me curling into a corner to cry.

Febbie you are the most wicked woman I have ever known. You hated me with a vengeance and I will never know why. You took advantage of your mother-in-law status and used it in full force on me. Even the environment of modern England could not protect me from your claws. You had your whole family behind you and that gave you power. I lived this reality for 12 years. I was only 19 years old when I got married. I was only but a child, but you had no mercy. The way you treated me was as if you had no daughters of your own or you did not know the pain of childbearing.

You often called me ugly. You said I was too tall and you hated tall people. You would often refuse to eat my food, accusing me of being a witch, even though I was just but a child. Where would I have learnt to be a witch? At my graduation, you told your relative to slap me, remember? Your daughters would turn the whole community against me. If I had a friend, within weeks the friend would be best friends with your daughters. You would even get close to my friends and turn them against me.

I was forced to go to family gatherings where I would have no one to talk to. I would cook and have my food shunned. I would be forced to listen to you throw abuse at me in front of everyone. I was mocked and laughed at by your daughters.

You called my children ugly, your own grandchildren.  Each time I gave birth I would dread you coming to see my new-born because you would not have a single kind word to say about my children.  That hurt a lot because my children are beautiful.

In public, I made out you were the best mother-in-law. I would praise you and buy you gifts. I hoped that if I did that, you would accept me and love me, but that was not even enough to soften your heart towards me.

After 12 years of dehumanising treatment from you Febbie and your three daughters, which almost took me to the grave, I got to the point where I said enough is enough and had to fight back. You got a shock of your life on that day, because I was no longer the timid girl that you could say anything to. I told you to your face to leave me alone. Remember that day Febbie? I know you remember it like yesterday. You didn’t like it, did you? And you called me a witch again. I thank God that was the last day I ever saw you.

You then called the ambulance with your daughter Gertrude. You told the British paramedics that I was mad and I should be sectioned under the mental health act.  You did this to humiliate me in front of the whole church just because I had stood my ground. But the paramedics saw through you that day. You wanted my children to be taken into care, and they saw what an evil mother-in-law you were. As I sat there, they told me never to trust you, or leave my children unattended in your care. I took their advice, that is why from that day you called the ambulance you have never seen my children again.

Febbie  I will not wait till you die to say this. There is no Lameck to vindicate me on your grave. Let those who worship Zimbabwean culture throw stones at me, but even in your heart you know what you used to do to me, and those things I could not even write, remember the night you visited me?

I write with freedom because today, my children are loved by a people who are not even their own. Oh, how blood is overrated. The children you used to hate are adored by a woman who has a heart of gold. Today I have a mother-in-law who cares about my children. I have a mother-in-law who calls me to cheer me up. I have brothers in law who will defend me when someone dares speak ill of me. I have a sister-in-law who puts my picture as her profile picture because she is so proud of me. Today I have a people I belong to, who have accepted me and the beautiful children you hated and despised. Oh, and how they are now thriving in an environment of Ghana love.

So when I say I love Ghana, and I am no longer Zimbabwean, I say so boldly because Ghana is where my broken heart was healed.  In Ghana I have found rest for the soul you tormented for 12 years.

So yes, I will not wait till you are dead Febbie, for I have no Lameck to vindicate me on your grave.

I did shed a tear or two when I was writing this, but at the end, I am smiling, almost laughing.

Who knows maybe this is the day that my scar will not hurt anymore. Maybe that lump on my throat that comes every time you come in my memory will never come again. I don’t ever want to have nightmares of you Febbie. So woman to woman, I have sang the song loudly of what you did to me, it is my song too,  and I know you will read this.

Oh and by the way, I know you think that I am. You always said I was, but I am not mad Febbie, I am just a woman.

Yours no longer at your mercy

Jean

 

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