This is the second blog post of a three part series: Written by Abby Tseggai
It was a beautiful summer morning as Fana and her older brother, Kifle, skipped to their neighboring town, happy, emitting a love that siblings who suffered together feel.
It was now two years since the stillbirth of the little sister Fana wanted so badly. On a brighter side, it was two years that solidified an unbreakable bond between Fana and her big brother. They were getting ready for another big change –Kifle would soon be moving to America to complete his senior year of high school with the hope of attending college there too. Fana and Kifle did not have any immediate blood-cousins, and since Kifle was the only living boy, their parents put all their eggs in his basket, to use a popular expression. They expected him to nurture their family name and legacy, and therefore encouraged his quest to attain a better education, far away from their homeland, Eritrea.
It was always Kifle’s responsibility to pick up fresh eggs for their family every Saturday morning, and that summery Saturday morning was no different. Knowing that her big brother would soon be leaving, Fana wanted to take advantage of all the memories they could create, so she happily joined him. One mile into their journey to the market, they decided to race. Much to their surprise, Fana won. Basking in the glory of her victory, Fana did not realize her brothers cough was abnormal. Kifle did not think anything of it either. He stopped running and skipping and took the opportunity in that time, to express to Fana the anxiousness and fear about moving to a foreign land so soon. Fana joked it off. “Shut up! You are lucky,” she said.
The whole next day, Sunday, Kifle didn’t feel well, but didn’t bring the weak feeling he was experiencing to his parents’ attention. On Monday morning at school, Kifle’s teacher found Fana in the courtyard where the students ate lunch and told her that her brother was not feeling well and that she needed her help getting in contact with their parents.
Fana did not panic initially, forgetting all about how badly he was coughing during their race. She assumed he must have had a tummy ache or headache. She did not understand the severity of his teachers concern until the teacher said “You need to leave right now and bring your parents to the school immediately. “ In a panic now, Fana told the teacher that their father was in another country and that her mom was probably home, in which the teacher responded with “Ok, run home and bring her here quickly.”
She ran as fast as she could. Sadly Kifle died from pneumonia the following day. Never in a million years could Fana imagine, that the Saturday prior would be her last, amazing day with her brother. The last time she’d ever be someone’s sister. Her parents responded to the tremendous agony of losing another child – the fourth child they’d have to bury — by now placing all the eggs in Fana’s basket instead. The opportunity to attain an education in America to nurture her family’s legacy was now her duty to pursue. People in Fana’s village and some of her family had a difficult time respecting her parents’ decision; sending a girl to a foreign land was frowned upon.
This was a time in history where gender roles were very traditional and girls were raised to be women whose sole responsibility was to become great mothers and caregivers to the elderly. Education was an investment made in boys, so they could become the financial support for their families. Fana was the first girl amongst her peers to be afforded the same opportunity as the boys.
The irony that hindered her healing is she was only given the opportunity due to an infection that sacrificed her last sibling’s life. Pneumonia is most common in younger children, particularly under the age 2; however adolescents may experience other constitutional symptoms, such as headaches and abdominal pain. Fana now, understood the same anxiety and fear Kifle tried to talk to her about. She never said, “Shut up” again.
Cover Photo Credit: Manzur Fahim, Flickr