Sad times bring fond memories
2017-02-01 17:43:18 -
Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker

A few weeks ago, my father’s youngest sister, whom I liked very much, passed away, exactly two months after their own father died at the ripe age of 100. Considering her state, from what I was told, two more months was a long time to live. 

When I heard the news I was very sad because she was only 51. I was particularly saddened because of the 12 siblings my father had, there are only two left, and many of them died between ages of 40 and 50.

My sadness shifted for a minute as I thought of the young woman I met on a previous visit home, and whose story I’ve related here before. She worked for an aunt, an older sister of the aunt who just passed away. 

My younger aunt had been living alone in rented accommodation when she fell ill and was hospitalised for at least two weeks. When she was discharged, her older sister decided it was best she moved in with her and her domestic worker until she was well enough to live on her own again. This meant my aunt’s domestic worker would automatically become the full-time carer for her employer’s younger sister. 

I felt for this woman, because she was also a full-time housekeeper. I can’t stop wondering what it must have been like for her, and part of me is now relieved for her, but I also think of the shock and discomfort she must have felt, knowing only her and my older aunt where in the house when my younger aunt passed away.

My last memory of my late aunt was when I visited South Africa in December 2015. I had not seen her for almost eight years, as I was unable to leave Ireland during that time. I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I returned to Ireland without having seen her. After all, she was always one of my two favourite aunts who were always unconditionally nice to us all siblings when we were younger, and to my mom.

It was late in the day when the moment came, and I saw her approach from about 100m away. I waved to make sure it was her – the street was poorly lit – and she waved back before we ran towards one another and embraced for a long time. 

She was healthy, or at least looked as healthy as anyone can be. She had no single sign of illness to my knowledge, and she was her usual giggly and smiley self. Little did I know that nine months later she would be too frail to bathe or feed herself. I’m glad I saw her before then, even if just for an hour in the middle of the night.

Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.
TAGS : Mariam Bhatti Tales of a Domestic Worker Death Memories
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