top of page

Mother and Son                                                  Poem: Father by Alex, linked here.


John was the third of five children. He had two younger brothers and two older sisters. His father was a doctor, and his mother was a teacher in primary school. They had plenty of money, and the father would buy the children biscuits, Bon-Bons and other small gifts. The family had a car, and they took it on holidays. The children were driven back and forth to school by a driver, and in their area, they were known as the richest family around.


On John’s fifth birthday his parents prepared a big party to celebrate. John invited his classmates, close friends, and some of his teachers even came. There were thirty people, and they shared a special cake his auntie had made. It was the best day of John’s life. He was so grateful and happy, and the most special gift was that his grandfather arrived.  He hadn’t seen his grandfather in two years, and John felt the love of his parents. He was the happiest he had ever been.


John’s house had a gate. All the guests were inside the gate still singing even late in night. Suddenly, they heard a loud knocking at the gate.


“Open the gate! Open the door!” Men were shouting from outside.


There had been news on the radio that the president of Rwanda had died. The people were in the street killing one another and fighting.


The party stopped immediately. John’s family knew they were in trouble, because not everybody likes a rich family. The father and mother made money, and many people had been jealous. The people outside the gate had come to kill them.


John’s mother ran to the bedroom of the younger brothers, and John ran after her. He wondered why is my mother running? and because he loved her so much he stayed close to her. His friends didn’t know what to do. His grandfather and father stayed with the men, and tried to make a plan. Perhaps they could talk to the men. If the men wanted money, they would give it to them.


But the men did not want money; they pushed the gate open with force and told everyone, “Get down, on the ground. Face down!”


John’s mother saw what was happening and thought, how can I leave this place with my children? She opened the window and put the babies outside. John also passed through the window. His mom grabbed the two babies, and all four of them ran. They ran through the dark, but when they reached the river, they had to stop.   


When they stopped, John wanted to know what was happening.


“My mother, why are we here? Why are we running? Why are there people coming?”


His mother was so afraid. “John, please, just shut up. I will explain later.” In her mind she was worried about the family she left behind. She wondered what had happened to them. Two of her children were still at the house, with her husband and all her friends.


The river was large, and there was no bridge. Anyone who crossed it needs a boat. Not many people were good swimmers, so John and his family were stuck. John’s mom tried to think of what to do. In the distance she heard the people coming. They had been followed, and at the river they were now trapped. The men were coming with machetes and guns, and when John’s mom heard them yelling, she began to cry.


“Where are they?” they yelled.

“This way!” they yelled.


She cried and cried. She could not stand the idea of her children being killed with machetes. She didn’t want to see her children die. The group got close. John’s mother said to herself, “I love my sons. It is the situation,” and she took her children and she placed them in the river. After she put them in the water she become so afraid again, she ran.


John felt the cold water all over him. He wasn’t a good swimmer, and he kept sinking under the water. He could hear screaming when his head was above the water, but under the water he heard nothing. He was afraid he would die. He came up for air, swallowed lot of water, and sank again. This went on for an hour, at least.

He was exhausted, and he couldn’t continue.  He had to rest.


He stopped moving, and he felt somebody’s hands around him. He was pulled out of the water, and somebody pumped the water out of his stomach.His brain was not working, but he felt somebody put a sweater on him; somebody   was   trying to make him more comfortable, He could not understand or believe what was happening to him.


He saw nothing, He passed out.


When he woke up, he was in new house, and he asked himself, where am I now? He wondered, where is my mom, where is my dad?  He called out and wondered, why don’t they hear me?


A woman appeared, and John asked her, “What happened to me?”


She said, “I’m sorry; everything is going to be all right.”


John asked, “Who are you? Where is my mom?”


The woman said, “Your mom will come. Can I make you a tea?” but John didn’t want anything.


The woman returned in two hours.


“Please, take a little tea. Take something.” She fed John with a spoon. John still couldn’t remember what happened, but her care made him feel a little better. John wondered if this woman was the new house cook. She returned again at 4pm.


“Will you tell me where my mother is?” John asked. “You told me she would come.”


The woman didn’t answer him.


“Who are you?” John asked. “I don’t know you. And where am I now?”


The woman said, “I’m your auntie, you have come here for a holiday.”


“Why didn’t I know you before?” John asked.


“I live very far from you,” the woman answered.


John got up from the bed, and they ate together. John slept that night, but as days passed, he began to have bad dreams. He told the woman about his dreams, and she said, “Those are just dreams, none of that happened. Stop worrying.”


Two weeks passed, and he looked at the woman’s house. There was no TV, no cars, no brothers, sisters or family.

John said, “I want to go home. You said my mother would come, but she isn’t coming.”


The woman said, “Oh, wait. You will stay here. You will study, and your family will come take you back.” John cried, alone. He said nothing, but he missed his family so much. Even though that woman was kind, it wasn’t like living with his family. He enrolled in a new school, but his memories returned in flashes.  He remembered climbing out the window, how he ran, what his mother said and the crying of his brothers. It was hard to him to work, to concentrate, and he suspected that woman was lying.


If this woman was lying, and she was not really his auntie, it meant that his family had died.


John tried not to think about it, and he tried to do well in his classes, but as time passed, things troubled him.


Other students in his classes told their stories. They told him how their parents had died, and how they had survived. As John was listening, the memories of his birthday returned. He could no long concentrate. He did poorly in his classes, and he cried when he was by himself. John’s teacher asked, “What was happened to you? Why are you sitting by yourself? Why won’t you talk to others?”


John didn’t answer.


The teacher asked, “Who do you live with?”


“My auntie,” John answered.


“Well then, tomorrow you must bring your auntie with you to school. I want to talk to her.” John went home and told his auntie.


“Why does she need me?” asked his auntie.


“I don’t know,” answered John. “I only told her I would bring you tomorrow.” In the morning, John and his auntie went to school.


“Go inside the class John,” his teacher said. “I want to speak to your auntie alone.”


When John went in, the teacher spoke. “John was always first in class. He was doing well. What happened at your home? Why he is now this way? His marks are poor and he won’t to talk to the students.”


The woman began to cry. She took a deep breath and tried to explain “I’m not his auntie. I took him from the river so he would not drown with his brothers. I had hoped he would not remember what happened, and all he had seen. I didn’t tell him the truth because it would hurt him to know what had happened. I was going to tell him when he was older.”


The teacher was so sad, she could barely talk. When she finally spoke, her voice was soft.


“I’m very sorry for this story. This is a problem for many children here, but you must be strong,”


She looked directly at the auntie.


“I have to give you some advice. It is time to tell John the truth. He is in P5 now, and it is important to him to know what happened. If you wait for him to get older, he will find out the truth himself. It will be harder on you. It will help him to know the truth now, and he will stop asking, ‘Why am I here?’ If you tell him, it will stop his confusion. It will help him understand his country, and the other students around him. There are children here who have problems even worse than his, and by knowing the truth, he will understand he is not unique.”


“How do I do it?” asked the auntie.


“Just try,” said the teacher. “I know it is very hard, but just try.”


So the auntie agreed.


When John got home he was curious. “Why did my teacher need you? And what did she tell you?”


“First we will eat,” said the auntie, “then we will rest. After we rest, I will tell you, but don’t worry. It’s not a bad thing.” So John felt peaceful in his heart, and he ate. When he had rested, he knocked on his auntie’s door.


“Can we talk now?” he asked.


“So are you curious?” asked his auntie “Sit here on my bed.”


John sat.


“What happened to your marks at school?” his auntie asked.


“Nothing,” answered John.


“If you lie to me, I won’t tell you what the teacher said.”


John turned around and looked at the wall. His auntie thought, how am I going to do this?  If tell him, he’s going to feel horrible.


John said, “When I am alone, my brain has bad thoughts. I try to train my brain to only have good thoughts, but it won’t do as I wish. I have a bad thing I remember. I think that I lost my father, and I remember something that happened on the night of my birthday. I remember scenes and they bring me back. Sometimes I lose control and I’m here physically, but absent in my mind.”


Finally, John turned and asked, “Is my family still alive?”


The auntie let out a long, sad sigh. “Let me tell you about you.”


As John listened, his eyes were wide with surprise. He was so curious about anything and everything his auntie said.


“I watched from the side of the river. I saw your mother push you in the water as the men were coming, she was crying and praying. She begged, ‘Please save my sons, you know it is not me. Please don’t consider this a sin. It is the situation, not me.’ I was there, and I went to the water quickly to see if I could save you all. Fortunately, I could save you, but it was not possible to save your brothers.”


John stared to cry, and the auntie held him and wiped away his tears. She said, “Really, I am not your auntie. I also lost my children, and the gift God gave me for my suffering was you. You are like my son. I love you like my own son.”


Then she said, “It’s very hard to know if your real family is still alive, but I will help you try to find them. Do you know the name of your mother?”


“My father was RWEMA Allan. My mother was SHEMA Jeannette.” With that, they began to search for John’s parents. John couldn’t remember where his home had been, so it made the searching difficult.


There was no news or notice for 5 years.


Finally, he went on Facebook, and made on account. He decided to write his testimony on Facebook, and he told what had happened. He did not want to forget. He wrote his memories, and what his auntie had told him.


The next day he went to his account, and he saw a message.


“My name is Claudette, I saw your story and was very touched by it. You are strong to tell your story on the Internet. I don’t know if I know your mother, but I know somebody with the name SHEMA Jeannette. May I bring you to meet her? If it is your mother, you are lucky.”


John replied. “When can we go there?”


Claudette worked , so she arranged for the meeting on the weekend. John explained to his auntie what happened, and on the Friday night before he left, John said, “God, please let me find my mother.” He was afraid, and for him the night was very long.


In the morning, John met with Claudette and they went to meet SHEMA Jeannette, but she was working.  She was a teacher. The school where she taught was near her home, so one of the house workers sent the message to the school to explain that there were visitors. The teacher finally came home from the school and greeted Claudette and John.


“I’m sorry,” she said. “I was very busy preparing an exam for Monday.” She turned to John and asked, “iI this my first time to meeting you? You seem like somebody I know.”


John laughed.


The woman was surprised, “What? You have a smile like my husband.” John asked, “Where is your husband? You don’t have children?”


The woman said, “Please don’t ask that question, I don’t like to answer it.” Then she asked, “What is your name of your mother?”


“I don’t have a father, and my mother’s name is SHEMA Jeannette.”


SHEMA Jeannette looked at Claudette. “You are joking, right?”


Claudette said, “No he is your son.”


Jeannette lost control, and she fainted.  


When she came to, she looked at John.


“Really you are my son?” she asked.


“Yes” said John.


“I have thought every day about what I had done, and I thought God would never forgive me. My life has been so lonely and I thought God would never forgive me, but now you are here. My life alone has been so hard on me. But now you are here. So, now, maybe I know, God still loves me.”


They have been together even since.




























bottom of page