Mansa was an attractive woman who also possessed the finer things of life: a beautiful domicile, decorated with modern furniture and custom-made draperies; a car, a rarity in her city at the time; and a maid whose monthly stipend she could, hitherto, afford. Born to penurious parents in Ho, Volta Region, Mansa grew up knowing that, to break off the fetters of poverty, she had to work hard – which is exactly what she did. By the time she was twenty-eight, Mansa was the owner of two boutiques and her aforementioned residence. She also had four people on her payroll, including her maid. But Mansa had one problem: she was childless. Despite being a ravishing woman, Mansa would not meet a man of her taste: successful, hardworking, entrepreneurial. So, like many before her, Mansa reluctantly fell for an ordinary guy who pursued her vigorously. All of the couple's efforts to have a child would prove insurmountable, however.
After six years of great effort to have a baby the natural way without success, Mansa, reluctantly, visited a renowned local herbalist, known to produce miracles for childless couples. Made to gulp down a mélange of herbs over a period of time, Mansa would finally have what she wanted: a baby boy! She called him Tim. Life, the first few years, seemed heavenly, with her boyfriend-turned-husband a great and doting dad to Tim. But by the time he turned fifteen, Tim had begun to involve himself with the wrong crowd. Shockingly, Tim started pilfering his mother's possessions – from an inexpensive pair of earrings, the first time, to a gold bracelet, another time, to more costly diamond earrings, bracelets and necklaces, as the months went by. Unwilling to believe that her son was capable of such larcenous acts, Mansa blamed everyone else except her ostensibly puritanical Tim!
Between 1978 and 1981, Tim had either pawned or sold all of his mother's expensive jewelry, and by the time Mansa discovered who was truly behind the wicked acts, it was too late. Unable to deal with her son's deplorable behavior, Mansa turned him in to the authorities, which eventually led to Tim's incarceration. Tim served a three-year prison term – from 1983 to 1986 – but jail did not reform him. In fact, he rejoined the larger society more perverse than his pre-incarceration days. And, now, his own mother had become his punching bag, each time Tim flew into one of his paroxysms of rage! Soon, rumors began circulating that Mansa had, deliberately, made a deal with the Devil, Tim being the final product of this infernal barter!
By the early 1990s, now divorced and despondent, Mansa began drinking heavily, a new development that alarmed her relatives and friends. And then she developed the dreaded cardiovascular disease: hypertension. Unable to stay sober long enough to take her pills and eat the appropriate meals, Mansa suffered a debilitating stroke one Sunday evening – from which she never fully recovered. A serious illness being what it is, most of Mansa's friends and relatives, people on whom she had depended in the past, would desert her completely.
With her son totally out of her life at this point, a Good Samaritan would pay to transport Mansa to her hometown, where other relatives would, hopefully, care for her. Sadly, Mansa got no help at all, when she got to her village, except from a good-natured cousin and his fifteen-year-old son. Where were her female relatives, you would ask?
Six days later, as she sat in her dimly lit room and waited for her cousin to return to change her soiled garments, Mansa remembered the ever-famous words of a versifier: All is vanity under the sun. Incontinent, helpless, companionless, and lacking ambulation, Mansa's spirit eventually broke. The mosaic of events that had constituted her life for fifty-seven years, Mansa ruminated, felt like a cacophony of drums, one raucous sound indistinguishable from another. To Mansa, life had been pain interspersed with modest joy, the former outweighing the latter fourfold.
Two weeks later, Mansa's silver cord was severed and her spirit returned to God who gave it. Mansa's burial was without much elaboration – particularly shocking because she once was a high-society woman with lots of friends and hangers-on. The priest's ineffaceable words, as he scooped the customary mounds of earth onto the coffin six feet below with his miniature shovel, would become ensconced in the hearts of the mourners long after the interment: “[T]hou [has returned] unto the ground, [Mansa]; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Not surprisingly, Tim did not attend his mother's funeral, although he was only nine miles away….
So, do not be dejected, dear childless woman, as childlessness does not define who you are. Life, some say, is a mystery – and the end is unknown from the outset. Take heart, live your life to the fullest, remonstrate not with a Higher Power for your childlessness, enjoy your nephews and nieces, be happy! And be content with what you have … for the trials you face today … may well be all that your spirit is able to endure. Weep not, woman, for you have the power to annihilate the mental manacles of childlessness.
The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at [email protected]