Friday, September 4, 2020

Crossing the river

 This is a recount of how death snatched my mother from me. It was part of a memoir writing project in 2004.

The woman who gave me life

It was after I had entered Junior High School that my mother started experiencing sharp pains in her joints. She therefore had to visit the hospital frequently. Within some weeks, she had a swelling on her forehead. She became weak to the extent that, she had to lean on the walls of the house to enable her walk steadily. her condition deteriorated and finally, she was bedridden. Seeing my mother in such a state upset me greatly but I had a strong conviction that she would pull through.

Due to this new development, my mother had to be moved to my grandmother's house at Community 7 in Tema. I visited my mother in the afternoons after classes. During vacations, I stayed with my grandmother to enable me attend to my mother. I washed her clothes, served her food and even bathed her. There were days I would lock myself in my room and cry. there were times also when I would get fed up with her constant calls for attention; this made me sad as she was a woman who hated to be a burden on others. I was the only 'family' she had as I am her only child.

This routine continued for the next two years. I got to my final year in Junior High School and school reopened for the first term on the 5th of January, 1998. I was then staying at my grandmother's. In that fateful Monday, I said goodbye to my mother and promised to come back on Wednesday. "Oh Kafui, why don't you come tomorrow?", she asked. I told her not to worry and that she would see me on Wednesday. she persisted for some time and finally gave in. 'Hmm' was the last sound I heard from her before I left for my father's place.

The 7th of January, a Wednesday, is a day that will always remain in my memory. It had started as a normal school day and I was getting acquainted with my new class and my new role as the Assistant School Prefect. At about 2pm, during extra classes. I felt as if a hammer had been used to hit my head. I felt feverish and started shivering vigorously. I was taken home by some of my classmates. My stepmother was rather surprised to see me home early and questioned my friends, inquiring from them what the problem was. She gave me some pain killers and I slept till evening. When I got up, I remembered I had to visit my mother, but decided to go the following day as it was rather late. My dad had returned from work and had a look on his face I had never seen before. There was a distant look in his eyes and he had that 'I pity you' stare. I didn't care much about it as I thought it had to do with my sudden sickness in the afternoon. He told me he was going to my grandmother's place and I asked him to apologize to my mother on my behalf and to tell her I would see her the following day (Thursday). All I got for an answer was a nod.

My father returned late in the night and went straight to his room. I could hear him talking in an undertone to my stepmother. That night I dreamed of my mother. In the dream, she was all smiles and advised me to be respectful, hardworking and to have faith in God.

The next morning, my stepmother called me and my step-siblings and told us that my mother was no more among the living. I sat in the sofa for almost an hour before the message sank in. I decided not to go to school. I therefore went with my stepmother to my grandmother's house. On reaching the house, my grandmother started crying loudly calling my name amid sobs, "Kofi! Oh Kofi!" I entered the room where my mother used to sleep while my stepmother exchanged greetings with the elders of the family. The room was empty. My mother's things had been packed into a trunk and the bed was neatly laid. the room smelled of Detol (a disinfectant). I quietly came out of the room and realized that everybody was looking at me. Most of the had tear-stained eyes due to the copious amounts of tears they had shed. I took a seat beside my grandmother who had finally stopped shedding tears. She pulled me closer to her and calling my mother's name, Mamavi, she told me the last word my mother uttered before her demise was my nae, Kafui. She then narrated the circumstances in which my mother died. I was struck most by the time of her death, which was at 2pm. This was the exact time I had fallen sick in school the previous day. The saying, "Blood is thicker than water", became evident to me.

I came to the realization that I had become mother-less (even though, my stepmother was around). It was then that I realized that I never really appreciated my mother as I should have when she was alive and I missed her greatly. I still do.

The date for her burial was three days after her death, 10th January, 1998. She was laid to rest at the Kpone Cemetery near Tema. It's unfortunate that I couldn't go to the cemetery to see where she was buried. I never got to visit it. May her soul rest in perfect peace. Amen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Time is fleeting

My cousin @tillie_aryeetey shared a tweet from @Elorm_Alek inviting poets to express themselves with the picture in the tweet.
I tried my hands at poetry (inspired by my cousin) and below is what I came up with on the spur of the moment:
He was in his prime
Yet he thought all he had was time
He toiled and toiled without a dime
Snap! His time was cut short
And the clock of his life gave up without a chime

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How my mum sustains Customer Experience (CX)?

Snapshot of my mum's charcoal table
For as long as I can remember, my mother's charcoal business has helped in seeing my siblings and me, through school. It's a family business we are proud of. I have wondered how she's sustained her customers over the years. Here are some strategies she's applied to retain and grow her customer base, while ensuring they are satisfied with the product and her services:

Make sure the product is always available
One evening, I sold the last charcoal on the table, and wondered when my mum would be able to travel to Mamfe or any of the charcoal-producing towns in Ghana to buy more sacks. The following day, she went to the Tema Kwasiadjoaso and returned with five sacks of charcoal. She had actually gone for it so she sells it for the market lady. I was disappointed and didn't understand why she did that, more so when I realised she didn't make any profit on them. She noticed my displeasure and explained that the move was meant to retain her customers. Imagine what will happen when they come to buy charcoal and she has none -- she'll lose them to her competition. She jokingly asked, "If I lose them, and I am finally able to travel and buy my own stock, would I go round door-to-door or with a gong and ask my customers to come buy charcoal from me?"

Respect and Cherish your customers
Every morning, I observed my mother interact with customers while she packs the charcoal on her table. A couple of these customers were very punctual as they came to our home earlier than my mother began her work. I observed how they shared family issues and the interest my mother took in their lives, sharing in their joys and sorrows. The relationships grew from business to personal ones. This was good for business as referrals came in. On our part as her children and 'employees', we were made to understand what a smile can do to enhance the customer experience. We learnt to be fair but firm with the customers as some took our business for granted and may buy on credit and never pay. There were times some customers came to buy the charcoal in very bad moods. Our calm and respectful nature was the remedy.

Give value
Some customers usually came to buy the charcoal with nothing to carry them in. I realised my mum started keeping the polythene bags she got from vendors at the market whenever she buys groceries for our home. These polythene bags were used to serve her customers. She made sure nothing got wasted. There were roasted plantain sellers who loved the smaller sized charcoal, and there were chop bar operators who loved the bigger one. For some of the customers who liked to buy a sack from time to time, my mother showed them how to tell good charcoal from bad ones (even when they were in a sack).

Request for and act on feedback
My mum encourages feedback from her customers with respect to the charcoal they've bought or how her 'employees' relate to them. This informed her decisions on changing a particular supplier, or scolding us for being disrespectful and unprofessional.

I decided to share this, as I reflect on how some organisations pride themselves with qualifications of their staff, but fail to perform such little acts to enhance the customer experience they so desire to achieve.

Book sense no be sense o.