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Choices Between Love and Life

Blurred lines. Clear loss.

By The Dani WriterPublished 3 years ago 7 min read

Terror in one’s eyes while drowning was an image burned deep into Danso Kofi’s 20-year-old mind. Waist-deep at Fete Beach last summer with a brother twelve years his junior, a wave broke his balance and grip on Kwesi and for a terrifying instant, he disappeared.

Growing up in Gomoa Fetteh, everyone learned to swim early out of necessity. But on a precious day off from Tills No.1 Beach Hotel, Danso spent time with his only brother at the beach reinforcing what Baba Nyame taught them. Rip tides and rogue waves were lessons. But sudden powerful undertow robbed a young but competent swimmer of a much-needed gasp of air sending Danso diving in the direction where his brother had vanished.

Relaxing into the wave’s strength as it receded, frantic yet fervent pleas for mercy were made to the sea goddess. Full of compassion and nature-kissed handsome chestnut brown, Yemanja’s passions would find Kwesi a suitable child companion.

But we need him, Danso thought.

And precisely in that moment, he glimpsed Kwesi beneath the waves, arms and legs splayed. Bubbles escaping lips and eyes—bright eyes holding the shock of high voltage electricity, a frozen involuntary haunting glare that signalled “last hope for life” as Danso manoeuvred to grab an arm. Minutes later, they both lay on the beach, Kwesi gagging and sputtering while tears ran down Danso’s face in the aftermath of an unexpected adrenaline rush.

A brush of lightning strike speed so easily fatal.

Silent agreement became a secret between the brothers who understood to shield a mother’s anxieties.

Now a year later at that same beach where his Baba spent hours at a time strengthening the ocean confidence of both his sons, Danso wavered. Any passer-by would notice the same involuntary haunting glare in his eyes had he but raised his head off his knees where he sat, solemn and silent.

A death sentence before you’ve lived gives one that look.

Mama and Baba had been so proud of his career declaration.

“Aieeeeeeeeee! My son is going to be a premiere marine biologist!” said Mama Amina shooting jubilant looks at her champion firstborn.

“No, Precious Rose,” Baba interjected with a characteristic frown. He stood from the black leather living room sofa with commanding presence. ”Our son is going to be an internationally acclaimed premiere marine biologist.” The slow grin spreading to full smile remained a trademark, an effective disarmament to any being breathing. Danso abandoned emerging protestations of caution and melted into his father’s embrace.

How could I be a dark cloud when my parents hearts filled with that much joy became the overriding thought.

And when he received an acceptance letter from the University of Ghana the Spring of 2019, he was certain.

How could I study anything else but the ocean bound to Baba’s livelihood, and now under threat due to climate change and overfishing?

Everyone in this region of Accra had a life tied to the Ocean Orisha and offerings for Yemanja marked every season for the years of Danso and his brother’s youth. The goddess both venerated and feared, exerted a powerful and tangible influence and presence. All children learned early on to be respectful, watchful, and never bemoan circumstances or fate, grumbling near oceanic ears. Legendary tales shared by the Elders at firelight further inland, spoke of men, women, and children who cried too long near the seashore only to have the goddess beckoned to comfort them. Never were they seen again.

Ancient wisdom of these waters passed down through generations gifted Baba Nyame a seafarer’s mastery. The first child of the Kofi household was tying knots as a toddler and could sail and cast nets with the best of the town fishermen before the crown of his head reached his father’s chest.

Ongoing rigorous studies lead to weekends repairing boats and nets for Baba’s thriving fishing business. He owned seven traditional boats and one prized ngawala bequeathed by a business associate as payment for a loan. Providing sailing charters to visitors meant steady income even when the catch was low. The Kofi family didn’t want for much, but hardwork and discipline was instilled before the world could lure any of the Kofi children with hollow luxuries.

Danso found a summer job at the local beach hotel as part-time groundskeeping assistant. He monitored surfboard rentals while clearing the area of debris. He brought towels and linens to the laundry. He greeted tourists with a warm “Akwaaba! (Welcome!)” as he ferried their drinks, followed with a smiling “Wo ho te sɛn? (How are you?)” It frequently resulted in generous tips as he shared insider info about growing up in Accra.

Saving for pending university texts and equipment, he contributed to household expenses such as fruit and cooking oil, always hugging on Mama after she made kelewele. No one here, or even the neighboring Senya Beraku village made the spicy fried plantain quite like she did.

Ever thoughtful, Danso even managed to covertly slip a few Ghanaian cedis to Kwesi who giggled as he raised a slow-moving finger to his lips. Shhh!

But nothing was secret in Baba's house and he beamed gratitude. His 'fulfillment of dreams son,' living up to his name. Danso, reliable to a fault.

As the rush of surf beat an ever-constant pattern on the shoreline, Danso pondered the reasons why his father disappeared one morning without a trace. Perhaps the meaning behind Baba’s name, “supreme god,” meant that the powerful Orisha desired him above all others for her domain? Or maybe she selected him in return for sparing Kwesi’s life that day?

There remained only one certainty.

“Baba, I miss you.” he whispered.

Daily headaches with worsening nausea made his last semester at university difficult. General and Practical Chemistry both taught by Professor Kayemba fascinated him but concentration often proved elusive during lecture. He’d redouble his efforts frustrated at the prospect of falling behind before he had even begun. He stared in disbelief, open-mouthed at the exam results posting, proving the lineage from which he was descended. Ashanti.

But earlier this afternoon, after months of assessment and testing “The biopsy confirmed the MRI scan results.” said Dr. Gbeho in the consultation room at Tema General Hospital. ”You have a grade IV astrocytoma. Treatment options need to be taken under consideration immediately.”

Totally unprepared, Danso struggled to form words. ”When—how much—how long do I have?”

Dr. Gbeho met Danso’s confused gaze, careful to keep his voice steady.

His son started agricultural engineering in the same year as this patient. How would he cope if…

“We’ll need to start treatment right away.”

An aggressive brain cancer like this left few windows of rest or hope.

Giving up isn’t something you expect, but as Danso sat on the beach, he felt sure that he didn’t want to do anything anymore. What was the point? Program withdrawal was a given faced with immediate surgery before radiotherapy and chemotherapy in addition to being poked and prodded to guarantee nothing really. Apart from draining his Mama’s dwindling finances, remaining love, and life force.

The outgoing tide consumed him as the sun dropped lower and lower in the sky. In the distance, the chanting songs of fishermen hauling in nets of the day’s catch. Yearning for the arduous days of carrying buckets of fish up the bank to be carried to market filled his thoughts. Back then, Baba was a constant comforting presence everywhere.

Not bothering to brush off the sand, he closed the distance to the water’s edge and let his feet sink in the cool wet sand. Wading out to his knees, ensured hot tears flowed unseen.

Tiredness reasoned with logical supposition.

No one would suspect. Assumptions of an unfortunate swimming accident. Nothing more.

Danso removed his shirt and tied it around his head, sighting where Baba told him the Guinea Current began. Greying clouds a mile offshore grew darker and more threatening as the wind picked up.

“What does the sky tell you little one?” Baba asked a 5-year-old Danso.

“That tomorrow is better fishing,” replied Danso, “and the sea is angry now so the boats must come back.”

“How can you be sure my son?”

“Uunnggh, Baba! The wind smells different. It told me so!”

Baba tickled him then, but where was Baba now as a squall barrelled toward the shore, wind shrieking of ocean depth rage?

The sky sucked midnight coal from cavernous mining quarries and pelted sheets of rain ahead of thunderous waves. Baba’s voice echoed from the billions of raindrops striking the water, distorted and disorienting.

“Danso, my joy, my prince, I barely have a minute. I’ve secured from Yemanja a solitary boon. Thought now manifests your desires. Choose wisely with haste and all will be well again.”

Baba’s voice amplified by the water and rain scattered everywhere, and not caring if hallucinations were symptomatic of glioblastomas, Danso stepped forward arms spreading with strokes known too well. With rain stinging his face, he could no longer feel the shirt atop his head, but he immersed himself in the sounds of Baba everywhere.

Reaching. Calling.


Gasping. Screaming.


Surging surf.

Relentless rain easing just slightly.

“Choose now son! Please for me. Now Danso! NOW!”

All the pain of loss. Of needing a supreme god in his life for guidance.

Reassurance. Advice. Love.

His life a complex intertwining of seaweed Baba showed him to use as fertilizer. Playful taunts Baba gave when girls from his school spent the day at the beach. Long rides out to sea for instructional navigation if ever he were lost.

Right now he felt lost.

Easing rain offering illusion and a faraway sailing ship on the horizon.

Baba’s boat.

He drank the uninterrupted years of longing and yearned for that as the empty clouds brought fresh stillness. A sensation of being drawn upwards. Mist and salt. Standing on Baba’s sailing vessel, being lifted toward clouds, Baba wailed death-loss loud as Danso threw arms about his neck. Birdseye views clearing just enough to see the familiar shape of a boy, nature-kissed handsome chestnut brown, running the length of Fete Beach searching in vain for his brother.

Photo by Zeynep Gokalp on Unsplash


About the Creator

The Dani Writer

Explores words to create worlds with poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. Writes content that permeates then revises and edits the heck out of it. Interests: Freelance, consultations, networking, rulebook-ripping. UK-based





Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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