When It Counts

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Today, if I laughed
I’d have the best
Share it with those who my heart holds dearest
And bask in the euphoria adorning it.

Today, if I danced
I’d take its steps with he who my best and worse I’ve sold out
I’d lose myself in his arms
And bathe him with kisses of affection thereafter.

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Going Home (Cont’d)

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I know my Father loves me.
When I said this to my brother, he laughed sadly and said “How does One who loves you so much keep you in pains?”
I told him, “All, everything, is for my Father’s glory. So, His keeping me in pains, it’s for His glory. The moment before it starts to be about me, let me breath my last”
My brother had called me Jesus Christ that night. He also told me to keep quiet and sleep.
It had been his turn to attend to me at the hospital, mum had stayed all morning and night for three days. Dad had run the ‘night shift’ a few days before, juggling nights spent on a plastic chair by my bedside with long days at work.
I believe every word I had said to my brother. My Father loves me –  Yes, the one from whose loins I came but most especially, the One who crafted and put me in his loins.

***

Kene stepped out into the cold and calm Lagos morning. He tried to avert a lot of the faces around so he could save himself the disappointment and heartbreak of finding out that Chidiebere did not show up.
“Why would she?” He questioned himself. She had not replied his mail, the only one he’d ever sent her so he wasn’t sure if she was going to show up or not. She had every right not to.
Who abandons his wife and then after twelve years, pops out of nowhere and what? She’s expected to come running to him arms wide-open?
He walked away from the arrival lounge and towards the car park. He decided to take a cab into the city, find a nice and cheap hotel to lodge in and calculate his strategy from there.
Yes, he had come all the way with no plans.
“Kene!”
He halted mid-stride and looked back. No one looked like they had just called anyone.
What? Was he beginning to hear voices? Just perfect!
He started again, towards the taxi park. The drivers were beckoning to him already; some were already walking towards him, calling out possible directions in town.
He caught the eyes of one of them.
“Ikeja” he said.
“Kenechukwu!”
He stopped again. He’d heard his name this time. No doubt.
The taxi driver took his backpack off him.
“Kenechukwu!”
He swung around and then, he saw her! She was running towards him like a toddler into the arms of a loving father.
His arms were hanging loosely by his sides.

***

I see the light.
No, not the one in my room. I see the light, the one leading far from here.
It’s not my first time, I think it’s my third. I never looked twice the previous times but, this time around, it’s all I’ve been looking at.
I think it’s time to go home.
Mum… Dad… My brother…
The last time we talked, I told my Father that I may be coming home soon. He assured me that He would take care of all of them…
I see the light. I think it’s time to finally go home.
I push my covers aside and get out of my bed. No, this time around, it didn’t hurt to do so. It is the easiest thing in the world to do. Amazing!
I look back and see myself on the bed,  sprawled there helplessly, sustained and kept by those tubes and machines. I see my brother by the bedside, sitting on that flimsy plastic chair, his blood-shot eyes trained on me.
“I’m not there anymore, look at me here!”
I wave at him but,  he definitely cannot see me as he does not move an inch.
I sigh and turn back to the light. The voice like a thousand waters calls out for me;
“Child”
I hear the hosts of glory burst out in praise of my Father, I cannot wait to join in.
I continue into the light.

***

She threw her arms around his neck and laughed really loud.
“Kenechukwu!” she called again, as if to make sure he really was the one.
“Chid’eb!” When he finally found his voice, it was a mere whisper.
After forever, she let go of his neck and cupped his face in her palms.
He looked into her eyes, brown and bright, and he remembered all that he had once lived for.

***

My steps are light and easy. I swing my body to the rhythm of worship.

***

“Kenechukwu!” she called for the umpteenth time, her mouth aghast in excited laughter.

***

Yes! This is what I was made for.

***

“Chidiebere!”

***

I’m Home!

***

You’re home!

Going Home

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Kene signed the delivery papers and mumbled some greetings in French as he handed them back to the freckle-faced delivery guy.  He didn’t respond, the freckle-faced delivery guy; he only collected the papers, nodded, hopped into his delivery Van and zoomed off. Kene wasn’t surprised nor upset, like he used to be when he just moved to Paris. Twelve years of living with them had taught him that the French were one of those people that almost always seemed to be in a hurry – so much that they sometimes couldn’t respond to greetings.
He stood hands akimbo and trailed the yellow Van with his eyes until it disappeared around the turn then, he reached for the last of the things he had to his name in France – a camouflage backpack and a black suitcase; both holding all he thought he had to go with –  walked down the driveway and away from the condo he had called ‘home’&nbsp for four years and flagged down the first taxi he saw by the roadside.
His flight at Roissy Airport was for 2300 hours. He had three hours to boarding.

***

I have been here for twenty-three nights. Well,  it’s the twenty-third night tonight and I’m hoping it’d be my last. I want to go home. When, about two years ago, I had to come in the first time, I was twenty-one and had spent thirty-two nights and all of dad’s savings. I was later released to go home after a ton of tests and investigations, score dozen of blood and water transfusions, and no precise conclusions reached. Mum and dad were not satisfied with the doctors’ reports but I’d improved and I was most happy to be going back home.
I was soon back there, only six weeks later, in the same ward but a different bed. This one was at least, a little more comfortable. I didn’t have to toss and turn a gazillion times before finding a suitable spot to sleep off in. That I had a comfortable bed did not mean I loved being back; I don’t know anyone who loves dwelling in pains.
The pains are everywhere. They had started in my back and have now spread to my entire body; my back still hurts the most though – my lower back, and mum’s heart. Dad’s pocket also hurts badly. His heart must be hurting too but, dad doesn’t exactly express his emotions so, no one really knows how he feels; well, except mum and of course, God.
There were twelve nights the second time. Twelve nights of worse pains, more expensive tests, lots of needles and blades mutilating my flesh, machines and test results that had names I could not pronounce and Multiple Myeloma.
Yes, Cancer.

***

Kene had flown so much so that flying made no difference to him anymore. This one turned out different – restless nerves, palpitating heart, belaboured breathing. As the craft taxied on the runway and finally took off, he almost had his heart jump out of his mouth.
“Calm down Kene” He whispered to himself. “For the love of God, calm down!”
The last time he could remember himself being this nervous was twelve years ago. Twelve years ago, he had left Chidiebere, the child in her womb and everything else for Paris with one backpack, one hundred dollars and a phone number. Twelve years ago, Kene chose what he thought mattered most in his life – singing.
He had the voice of an angel, he knew it and he had heard it from tons of people more times than he could count. He had sung from cradle – with his mother, with his sisters, with Chidiebere and, when Chidiebere became pregnant, he had hoped she’d have a girl that could sing like he could.
“You have a daughter” Chidiebere had written in the mail she sent him two days after she had their child, “She’s pretty and I hope her voice is too”.
The picture of their two-day old daughter she had attached at the end of the mail – a tiny pink bundle with the cutest smile.
“Kenechukwu, she can sing, and beautifully too! ” That was Chidiebere’s mail when their daughter, Somtochi, turned three.
” Kenechukwu, when are you coming home? I miss you dearly and Somtochi needs her father”. That was another mail.
He never replied any of the mails; and Chidiebere sent one every month – for twelve years.
Jacques had told him that he needed to focus, dwelling on all he left back home would distract him from attaining his goal – a world renowned and celebrated music artiste. Jacques told him many things, he promised him many things, and a lot of those things came to pass. His career as the guitar-wielding songster became nationally and even internationally celebrated. He was booked for a gig every other day and he had even performed at the inaugural ball of the president in 2012.
The accolades rolled in so fast he became too popular for Jacques to control. The money came in too, so did the girls and cars. He ditched Jacques for another manager and got better deals.
He had it all, but it didn’t make sense without Chidiebere – and Somtochi. His success without them had no meaning.
Eight days ago, like the prodigal son, Kene jumped out of bed earlier than he normally would, picked up his phone and dialled the travelling agency. He then replied the mail Chidiebere had sent two days before – her eighth in the year and the first he’d replied in twelve years.
“Chid’eb, I’m coming home. My flight is for Thursday. I’ll land at MMA for 5am Friday morning”

***

Concluding part next week!

All Is Grace: How To See The Good In Grief

By Adeyinka Shittu

Grandfather passed on Good Friday.

I remember it as clearly as a lover’s last words. I was dressed for choir rehearsals and all I needed was 10 extra minutes (and a clean pair of socks).

As I unplugged my phone and grabbed my notepad, I got ‘the’ text.

“Yinka, come home as soon as you can. Your grandfather passed this morning.”

Asides seeing that my father was the one who sent the message, all I remember is my shocked self falling to the ground like a wet rag and crying like a stupid baby.

***

Grandfather had a dozen grandchildren, a home in Asaba and a chieftaincy title. Even if he didn’t want death, he was old enough not to refuse it. 

However, when Sola (my every service seat partner) passed, my watertight defenses broke.

How could a good God take one so young, one so sold out to the cause of Christ? If he gives and takes away, why does he not take evil out of the world and give long life to those who deserve it?

Grandfather is dead. So is Mrs DaSilva, the neighbor who spent her entire lifetime reminding people to smile. So is Mr Ndukwo….

***
It seems to be a season of deaths. I’ve been holding off admitting this to myself for too long. So many things around me are either dead or dying.

I write about how God is an artist who makes tragedy into art yet in my own life, all I see is lots of darkness and not much art.

How can this be? How can a possessor of eternal life be surrounded by death and loss and grief?

Where did I get it wrong?

***

Blessed be the name of the Lord
He gives and takes away
He gives AND takes away
My heart will choose to say
Blessed be the glorious Name

– Matt Redman

***

The deaths don’t make sense yet. Someday, they might but there’s the possibility they won’t.

We won’t always have simple answers to the questions of life. Its a truth we must constantly remind ourselves.

God does not promise answers. He promises to give us His presence. He does not promise us a smooth journey but he assures us that we will never be alone.

What then do we do when we have asked the storm to cease but it still rages? What do we say when we have said ‘Amen’ but it’s still raining?

You see, we have choices.

We can call God unfaithful and shake our tiny fists at the heavens or we can rest knowing that no matter how hard or how far we fall, grace is the mighty hand of God that catches us every time. 

We can call death an enemy or we can call it the instrument that brings us closer to eternal life. 

We can call our failings the bad and our faults the ugly or we can; like the Author of Life name all things ‘good’.
We can behold the loose ends and the untied knots and the figures that don’t add up and proclaim along with Hillsong that ‘It makes no sense but this is grace.’

When you are faced with a ‘Job experience’, (perhaps a boyfriend who walked away or a business that didn’t go your way) instead of crying and sulking or blaming God, name the problem ‘grace’.

The one that gives his life never loses it. The one that names all things grace never lacks it.

***

Romans 8:27-28 MSG

He (The Holy Spirit) knows us far better than we know ourselves…That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives (of love for God) is worked into something good.

***

There have been deaths and there will be deaths. I’m not going to pretend everything is fine but I’m going to believe everything will be fine eventually. I’m not going to hide my grief behind a smile or my pain behind alcohol.

I choose to plant the flower of gratitude in this garden of brokenness watered by tears.

Until the sunlight comes bursting through the night, in my darkness, I know that God is working something beautiful from these losses. He is waiting to be gracious so I will name all things grace.

Here in the desert where this grief abounds and comfort seems small, I choose to sing thankfulness as my desert song. I choose the ‘chara’ in ‘eucharisteo’, the joy present in thanksgiving. I choose shalom, the inexplicable kind of peace.

I choose to name the gory, the bloody, the ugly and the terrible ‘GRACE’.

Because where it is good, bad or ugly, it’s all working together. Its all grace. The gifts and the grief, I must be quick to recognize that they are unmerited and underserved things like grace.

Good, bad, ugly. All is grace.

All is grace.

***

Adeyinka Shittu is the current president of an imaginary world where there are no people, only books. When he isn’t obsessing about grace, irritating humanity or looking for his glasses, he writes at adeyinkashittu.wordpress.com

Queen’s Note: I love Yinka!  He is a total package of awesome and crazy at the same time and I couldn’t  resist dragging him down here!
It’ s good to have you here dude!