Musings

Jonathan’s Chronicles

January is almost ended. Only four more days to go. It feels like I’ve already lived a year. I think I am getting better in the art of assuming the problems / needs of others and of sharing in them; making them mine. And so I have lived so much. I’ve wept and smiled and laughed so hard.

But today made the crowning point of it all.

Jonathan was born and died today.

When I was in primary school, I learnt a rhyme of Solomon Grundy for the days of the week –

Solomon Grundy; born on a Monday, christened on Tuesday, married on Wednesday, …, died on Saturday, buried on Sunday. That was the end of Solomon Grundy.

It didn’t make sense then. I couldn’t fathom how Solomon who lived for only one week could have done so many things. Now, many years later, I don’t have a Solomon. I have a Jonathan instead. I’m going to let him tell his own story. It’s a short one. It lasted not one day but 60 minutes only; 3600 intense seconds.

—–

My name is Jonathan and I am a being for death. Of course that quote isn’t mine – it’s Heidegger’s. A 60 minute old child isn’t supposed to know anything, to have lived anything, to have felt anything. But I know a lot. I know what it is to be chosen to be kept and loved by a mum and a dad and 2 sisters and a brother.

10 weeks ago, when I was five months old inside my mum, we went to hear what the doctors had to say. They said something like ‘fatal kidney failure’ and mentioned ‘death’. At that point, I stopped swimming and squatted still. Not because I knew what that word meant. I mean, I don’t have any online dictionaries inside the womb. I stopped because I could feel mummy’s dread.

The doctors went on and advised abortion given the circumstances. The baby – I – wasn’t going to live after being born. Most couples chose that option. The other one wasn’t worth trying. I wasn’t worth keeping.

Daddy thanked the doctors and got up, ready to take his wife home. A decision had to be made. Mum’s cloud of dread hung thick over me. I laid still, face up, wondering what it all meant.  Mum began to cry as soon as they got into the car. I was disturbed as the cries racked her. But that cry was good, very good. It drove the cloud of dread away. All was clear again. My life had returned to normal. My world was okay again. I resumed swimming.

Two weeks later, I heard Tess, Dan and Leah whispering together. Dad and mum had called a council. Dad repeated what the doctors said, omitting death and the abortion option. It made no difference anyway. I still didn’t know what those words meant. What mattered was this – that thick fog had been dispersed two weeks ago and it hadn’t come back since then. My siblings erupted into cheers. Dad had added that although the doctors had vouched for the uselessness of the decision, we were, they were going to keep the baby. And – mum added – we’re keeping Jonathan. Hurray!

Now they had to inform the rest of the family. Well, I suppose each one reacted in his way. Don’t ask me. I don’t know. What I know is that since that day when Dad told his family and mum told hers, I became a celebrity. There was ‘Jonathan’ on many lips. There were many cries to heaven for Jonathan. My aunt Charlie went as far as telling everyone of her over 100 Philosophy and Theology classmates in Rome; her Jonathan was passing through a rough time and could they please say some little prayer for him and the family.  My feeling of importance shot up. I am Jonathan and I am world famous.

Mum changed clinic. She simply started going to another. I found it strange. But no matter. I guess a woman like her knows what’s best for her baby. The doctors in the new clinic said it was going to be very difficult, almost impossible. But never again did I hear the words ‘useless’ or ‘needless’ or ‘in vain’. Given that everyone, even my 2 year old sister Leah, was saying a little prayer for me, dad decided to add his grain of sand. He would pat mummy’s stomach many times. And I felt his touch; as if he was holding on to me, asking me to fight, to hold on. But I don’t even know what ‘to fight’ means.

Fast track to New Year’s Eve. I was now 28 weeks old. Mum was going to see the doctors again and Dad had patted me to say that he was coming of course. The doctors mentioned February 13th and added ‘an hour more or less’. Dad, I suppose, sent the message to his extended group. My aunt repeated it to all her classmates – a cry for help for Jonathan. Help for his family.

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Baby Jonathan and his brother

Today finally arrived. But it wasn’t February 13th as planned. I couldn’t wait. I had to come now or never. At 6.40am, I was born into earth. After the quick clean up by the nurses, everyone rushed in. Mum was weak but smiling. Dad too. But there was this tinge of sadness in the corners of his eyes. Mum’s dad was there. Dad’s parents too.

They all wanted to hold me, to cuddle me. I couldn’t understand. I could only rest in the intensity of their love. As if they could transform every one of those minutes into days, into years. Imagine, 60 years instead of 60 minutes. But what am I saying – I don’t even know what a ‘year’ is.

They took pictures with me. I was truly a star. They wanted to keep these memories of their baby and their brother and their grandchild. I was slipping away. But I didn’t know it. I was just content to be in the arms of Tess, Dan and Leah; their arms joined together to hold me, their brother. Time pass quickly. Time passed quickly. Mum called for her baby. And she cuddled me with dad on the bed beside her. I was still slipping, going by the minute. Leaving, leaving…, and still leaving; until the 60th minute when I left. Mum’s dad broke into tears.

—–

Jonathan died at 7:40am today, 60 minutes after he was born, surrounded by family and by love. They dressed him in a white dress with tiny wings attached. Their little angel! And they mourned him, each in his / her way, but together, closely bound by this baby.

Thanks to Charlie for the privilege to share in this story. 2 weeks ago, I practically wept over the death of Catherine, who died from infections after giving birth. She was a total stranger to me. I stumbled on her story on Facebook and wept with the knowledge that she died in an attempt to give life. Women shouldn’t die in the life giving process.

My sorrow was dealt another blow when I read Akwaeke’s story of removing her uterus for reasons which I would never have imagined. Dear Akwaeke, I wish you a quick and complete recovery from your surgery; and a light in your path of discerning your place in this world. I’m with you!

Then came the good news of the birth of my niece. My sister posted pictures on Facebook, thanking our dear mother for having gone to help with the baby. I appreciate my sister. I love the baby. My senses have been sharpened by sorrow. I value this new act of generosity by my sister and her husband. Never again will I take it for granted. My sister added – ‘many more grandchildren on the way’. How beautiful.

Dear Rebecca and Simon, parents of Jonathan, we are with you. And Jonathan too. From heaven. He’ll help you adjust, recover; help you to live through those moments when you’ll want your child in your arms, your new born baby. When your breasts will be full with milk, ready to feed your Jonathan who now has no need of it. You won’t ask yourself if it was worth it – you already answered that question 11 weeks ago when you said yes to Jonathan, to Him. Thank you so much for keeping Jonathan. Thank you so much for giving him the 60 minutes chance. Thank you. Thank you.

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Fiction, Musings

Pamela’s Patina

Seeing that she was quiet, he left the room. He was upset and needed to calm down; upset and disappointed that his granddaughter could lie to his face like this.

True to his expectations, her sadness had continued. Wednesday passed – the same. When on Thursday, she was still depressed, he became alarmed. Brooding had become her god over the past three days and a jealous one at that. To serve him well, she had embarked on rigorous fasting, barely touching her food and pushing it away. As such, she was fast losing body weight. The irony of it was that it would have been a most welcome development, had circumstances been different. With each passing day, he became more and more afraid for the health of his frail grandchild.

“Is it so difficult for you to confide in me?” he asked again that Thursday afternoon.

She had some notebooks and a Mathematics textbook on the table. She had intended to finish her assignments but brooding got the better of her. She remained there, seated, looking at the books and into space at the same time.

“Pamela, what’s eating you?”

She got up and went to stand by her favourite spot – the window overlooking the small garden, the tears streaming down her face. At once, he followed suit.

“I don’t deserve all this agony, Pamela.” He said, breaking the silence.

“What agony?” asked a surprised Pamela, quickly wiping off her tears with the back of her palms. She had not heard him approach.

“The agony of watching my grandchild, fight a losing battle with an unseen opponent, and not being able to help her. It breaks my heart, Pamela. It really does.

“What losing battle? What opponent? Oh! I wish my problem could be solved by the good use of English Grammar.” She turned to look at him. “I love you, grandpa and I care very much about you. I do not want to hurt your feelings or see you sad and heartbroken” she was beginning to feel guilty. “And that’s precisely why I’m trying to shield you from the knowledge of my problem.”

“But you are making a mess of it” he retorted “You’re not hiding it well as you claim. If that was your intention, then ab initio, you should have acted like your normal self, as if all was well. Then I would have gone about my business, deceived into thinking that nothing was wrong in the first place” he said angrily. Then his tone became gentler

“But that would have been impossible, Pamela. You’re a bad actress…” She smiled for the first time in days.

“And I’m your grandfather. I know you and I know you very well because I love you very much, ok.”

He put his arms round her. “Your heart is heavy. At your service  is someone who cares, who is ready to listen. Besides, he’s not just someone, he’s family. I tell you, it’s not every time that one is lucky enough to find a listening ear ….”

“‘Class’” Pamela said quietly, dry-eyed; there were no more tears to shed.

“Class?” he repeated, surprised at what the word class had to do with the problem.

“Yes, class. I was as puzzled as you now are when I first heard it.” She proceeded to explain “One needs to be from the upper class to qualify for the contest and one must be able to prove it.” She stopped. It was her turn to be surprised as he slightly threw back his head and exploded into raucous laughter.

{Excerp from Miss Turris by Amaka Anozie}

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I have given this post a ‘forced’ title. Patina is not exactly the word to describe Pamela’s attitude. But it’s the new world I learned today thanks to wordpress and Merriam – Webster dictionary. I find it very interesting that ‘patina’ comes from ‘paten’. The paten – a small but very important tray – is at the highest point of the Holy Mass in the Catholic Church. There, the bread offered is transformed totally into the body of Christ. And we partake of it. We do so to feed our souls, hoping in the eternal life while living fully this present one.

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ART, Little things, Pixpers

Transformation

I once heard that no one eats with their mouth

Children eat with their eyes;

Young people with their stomach

Adults with their head.

WARNING;  mouthwatering presentation. Risk of hunger afterwards.

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Okay so, where are these pictures from? Most of them were made by me in collaboration with others. It was such a delight last summer to learn to transform the usual fruits and vegetables into such lovelies.

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ART, Musings

Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’

Yesterday saw a world record break for any work of art sold at auction. The salvator mundi was sold for $450.3m, including auction house premium, by an anonymous buyer in the auction at Christie’s in New York. “Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”) is one of fewer than 20 known paintings by da Vinci, and the only one in private hands.

Though I can hold a good conversation about beauty and art, I know little about its sale and purchase. So I reserve my comments about the heartburn that just the mention of the purchase sum gives to me.

But there’s been and still are tons of hype about it. Lots of hype about the painting, the painter, and especially about the 500 years of history behind it. The salvator mundi has gone on display in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York. Thousands of people have gone to see it before its final sale.

If 500 years’ worth of history can cause this, how much more should 2000 years’ worth of history do? I, who believe not just in the painter, nor in the authenticity of the painting BUT in the figure – CHRIST painted by Da Vinci, what is my reaction? Does my belief lead me to act thus? How does it affect my day to day life?

Add to this, the lot of talk and analysis to ascertain if it’s an authentic Leonardo’s.

Salvator Mundi Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator mundi

Modestini, who restored the salvator mundi commented that ‘I shudder to think what might have been used’ in the grotesque repaintings of the painting. The varnish was “sticky and uneven” with crude touch-ups, quite possibly the work of “the owner or a local amateur”.

She didn’t stop at shudder though. Modestini then professionally restored the Salvator Mundi. Despite some damage to the face, the flesh tones fortunately retain their layer structure. She stabilised the picture, removed most of the later overpaint and fillings, and made cosmetic changes to bring it back closer to Leonardo’s original.

O salvator mundi, this is one more wakeup call from you. Your silent and gentle honk has pierced my indifference. I’ve hidden your face behind countless ‘what would they say? Why should I bother them by revealing You?’. I’ve repainted your face by my many small inconsistencies, so much so that recognition of You is almost impossible.

This is my conclusion, my resolution;

I’ll restore your image that I carry within me, o salvator mundi. I’ll do a more meticulous work than what Modestini has done to your painting. So that the others can see and appreciate the real You. And I’ll take you beyond Hong Kong and New York. I’ll take you everywhere so that everyone can see you and be conquered by your charm and your grace. And I won’t look too far – I’ll start with my friends and family.

 

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Pixpers

November reflections

Sunset @ Budapest

In the evening of our life,
we’ll clearly see the value of all that we did
for love of God and of neighbour.
Yes, even those things
that apparently didn’t work out.

Welcome to November
#remembertoprayforthesoulsofthedead

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