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.

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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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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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Fiction, Musings

Miss Turris Revisited

I once wrote a book which, for love of Latin, I called Miss Turris. I tell people when they ask – ‘oh basically, it’s a story about friendship’. But I’ve heard a different take on it which I found quite interesting. One reader’s comments has helped me re – discover my novel. Just an excerpt from Miss Turris to begin with –

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Alex had taught her the act of manoeuvring and now the situation called for it. She stood up quietly, and walked stiff – necked to the window which overlooked the small garden. Her body all straight and stiff, she gazed at the plants, looking and seeing through them. Those plants knew her as much as she knew them – she spent her leisure pruning and weeding them. They knew her tears and her frustrations. They had listened to her questions and to some of her joys.

She stood like that in silence for about two and half minutes and was almost giving up the act when she heard light footsteps behind her. Her grandpa was coming. A smile lit up her face for a fraction of a second and was quickly replaced by a blank expression; she remained still and waited.

Of course, he knew that she was putting up an act. After all, he was once her age. Even more, he was her grandfather. But, he decided to play along and in the end, indulge her as always. He counted himself lucky that he had a sensible girl for a grandchild. First tantrums; now this. ‘Some progress’ he chuckled as he stood beside her.

One look at her face and he almost burst out laughing. Anyone who didn’t know her would have been deceived by her expression, but definitely not him. He decided to start a conversation.

“The plants are beautiful, aren’t they?” he asked

She almost cried. This wasn’t what she had expected to hear, but she managed to keep her cool.

“The flowers even more so” she replied. “See how pretty that pink Anthurium looks.”

“Still thinking about the ‘hair’ issue?”

“No” An easy lie. It was part of the act – to pretend as if it didn’t mean anything to her, anymore.

He smiled and commended her inwardly. “May I ask why?” he asked

“Well”’ she allowed herself a shrug “because I’ve learnt to take whatever you decide, as law. You know, what an elder sees sitting down, a child will not see it, even if she climbs a palm tree”. She said, quoting him. Another lie.

Not wanting to push further, he said “Permission granted”.

“To do what?” she needn’t ask because she knew the answer, but it was part of the act to do so.

“To start growing your hair; I’ll put no objections in your way.”

The greater part of her wanted to hug him tightly and say a big thank you, but that would mean breaking the rules. So instead, she replied,

“You‘re too kind … to me”

He sighed “And you are a good actress, my lamb”

“Oh! Grandpa,” she said, giggling and hugging him tightly. “You always manage to see through me, no matter how hard I try.”

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‘She’ is Pamela, my protagonist.  She’s a granddaughter whose family consist in one person – her granddad. And the loving, tender, relationship between him and her is one of the main themes in Miss Turris.

It’s the kind of relationship I would have liked with my grandma – a sweet one as most grandmas are. And we did have it to the extent that the distance and language barriers allowed. She spoke only Igbo; I spoke bekee. She lived in Eastern Nigerian; I in the south 4 hours away. She called me her nnedim – mother of her husband. Everyone who knew the true nnedim said I was her look alike.

Once I went with my grandma to one of our palm tree plantations. She must have been about 70 years old then. We collected some dry sticks for the fire and a medium sized bunch of palm fruits. She tried balancing the bunch on my head. Uff! City gal. I couldn’t bear the weight and I staggered, almost dropping the bunch. On the way home, I had to walk beside her with the light load of sticks while she proceeded gracefully with the bunch on her head. Strong woman!

Dear grandma, you kept our large family going after the death of grandpa. And now 17 years later, you have gone to join him. We buried you today. I can imagine how it went. I can see you smiling at us, resting in peace. Keep watching over your nnedim. Keep watch over us all.

_____

bekee – one of the igbo words for ‘English’.

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Little things

When you suffer …

Living as I do in the mire of a crossroad of many cultures, my plan was to blog about ‘true polyglots’. That will come later.

‘I just read’ a man’s heart-pouring account of his wife’s death by euthanasia.

I started this post some weeks ago but couldn’t continue. I felt so heart – broken for his loss, for his bitterness and even more for their outlook on life. I’m back at it again.

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When we suffer, we can either wallow in the valley of the shadow of intense, indescribable pain; or we can take one little step out to the light and appreciate the flowers and fruits of our suffering. I’m back to finish this post because I read Jonie Smith‘s story where she describes in broad strokes how she takes this great little step every day. It’s  not an easy step for being tiny and here the Christian faith helps as it is helping Joni.

Through these challenges, God gave me an awareness of what so called ‘mercy killings {Euthanasia} were stealing away from the sick and elderly. The ‘culture of death’ mentality was trying to steal us away from an intimate walk with Jesus Christ. His loving sacrifice that he had waiting for those who suffer. This world wants to steal our peace, our joy and our uniting our sufferings with His. This world wants to steal our chance to love like Jesus. Jesus taught me what it was to ‘offer it up’. All we need to do is to ask Him to pour out His grace on our brothers and sisters and to offer up our pain and illnesses, our disappointments as well as our joys for the sake of others. God loves us so much that He wants us to share in His loving sacrifice of His Cross. The instrument of His Love and grace, His peace and life in us. The mystery of his Most Sacred Heart.

If this sounds like Greek to you, I’m available to explain further. Just let me know, ok! Meanwhile enjoy this from  ‘The Father’s tale’.

It struck me recently that God wrote a large story in the lives of the people we read about in Scriptures, and it was usually for reasons beyond their understanding. He did so for several purposes, but one of them was to teach and illumine others who would not be born until thousands of years after the events. Is it possible that He is ‘writing’ our lives as well, for purposes we cannot begin to understand, and perhaps may never understand in our lifetimes? Our inexplicable sufferings, especially the blows of injustice, may be far more valuable to other souls than we can now guess. Thus the necessity of thanking Him for all our trials, adversity, unjust sufferings, because the fruit of these may be of incalculable worth, though hidden from our eyes.

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Fiction, Musings

And that is when the sadness came

This is the first draft of ‘And that is when the sadness came’. Aside from editing the spellings, I haven’t touched it in any way because I want to give you this gift complete. I did not want to correct the grammatical errors for fear of tuning up the story and leaving it flat, lifeless. Please tell me what you think.

I always think of Chinonso’s death or of the death of many other s who I had known. But none had been as close to me as Ekemini Aviomoh. Not that we had been that close. We were kind of friends and I knew that, I was sure of it that our Lord will ask me for her soul when he calls me. So, when Felix called to ask if I had Ekemini’s mum’s number and then said the story of some men going to her house and shooting her and her papa, I just prayed that she gets well soon. When Elos …

I couldn’t understand why lizzy was fretting and all upset until when Elos confirmed that of a truth, Ekemini was dead. Jesus Christ. Dazed, we said the responsory for her. And I went back to my project work as I had continued living life when Chinonso died. That dasy we had gone to bed without tasting the delicious bitterleaf soup that mum had painstakkiingly prepared some hours before. No one was hungry. I wasn’t. the next day, I can’t remember what we ate as the visitors called, poured in to express their condolences. I remember kingsley telling me and ‘gege’ that we were too playful as if that could explain why Chinonso had died. We were not playing when she died, we were not even with her when she fell into the gulling gushing forth with muddy brown water filled with all the filth of Benin moats. We were not there as she swallowed irrestibly gulp after gulp, aligned to the flow as a dead leaf, of the water. I like to picture that she had died immediately from a head injury when she fell. That is the only way to explain how she was intact and not bloated by the time they found the body beside ogiso river. My dad had to pay 12000 to claim it and Ogidiga had mentioned that that sum was the last respect for the dead 10 year old child. And now I am running out of thoughts …

But wait, I remember thinking that I have to be very good to chibuzo who had fallen in with her. I remember thinking of the bad dreams that he must have had at the time. I remember mum taking him as her child, sending him on errands and giving him gifts. Poor boy. But now he is all grown up and trying to make life on his own. I know also that throughout all that time I did not cry. I forced the thought and the tears from my eyes even as Amen said to me in school ‘ hope this will not affect your school work. I know that I made a personal vow that if life was so short then I would make the best of it the way I could. That term was my best term in ss1. It saw me mature, almost hardened, fighting to do the right thing, knowing that at any moment, I could take chinonso’s place on the mat on the floor of the cemetery where her feet peeped out – all white, lifeless.

As I bring to my memory with full force, the brutality of Ekemini’s death, as I touch some sand, grasping them in my palms and throwing them into the hole where her coffin was already resting ready to be covered by the red earth. As the words get all clogged up in my throat and my minds filled with the images of Chinonso and all that I have ever lost, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the grief held up from years long gone by.

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