Episode 28 – The Finale
The funeral was a quiet one; the way his mother had wanted it. As he listened to the testimonies people told about her, Henry realized he had taken for granted how much of an impact her life had made on others. It was in her last days that he even realized just how much impact she had made on him
“I never stopped praying for you,” she told him, her cracked lips forming a weak smile. She had been delighted to find he had found – or been found by – Christ. Her pale face lighted up with an ethereal glow that could only have come from somewhere beyond her frail body.
Henry had never seen his mother so weak before, which scared him more. Since their father died, she had been the epitome of stregth, always there, never coming down with so much as a fever and moving on like a trooper. His mother had worked so hard to train them and all his siblings were wonderful people, even Kene, his elder brother was a pastor. It made him wonder how he had turned out so contrary. Didn’t psychopaths usually have pathetic backgrounds? He shook his head when he realized what he had called himself.
Yet wasn’t that what he’d become? As he stared at his mother, so small and frail, he realized that the path to complete moral decay was not very steep. Sometimes it came with obvious catalysts that triggered the monster in you, other times it was just the monster in you that had lay dormant for too long, but either way, the descent was never a steep one. It was a slow, steady decline to the inevitable.
“At least now I can die in peace,” his mother whispered and Henry gently rebuked her for saying that, yet he knew – she was slipping away and there was nothing he could do about it especially when she wasn’t even trying so hard.
She died two days later.
His two sisters were sitted beside him with his older brother at the edge of the seat. He looked up at Chilota’s face and saw a tear escaping her eyes. He gently squeezed her hand, understanding. She, of all four children, had been closer to their mother and looked more like her with her delicate features. So as the procession continued, Henry silently prayed for her.
After the service, Henry greeted some of the people who came to offer their condolences. He knew they meant well, but at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to be left alone to grieve quietly.
Mrs. Kalu grabbed him to launch into a long tirade of all she and his mother ever did together. It was endearing, no doubt, but at that moment, that was not what he needed. So, he looked around for a way to politely get away from her and that was when he saw her.
His heart began to beat wildly with a mix of fear and surprise.
“Hello,” Anjola greeted, nodding. “My condolences,” she said.
“Umm…thank you. I didn’t expect to see you here. How… how…”
“You left some details with the church the last time you came.”
He was quaking in his shoes partly because he wasn’t quite sure what to make of their meeting. She had adamantly refused all contact with him and all of a sudden, just when he thought maybe forgetting about the whole thing would be best, here she was.
“When will you be free so we can talk?”
He opened his mouth and closed it quickly. “Talk?”
“Oh, sure, sure. How about tomorrow?”
They met the next day at her church. The sanctuary was quiet and open, it held an air of a presence hovering around them. Her friend, Victoria, was waiting outside.
“How are you holding up?” she asked.
He sighed. “Not easy. I’m just glad she died a happy woman.”
He stared at the gleaming pulpit. “When I told her about becoming a Christian, she was overjoyed. Said she’d always been praying for me,” he smiled sadly. “I guess her prayers led me to this church that morning.”
Anjola nodded. “I’m glad to hear that.”
An awkward silence followed and Henry wondered what he should do, whether to fill it or wait for her. When she didn’t say anything, he cleared his throat.
“Anjola, I’m really sorry. I know you must hate me and I would completely understand if you want to press charges. I just beg you to forgive me,” he was leaning forward, fully prepared to grovel before her.
“Why?” she wasn’t looking at him.
“I…I…” he began, took a deep breath and continued. “I have no excuse for what I did. But if you want to know, I was just really blind and foolish. I was consumed by my lust. I’d always had issues with it. Started with pornography as a teenager until I was overtaken by it,” he bowed his head. “My lust did not stop when I got what I thought I wanted…which was why I… came after you again. I just… lost all sense of reason. Or maybe I never really had it in the first place,” it was hard to say the words but he let them out.
He needed it.
* * * *
Anjola listened as Henry made his confession, half listening for herself and half listening for him. It hurt to hear the words but she really wasn’t relying on hearing his explanations. Her mind had already been made up about it. But she sensed that he needed it, that he needed to let the words out.
“The agency thing, even my accent, were all a part of the charade,” he sighed. “I don’t even recognize that man anymore.”
When he finished talking, she cleared her throat and spoke up.
“I really didn’t seek out this meeting to get an explanation or an apology. I just wanted to let you know what I’ve decided.”
“Oh. What?” he asked warily, his eyes filled with doubt and plenty of fear.
She took a deep breath and allowed the words rise from deep within, cleansing every part of her.
“I forgive you.”
His eyes widened. “Really?”
He kept staring at her as though unsure how to express his gratitude.
“Thank you. Thank you so much. I’ve been praying for this,” he closed his eyes briefly. “I just wish I could do all this over again.”
She shrugged, saying nothing.
“I know it can’t be easy for you, seeing me, so I won’t ever bother you again if that’s what you want,” he offered, only too relieved, too thankful that God had brought a measure of healing. He’d never have found peace otherwise.
“Would you want to meet Iyanu?” Anjola asked, not really sure she wanted to do that.
He nodded his head. “I would like that. But I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable in any way. Just let me know whenever you are ready.”
Anjola nodded. The past few weeks had been one of the hardest and yet most joyful ones she’d had. After her conversation with Mrs. Adegbite and reading the text she referred her to, Anjola had gone to God, kneeling beside her bed.
“Lord, I hate Henry,” she began. “He hurt me so much. He betrayed and deceived me. But Lord, I know I have to forgive him if I’ll ever find healing, I have to forgive him the way you forgave me. I can’t just try to forget it like nothing happened. I’m too broken to hide,” her tears threatened to choke her but she continued. “I know now that it wasn’t you who needed my forgiveness, it was actually Henry. But I can’t do it on my own Lord. I cannot.” she shook her head vehemently and stretched her arms forward as though God was before her. “I just can’t. It hurts too bad. On my own I can’t, Lord. I…I,” she broke down, burying her face in the pillow to muffle her gut wrenching cries. She wept like that for what felt like hours before she raised her head again.
“Lord, I don’t know how you were able to forgive those who crucified you but I want you to teach me. Help me to be your disciple indeed. Let your love fill me and your Spirit work through me. I don’t know how you’ll do it Lord and I don’t have to, but I trust you to help me. Lord, I trust you,” she paused. “And Lord, one more thing, I’m sorry for being so unforgiving. Help me Lord. Please. In Jesus’ name.”
She spent the rest of the night praying and studying the scriptures. In the following days, she understood that healing did indeed come painfully. She had to open up her wounds and it really hurt. However, as time went by, she found herself doing something very strange:
She began praying for Henry.
And it was as she did this that she also discovered something else; healing comes. God’s grace and love just worked in and through her so inexplicably that she discovered that the hurt and bitterness, the anger and hatred was gone. And even as she looked at Henry that quiet afternoon, none of those emotions resurfaced. Only compassion and peace filled her heart. It didn’t make sense and she didn’t try to trace it.
But she knew healing had come.
* * * *
The drive to the airport was a quiet one. The car moved fluidly through the light early morning traffic with the only sound in the car coming from the radio. Mrs. Adegbite was seated with Daddy in front while she sat with Iyanu and Victoria at the back and shared Vick’s playlist.
Toke had just been delivered of a baby boy, so her mother couldn’t come with them. Anjola had also been with her cousin the day before to see her.
“So you are going to America, ehn, Vin-tage?” Toke said, smiling softly.
Anjola chuckled, “I guess I am.”
“Buy chocolate when you are coming o.”
“I will. Along with all the hand-me-downs I can find.”
Her cousin playfully swatted her. They talked about her going back to school to at least complete her O’Levels but Toke made no promises.
“You know is people like you that like book that can do that one. Me I just want money.”
Bose called to bid her farewell last night and Anjola wondered how she knew. She had a feeling her mother had broadcasted the news all over Aje. After all, what was sweeter gossip material than her daughter studying abroad?
Iyanu crawled up to her lap and held her. Her normally talkative girl was silent, as though even she understood the heaviness of the moment.
“I’ll miss you, boo-boo,” Anjola whispered in her daughter’s ears. “Mummy loves you very, very much.” Her eyes filled with tears as she sniffed in her scent – baby powder with a mix of cocoa butter – storing it up into memory. Her little girl whom God had used to give her life in her darkest moment. She couldn’t believe she would not see her for so long.
But for the fact that she was leaving her with Mrs. Adegbite whom Iyanu had grown very fond of, Anjola would have taken her along no matter how hard that would be.
“I love you too Mammy,” Iyanu replied, her lips trembling.
“Did you remember to take your documents?” Mrs. Adegbite asked.
She had started packing three days ago with a checklist and all, so it was almost impossible for her to forget anything.
“Hey,” Victoria whispered.
Anjola smiled. “Hey.”
“Look, I have something for you,” Victoria reached inside her bag for a package.
“What’s that?” she asked, taking it.
“It’s in your hands. Open it.”
She did so, unwrapping the gift carefully, the rustling sounds mixing with the two adults’ quiet conversation in the front seat.
It was a journal, and right beside it, in a box, was a digital camera. She gently pulled out the journal and ran her hand over the surface. She opened it and saw a picture of herself and Victoria on one of their youth camp meetings. Beside it was a picture of Iyanu on her third birthday, all smiles and delicate beauty. Beneath the pictures, she’d scrawled a simple message from the Psalms with a glittery pen:
“Write down for the coming generation what the Lord has done, so that people not yet born will praise him.”
When she opened further, she saw some pages also had scriptures and quotes randomly scrawled at the bottom. Tears filled her eyes.
“Thank you,” she whispered and her friend smiled.
When they got to the airport, it was even harder to say goodbye. And although they had done much of that the previous night, it still wasn’t any easier. They had some hours to spare before departure so they hung around the airport.
“Don’t hesitate to ask when you need anything, okay?” Pastor Adegbite said.
She nodded. “Thank you sir,” she said, giving him a hug. He was a father indeed.
“Remember what we talked about?”
She nodded. “Yes. I’m going but I’m not going alone.”
“Exactly. God is always with you. And don’t forget to let your light shine.”
When it was Mummy’s turn to say goodbye, she started crying which made Anjola release her own pent up tears.
“Don’t mind me,” she said, trying to wipe her face. “I’m too emotional.”
“I’m so happy for you darling,” she stroked her face. Go make Jesus proud, okay?”
Anjola smiled. “I will. Thank you ma.”
“And try to get in as much trouble as you can,” Victoria quipped and they chuckled.
“As long as it’s news worthy,” she retorted.
They stayed together for a few more minutes, taking pictures with her new camera and talking excitedly before she finally moved to go.
Iyanu held tightly to her arm and her heart constricted. This was really hard; they shouldn’t have brought her along but what choice did they have when the girl had remained bright eyed almost all through the night? It was as though she was determined to police her mother and keep her from going.
Lord, watch over my little girl, she prayed.
“Honey,” she stooped to her level. “Mummy has to go. But I’ll be back, okay?”
Iyanu nodded, crying as Victoria gently took her from her mother. Anjola walked away quickly before she could change her mind and run back to her baby and family, promising to never leave again. But she couldn’t do that.
Because it was time.
When she finally checked in and was done with all the security and immigration checks, she spent the remaining few minutes till departure in the waiting area. She pulled out the journal Victoria had given her from her bag and smiled. She was going to fill every page with the beautiful memories God would give her in this new phase of her life. Yet, she knew, the story could never begin with that. Her past was part of her story, part of what would make the tapestry of her life so beautiful.
Because it was the story of grace.
Looking back now, she saw that every pain, every hurt that she’d been through had brought her to this place where she saw the world not from her own myopic lenses, but with new eyes that recognised the hand of God in everything. Several times, she’d tried to control her life and had only ended up in a tangled mess; frustrated. It was only in surrender that she truly found freedom. It was then she saw that so much life awaited her.
She understood now that her life was not really hers but belonged to God and He knew what He was doing no matter how damaged the world was. He was God no matter how terrible people were and how fallen the world was. He alone knew the plans He had for her.
And they were good ones.
* * * *
All glory to God.
*does tap dance and weird jiggles.
This is the end of Forgiving God! It has been one wonder of a ride. Words cannot really express what this has meant to me. And maybe later I’ll talk about how this has been: the journey, the lessons, challenges and all. But for now, I just have enough energy to be thankful it’s over.
And you, my amazing reader-turned-friend have been wonderful. Clap for yourself for coming this far. Go on. I’ll wait.
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God’s abundant grace to you!