By Temilade Jagun

My heart stopped as I made to open the door, my fingers already on the knob. What was I about to do? I thought. After all he had put me- us through. It shouldn’t be this easy.

There had to be consequences, retribution and until I was satisfied that he had experienced these, I wasn’t going in.
I backed away from the door and marched briskly towards the main corridor I couldn’t risk being spotted here by one of the overzealous people who flocked around him.

”Biola!” Someone called from behind as the hospital doors came into view.
”Shit!” I cursed under my breath and dashed through the doors as fast as my 4 inch heels would let me. “Phew. That was close” I straightened my pant suit and walked gracefully towards my chauffeur driven car. One of the perks of my job as editor of the most read newspaper in the country.

”Let’s go to Nancy’s school” I ordered my chauffeur as I open the door and slid in the back seat my eyes glued to the sign above the building announcing it as the best hospital in the country. “Typical” I muttered and scoffed under my breath. Using the best for himself and leaving others to pick the crumbs after him.

“Ori e ti gbale”
”I’m sorry sir” I bent my head as low as possible to avoid the stench of alcohol on his breath
”A l’ori e ti gbale” He made a move towards me his intent clear on his face and in that moment it was hard to believe this was the same man the whole community adored and looked up to. I heard the ringing in my ears before I felt the pain deep in my head and the sting on my face. I moved back bending backwards on my knees, still facing him and bracing myself for what I knew was coming next.
His belt came off first, then his trousers next. The same man that everyone saw as the messiah of the society, doling out gifts and cash for no reason other than it was the year’s end, always ready to empathize and give advice to everyone. The great man on the outside but the monster on the inside who terrorized his family and whose only interpretation of love was provision.

”Mummy why are you crying”. My 3 year old daughter tugged at my blouse. I touched my face to find a stray tear rolling down my face.
”Because…dear…I…” I dragged to find the right thing to say “Don’t want you to ever leave me”
”Mummy don’t cry” her little hands came up to my face wiping the tears away. “I won’t ever leave you…even…even when I’m big” She spread her arms vertically for emphasis. “I love you mummy”
”I love you too baby” I said as we dissolved into a hug.
”Let us go and decorate the tree”.

”Daddy what if the person has done really bad things to me. Like Benson in my class. He keeps breaking my pencils and he never listens to my teacher. Does God still love Him?” Nancy’s eyes were wide with inquisition her question drawing me away from my mind’s recent time travel, an unwelcome distraction which had been occurring too frequently in the past few days.
”Of course Honey. Even Benson is loved by God”
”But…I won’t love him!” She squared her shoulders, her lips set in a straight line. I would have laughed if she weren’t so serious about it
”Why?” My husband asked.
”Because…Daddy..he…he is a meanie and I cannot love meanies” She stuttered.
”But Jesus died for him too and God says we should love everyone the way He loves us.” His palm framed her cheek “even when they hurt us”.
Even when they hurt us….the words danced around in my head. They made sense, sounded like something I would say, something I should do.
”But Daddy…he makes….makes my other friends cry when the teacher is not looking” she jumped where she was sitting on my lap. A welcome distraction because I wasn’t ready to follow my mind on the journey it was about to embark on.
”But God still loves Him and so should we. Only love can truly change a person from the inside”.
Why was my husband hitting all these punch lines tonight. Only love can.…this sounded true as well. Something I would say and I should do.
Later that night I couldn’t sleep. The conversation between my husband and daughter replayed severally in my head…I knew all these truths “we should love them even when they hurt us” I muttered under my breath “Even when they hurt us”. I got out of bed to the kitchen, poured myself a glass of orange juice and sat at the dining, still ruminating over all that was said.

5 minutes later I was in tears and with the tears came the surrender I needed to do the needful. To stretch out the same arm of love that had been stretched out to me inspite of the difficulties, I knew I had to let go and let love.

The next day I dressed up in my favourite skirt suit and sandal heels, gave my chauffeur the day off, drove my daughter to school and returned to the place that brought back all these memories; The Lilygate Hospital, to meet the man that caused all these bad memories and stretch out my arm of love in forgiveness to him. I walked to his room, a spring in my step looking forward to the peace I had already began to feel within me expanding after my conversation with him. My hands firmly on the door knob, I took a deep breath “This is it” and I opened the door, looked into my father’s eyes, as he lay on the bed, for the first time in years. Transfixed on my spot, I smiled at him, he smiled back obliterating every other person in the room. This was our moment and I intended to savour it. Then he shut his eyes. The heart monitor gave a steady beeping sound that sounded almost like static, the room went berserk, everyone rushed for the door at almost the same time and the next thing I saw was black as my legs gave way beneath me.

”My Father was a good man- some might even describe him as great. But I’ll stick to good, not because I don’t think he was a great man but because I know he was a good man. Loved by many, loved by the creator of the universe Himself and what a joy to know he knew Him before his death” a fact I had come to learn during the funeral preparations “My father was a lover of beautiful things, a lover of success and today in this eulogy, I want you all to know my father the lover…” I met with a lot of his friends while preparing for the funeral and through them I learnt enough about my father to write a befitting eulogy. Many times after the meetings, I spent hours crying in regret over things that could have been, a relationship that could have been built and denying my daughter the opportunity to know her grandfather- and my father the opportunity to meet his granddaughter and most times blaming myself for not making a reconciliatory move early enough. “…My father loved me and in the weeks after his death when guilt would attempt to eat me up, the knowledge of this liberated me” I rounded up my speech to a standing ovation and deafening applause. Only a few people knew the complete story and I saw tears slide down their faces as they applauded.
”Truly only love can save” I thought as I looked up to the sky. Maybe my father was looking down on me with glee.

About Temilade – I like to think of myself as a communicator and a storyteller. Telling stories as well as I possibly can through my writings, my speech- and sometimes, my videos. I’m currently studying to be a Communications Engineer in one of Africa’s most reputable Higher Institutions. Did I mention I love to read? Because I love to read- especially if it involves a story.

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