Tag Archives: memoirs

Prized possessions

What is your most prized possession? Is it some earthly possession, or God? Whatever it is, if you lost it would you also lose your faith in God because the loss would really take a toll on you? In church, about two weeks ago, the priest said, “If God is not your most prized possession, then you need to pray hard.

The basis of this was a reading we had that Sunday. It was from the Gospel of Mark, where a man approached Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to attain eternal life.

“You know the commandments”, Jesus answered him. “Do not commit adultery; do not kill; do not lie; honour your father and mother; do not covet your neighbour’s wife or property…”

“I have been following all those commandments since I was a child”, the man replied.

Jesus looked at him happily, “That is very good. Now go give out all your possessions and come follow me”.

At that, the man seemed suddenly downcast. He was a very wealthy man. The Bible doesn’t expressly indicate whether the man agreed to give out his wealth, but his expression could give someone a hint.

“It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven”, Jesus told His disciples. Furthermore, he told them that anyone who gave up his family and possessions to follow Him would attain eternal life.

That reading might be very discouraging to many people, especially those who are so attached to their material possessions…and most of us are. Pretence aside, I would love to be so wealthy, therefore personally I find the thought of being poor awfully discouraging. It’s even worse for someone who is already wealthy to lose their wealth because being poor really sucks.

Growing up, my family and I have found ourselves in situations where food was barely available, so we’d go hungry for long periods. Funny thing about that is, it was never for lack of money that we slept hungry; but it was because for reasons I’ll never be able to comprehend, dad never prioritized our food.

He’d uncaringly spend his money on beer and his own food, which he ate out. So while we were crying because of how hungry we felt, dad was coming home full, drunk and in a foul mood that had him raising hell on us the entire night.

I have never doubted mom’s love for my sisters and I. She’s the one person I know who has single-handedly sacrificed so much so we could be where we are today. When we were starving and she couldn’t feed us because she wasn’t working at the time, I saw how dejected she was. So while I’m all for going to heaven, I also know it’s very difficult to function on an empty stomach… or to just survive without basic needs. It is hard!

Hunger and poverty are the primary reasons some people from very humble backgrounds get into all sorts of unimaginable evils, because man’s inherent instinct is that of survival. While in reality there are people who commit crimes purely for the basis of satisfying their own selfish interests, I also know there are some people, with good intentions, who do wrong things out of desperation for themselves or their loved ones; for instance, a jobless parent who steals money to take their sick child to hospital. While this is still wrong, it is also not hard to understand what drove them to commit such transgressions.

In light of this, I wouldn’t imagine Jesus was condemning possession of wealth. The way I see it, He was condemning the acquisition and hoarding of so much wealth when there are others suffering. I usually imagine how beautiful the world would be if the haves would benevolently donate just a small percentage of their wealth to those who don’t have.

Every time I come across a child or person living on the streets, my heart breaks. It feels especially distressing when there’s nothing I can do to alleviate their suffering. I imagine this is what Jesus was trying to address.

Given how the world works, there will always be people who have, and those who don’t have. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that all affluent people will go to hell while the pecuniary ones happily walk through heaven’s golden gates.

It’s all about our intentions, which God is already privy to. All we need to do is follow the precepts of Christ, and be humble and kind. This is the surest way to go to heaven. After all, the two greatest commandments are to love God above all else, and to love one another. That’s how we go to heaven. It’s not simple, but it’s not impossible to accomplish either.

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If wishes were horses… Part 2

Seeing dad bail on my big sis in a heartbeat reminded me of this very cool dad I met during my judicial attachment two years ago. He was the second witness in a civil case, where his daughter had been the victim of a hit-and-run. Since they were claiming damages, the defendant’s counsel was trying to prove to the court how the expenses cited under special damages had not been necessary.

One of the items in contention was a wheelchair, where the man had purchased one for his daughter after seeing how she was struggling to walk with crutches. The defence argued that the wheelchair had not been prescribed by the doctor and therefore wasn’t necessary; furthermore, they argued that, it had really been needless for him to hire a nurse and three personal tutors for his daughter.

I don’ know if my better judgement was clouded by the tender loving care this man seemed to have for his daughter, but I was of the opinion everything he got her was a necessity. The accident had her physically incapacitated for a year and because of that she missed a whole year of school. The way I see it, any loving parent would incur all those costs and more for their child, whether it was prescribed by a doctor or not.

“I do not need a doctor to tell me what to do for my daughter”, he argued unapologetically. “I’m a parent, and it’s my duty to ensure my daughter has her needs taken care of”. My heart melted. There I was, all grown up, but wishing I could have had such a dad. A dad who would always make my sisters and I feel loved and protected.

All through, dad has always made us feel like he got us accidentally. I always doubt he was ever ready to become a parent. Looking back at the things he’s done, I usually feel he’s never had what it takes to be a dad. For instance, when each of my sisters and I turned thirteen, he started regarding us with so much suspicion, always insinuating we were sleeping around.

Funny thing is we’d never given him any reason to think of us that way. Consequently, we stopped bringing male friends home because then he would erroneously assume those were the ones warming our beds.

Even in his constant drunken rumblings, he expressed his disappointment that we didn’t get knocked up before finishing school, as that would be the surest way for him to kick us out, so he wouldn’t have to put up with us anymore. Given a choice, I’m pretty sure he would have opted to not have us.

In addition to this, he’s always said he wouldn’t want us back in his house once we’re married…and seeing as he’s never been a loving husband to mom, we’ve always been afraid of getting married because if God-forbid we ended up with someone like him, we’d end up feeling trapped again, and for good this time.

Based on this sad life dad has subjected us to, I hate to think there are people out there leading miserable lives because they don’t know who their parents are. Sometimes I usually imagine, if I didn’t know who my dad was, I would be living a very troubled life, thinking how better my life had been if I knew him.

Well here’s the thing, sometimes our parents might turn out to be a huge disappointment, and a far cry from what we imagine they might be like. Take it from me. My dad’s always been around when my sisters and I were growing up, but he was never the kind, loving dad we hoped he would be.

I have this friend who lost her dad when she was around nine, and she told me she usually feels their lives would have been better if he hadn’t passed on. I remember feeling like she was looking at the grass on the other side and thinking it was greener. Sometimes it is…but sometimes it’s not. I guess if wishes were horses I’d have a loving dad…

If wishes were horses… Part 1

Sometimes my life makes me question the way things work…for instance, I have this friend who’s been raised by a single mom. Though I never tried prying, I put one and one and together and I sort of figured out how she ended up ‘fatherless’. Her mom’s a staunch Catholic, and her dad’s Muslim. Given that I almost got into a relationship with this Muslim guy I really liked, I understood why such a relationship would be laden with insurmountable hurdles…

Given the nature of both faiths, it would take huge sacrifices by both parties for the relationship to work. Then there’s the pressure from family, where they come with impossible demands, like for children to be raised in their faith and not the other… it could be an impossible relationship. Long and short of it is, my friend ended up without so much as a surname.

Though she normally wears short dresses and skirts, she occasionally dons hijabs, especially during Ramadan. It’s actually one of those instances that had me probing into her wardrobe. Then she went on to explain to me that though she was raised Catholic, she feels more Muslim; and true to that, though her names are Christian, her signature is a Muslim name. The first time I saw it I presumed that would have been her surname had her parents ended up married.

Interestingly, it’s her story that discouraged me from ending up with my Muslim sweetheart. Though at the time we were very close, slowly it dawned on me that in the long run things would get very complex… one of the basic differences in our faiths that posed a challenge from start was that in Islam marriage is a contract, whereas in Catholic it’s a sacrament, where two people are joined together till death.

Additionally, there are other sacraments like baptism, where it’s highly advisable for infants to be baptised, to rid them off of the original sin. So I found myself constantly wondering how we would resolve all the challenges arising from our different faiths if we ended up together… our children would be the ones to bear the brunt because they would be caught up right in the middle.

Then I thought of my friend; she could have been the fruit of a very strong love, but somehow she was caught in the middle, where I get the feeling she really yearns to have a present father in her life. I’m not sure I made the right decision, but I didn’t want to subject my children to all that.

My friend is one of the many people I know who grew up ‘fatherless’ and who seem to feel their lives would have turned out much better if their fathers had stuck around. However, knowing my dad and the life I’ve lived, I would beg to differ with her. Sometimes even when a parent sticks around, it’s not always a guarantee they’ll do good by their kids.

With my sisters and I for instance, we did grow up with our father, but I wouldn’t know where to start if I was to enumerate the pain and anguish he’s put us through.  Earlier today, he got into a heated exchange with my big sis. Thing is, when our small sis was opening school he gave her incomplete school fee, so my big sis made an arrangement with the school to have the money paid in instalments.

However, given how my dad’s mind works we could not tell him the money could be paid in parts because that would make him slack off next time since there would be no pressure to pay. Since she is a research assistant in her Alma Mater, she therefore told him she had a lecturer from her school loan her the money to clear the balance and dad agreed he was going to pay it back.

However, given that he was supposed to pay up today, he said he didn’t have the money. Distraught, my sis told him she was going to get in trouble with her lecturer, and the words that left dad’s mouth had me wishing I had a better dad. “Tell him you don’t have the money. He can have even go ahead and call the police on you”, he barked pitilessly. And I found myself wondering what kind of a father wished for their daughter to get arrested.

Interestingly, when he was arrested last December for drunk driving he was very quick to call mom so she could go bail him out. Then, he was so afraid of being locked up, yet today he didn’t seem to have any issue getting my sister arrested. I genuinely felt let down, because for some unfortunate reason, whenever dad has to come through for us; to act as a loving, protective father, he bails in a heartbeat; without the slightest hesitation.

Of finishing law school and dreaded goodbyes: Part 2

That evening I teared up all the way home. When my small sis opened the door she noticed how puffy my eyes were. “Did someone hurt you?” She turned my face sideways, scrutinizing it for slap marks or something of the sort. “I’m gonna cut a b*@!h,” she cursed. She was too concerned I might have gotten hurt to notice what I was carrying. Then I laughed, and she relaxed a bit.

Stealthily, I placed the gift bag on the nearest couch and thankfully, she headed to the kitchen to check on the food. A while later, my big sis came and I told them what had happened. By then the tears had stopped, though I could tell it wouldn’t take much for them to start again, since that sluice-gate had been officially opened.

Their reactions when they saw my portrait were not so different from mine. Though they didn’t cry, I could tell they were as moved as I was. “You have amazing classmates,” my big sis remarked. “Now we forgive them, for everything they put you through”.

Like I had told my classmates earlier, being nice is a choice we constantly make, even when we find ourselves pushed to the corner. Serving my class for four years had not been an easy task. Sometimes I had to deal with malevolent lecturers, and sometimes, it was just some difficult colleagues giving me a hard time…sometimes I came so close to throwing in the towel… and my family was there to see me through the motions.

One of the gifts I received was a custom made ‘thank you’ card. It had thank you notes from several colleagues and as I read the sweet messages, the tears that were already welling up in my eyes started flowing again. My class had made me feel so appreciated on such a grand scale… and the feeling was inexplicable.

I’ve gifted people severally, and I know how much time and effort it takes to find the perfect gift. One has to understand someone’s tastes, and preferences… and my classmates did that for me. That thought made me feel like I’d never stop crying.

“We gave you that portrait, so that everytime you look at it, you’ll remember how awesome you are,” my friend who had organised the surprise had told me. I knew I would never be able to thank them enough… and that saying about family, ‘Family’s not always blood. It’s the people in your life who make you feel loved and cherished’, came to mind… from law school, I had also acquired a new family. I went there, not knowing anyone, except for one friend, who was the school’s student leader… and as I left, I knew hundreds of students, who were now my family. I sincerely felt blessed.

The last few classes before we went to sit our final exams felt like our last bonding moments, and I couldn’t help the wave of nostalgia that engulfed me. I’ve always hated goodbyes… and after the surprise my classmates had treated me to, I knew when the time finally came, I would have the hardest of times saying goodbye to these people who I’d spent the last four years of my life with. Thankfully I had exams to keep my mind preoccupied, so I never got much time to think about the looming goodbye.

Eventually, we sat our last paper, but before we did, guys were reminded to hang around for a while because we were going to have a cake fest. Our professor, whose paper we had last, was invited and as he was about to cut the cake, he requested that I join him and my co-rep. Guys clapped and cheered, and as they dug in, that sad feeling that this would be the last time we were gathered in one class together hit me…

There was so much cake, and on a normal day I would have had a ball eating to my fill; however, nostalgia capped my appetite… I just had a tiny piece. Eventually, my friends and I left… on my way back home, I knew I should be happy that I had finished ‘the’ law school.

The workload over the years had been intense. I didn’t have a social life, and almost all my Christmases I spent reading… so this was an achievement to triumph over… Nonetheless, my feelings seemed to suggest the contrary. I felt happy and sad… excited and anxious… and the ‘not so happy’ feelings felt dominant.

The morning after, didn’t feel any different. I was still feeling pretty nostalgic. When I checked my phone, I found a very sweet text from my co-rep. He has never been the mushy type, so getting such a text from him, wasn’t an ordinary occurrence. He was thanking me for always having his back… his sentiments tugged at my heartstrings and I got all mushy. But I wasn’t gonna cry again… I cautioned myself.

When I checked my email, I found another sentimental mail from this classmate who was very quiet and laidback. He was also thanking me for making their life in law school simpler…before I could talk myself out of tearing up, tears were already flowing down my cheeks. That is how Saturday ended… with my classmates calling, texting and sending mail to thank me for being the best class president ever.

One thing I told one of my friends when he texted me was that, it’s true what they say, ‘Kindness begets kindness’. Therefore, if my classmates felt I was so humble and kind, it’s because they had been kind to me. I simply gave back, what they gave me.

So now that I’m done with Law school, I thank God profoundly, for the four years I’ve been there. Other than the legal knowledge I’ve acquired, I’ve made friends… acquired a whole new family… and above all, I have learned first-hand, the value of kindness and humility…

Of finishing law school and dreaded goodbyes: Part 1

These past couple of years I have been chasing after my law degree. It has been a real rollercoaster of emotions; anger, excitement and desperation, especially when trying to beat extremely tight deadlines. It has been a real struggle. However, last week Friday marked the end of all that, since I sat my last exam.

That said, these past few weeks have been very nostalgic for me. I have been interacting with the same people, most of whom have become my very close friends, for four long years. So it would go without saying that having to part ways with them was not the best of feelings. When my mind was not too preoccupied with the exam revision, I would find myself dreading the thought of having to say goodbye, when we finally sat our final paper.

Interestingly, the weeks leading to the finals didn’t make the looming goodbye less nostalgic. A week before we started our exams, my classmates decided to surprise me. A few days before, one of my friends requested to take my pic, explaining that she was creating an autograph book… sort of a personal year book. Hesitating, I accepted telling her how much I wanted to see the book when it was ready.

A couple of days later after class, the same friend made a quick announcement that guys shouldn’t leave just yet. At the time I didn’t know what was happening… so I watched as she made her way to the front of the class, a big gift bag in hand.

By then the entire class was watching, obviously with a touch of dramatic irony as I figured out later, since everyone was in on it. My friend proceeded to request me to step forward, which I did. A frown creased my forehead, my eyes a little squinted, as I tried to comprehend what was going on. Thankfully I found out a few seconds later.

As it turned out, the class had decided to express their gratitude for the role I had served as the class president since first year. I had not seen that coming, and the emotions that came with the realization were overwhelming.

Since I was elected class president, I did everything in my power to help anyone who needed my assistance. I didn’t ask for reward or any form of gratitude because deep down I felt very happy knowing I was helping someone. To me, the thought of seeing others happy made whatever sacrifices I had to make feel all worth it.

Therefore when I realized what my classmates were doing, the first thing that came to mind was how unnecessary it all was. I did not want them to feel like they owed me anything because every little thing I did, I did without expecting anything in return.

After giving a brief speech, my friend reached for the gift bag which she had placed on the floor, and she pulled out a gift that was nicely wrapped and handed it to me. At that point I had started getting really mushy and I could tell it wasn’t going to be long before my tears started… before I could open it, some classmates came, hugging me and telling me thank you.

However, majority of the class insisted I open the gift first, so I started unwrapping it. I could tell it was either a big photo frame, or a book… As I tore the last of the wrapper, guys went quiet… I figured everyone was eager to see my reaction. When I managed to open the gift, the first thing I saw was the back part of what seemed like a picture frame… just as I had guessed.

But lo, and behold! When I upturned it, the tears I had tried so hard to hold back gushed over my cheeks. Right in front of me, was a portrait of me… and the million thoughts triggered by that very personalised gift had me crying nicely… and at that point I didn’t care to stop them anymore. This was the same photo my friend had requested to take… only that someone had used it to make a pencil portrait of me…

My mind remotely registered people clapping and cheering; and before I could get over the surprise, guys were hugging and handing me more gifts. I think that was the best surprise of my life. After the first three gifts I stopped opening them. It was all so surreal.

Then when I had received all the gifts, I was asked to give a brief speech. It was all impromptu but I just spoke from my heart… “This was really unnecessary, because I have never expected anything in return. You usually say I’m so nice, but in all honesty, being nice is not always easy. It’s a choice we make. And with me, my desire has always been to make people happy… to make people’s lives easy in my own small way. Thank you so much. May God bless you all, so so much.”

My close friends were asked by some classmates to ensure I got home safe… and with everything intact. That only made me cry some more… Funny thing is that, a few days before, I’d been telling my two closest friends how I hate crying in public… guess I’d spoken too soon.

 

Height of Addiction

This weekend has been an intense emotional roller coaster, both for me, my mom and my sisters. A lot has happened, and it all stemmed from one misguided action… so basically what we’ve been experiencing is some sort of domino effect.

This past Friday, I was working on some school assignment in the evening when mom received a call from a friend. It was an urgent call. I could not hear what he was saying from the other end but the worry in mom’s voice made me guess all was not well. When she got off the phone, she came to talk to me.

Apparently, the friend had asked her to go get dad because he had been roughed up during a bar brawl. He’s been on his annual leave for the last three weeks and all he’s been doing is bonding with his favourite beer bottles. That’s all that seems to matter to him, sadly. That day he had left home early in the morning to go to the bar and he had come in around 2.00am drunk after spending the entire Thursday afternoon out.

As she asked me to accompany her to the bar dad had gone to, she sounded horrified. We did not know what state we were going to find him in so the anxiety was overwhelming. By the time I changed into decent clothes, mom had already left.

When I caught up with her, she was already with dad, who was sitted on the co-driver’s seat. My jaw dropped when I saw him. His clothes were all ruffled and muddy and he had this huge bleeding bump on his forehead. His left eye was red too. I had never seen him in that state before. Worst part was, he was so drunk so his words were coming out slurred… and at the time he seemed so calm and composed. It’s like he wasn’t aware of what was going on.

Seemingly, he was in some state of utopia where everything was all rosy. To mom and I though, it felt so humiliating. This was the head of our family; my father, and mom’s husband. A wave of anger engulfed me and at that moment I felt so much hatred towards him. He was tainting our family’s image; subjecting us to public ridicule.

Initially, I’d accompanied mom so we could drive him back home since he was clearly not in any position to drive. However, another one of mom’s friends had volunteered to drive him back home before I got there. After starting the car for him because he could not locate the cut-out, I stepped aside so he could reverse the car.

Some lady who was watching asked mom and I to get in the car but I refused. There was no way I was going to be seen with dad after the drama I imagined he had treated people to. I was so mad at him. Some guys, who I also imagined had witnessed the whole scuffle, advised us to take him to hospital first. That gave me chills, because I thought, guys fight all the time, but they don’t always go to hospital for it; unless it was serious.

This had me thinking that he might have suffered some internal injuries, God-forbid. Problem is, he was looking so unkempt. He had to get cleaned before we started displaying him in public again. So mom and I advised that guy to drive him home.

Since the bar wasn’t a long distance from home, mom and I just walked back. When we arrived we found dad standing outside the car. He couldn’t even walk unaided. Therefore, mom helped him up the steps as the friend was leaving. At first I had ignored him but mom called me to go roll the car windows up.

When I started going up the stairs, I noticed bloody footsteps and I panicked, wondering what part of dad’s body was bleeding. I got to the house and I told mom about it. She hadn’t even noticed it. A few hours later, dad’s leg was still bleeding and he didn’t want to be taken to hospital. His forehead on the other hand seemed like it had been stung by bees.

Exasperated, mom called his brothers, hoping they would convince him to go to hospital and eventually, he agreed. We learned from my uncle that our 3-year old nephew was suffering from acute pneumonia and had been admitted in hospital. My sisters and I decided to kill two birds with one stone: accompany dad to hospital and visit our nephew.

We left the hospital around 4.00am Saturday morning after tests, including a CT scan showed he was ok. Due to that disruption, now the school assignment I was working on is still incomplete and I feel so inconvenienced. Every time I keep thinking this was totally unnecessary and could have been avoided.

Dad on the other hand is home with a bandaged foot and forehead and he won’t say what happened to him. He says he fell down, although some people say he got into a fight. We don’t know how he acquired his injuries. All I know is that this has caused my family great humiliation. His siblings suggested it’s time he went to rehab but that won’t work if he is unwilling.

Since I’ve known dad, he’s always been best buddies with the bottle; and as we grow older, his love for the frothy liquid seems to grow alarmingly, while everything else crumbles. Though he won’t admit it, I can tell he’s already addicted and him quitting will take a miracle. After everything I’ve witnessed, and felt these past couple of days, I would advise anyone to stay away from alcohol. It has caused us so much pain and humiliation, and this could have been avoided altogether if dad could make better choices.

Of birthdays and milestones: Part 2

Where I’m at now, it feels like the sky is not the limit anymore…sad as that may sound… As it is, I’m all grown up so my dreams do not begin with, “When I grow up…” Nowadays, most of them start with, “God willing, when I get money…” In addition to that, even as I dream, I’ve slowly learned that not all dreams are viable; so again, unlike when I was a child, I try to be a bit pragmatic when I’m setting my own goals.

Now as I turn a year older, every birthday becomes a point of reflection, where I analyse the milestones I’ve made so far, and the dreams, which like my childhood sweetheart, have fallen by the way side. Anxiety sets in, when I feel like I’m growing older and I haven’t gotten where I want to be yet.

One interesting thing I’m starting to note about matters age is that where someone has achieved so many things… climbed great heights and all, they’re mostly termed, ‘young’. However, where one hasn’t achieved much, society perceives them as ‘old’. For instance, where one becomes a company’s CEO, say at 26, society views them as very young. On the other hand, where a person of the same age is working but hasn’t moved out of their parents’ house, they’re said to be ‘too old’.

The long and short of this is that, once a person leaves high school, everything they do will in one way or another be weighed on the ‘too old for…’ or ‘too young for…’ scale by society. And that’s just how it is, in my humble opinion.

Some of the very depressing movies I’ve watched in relation to age are ‘Ass Backwards’ and ‘Lifeguard’, starring Kristen Bell. For a young person growing up, these movies remind one that dreams might just be that, dreams! But God-forbid!

Looking back at the far I’ve come, I’m not sure what I would do differently if I could move back the hands of time… and this is not to mean that I have achieved everything I would have wanted so far. It’s just because, most things in my past were shaped by people who at the time wielded authority over me, say my parents… so it wasn’t about me making choices.

However, if I met my younger self, I would tell her not to worry too much because God’s always in control; and when you give Him time and room to work, He’ll take you, right where you need to be. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a very long time, and this is the one part of me I would wish was different. Nonetheless, I believe God doesn’t err. He made me this way for a reason.

For all the experiences that have caused me so much pain and anguish, I celebrate them. Because as they say, ‘We can’t have a rainbow without a little rain’… So as I turn a year older, I’ll continue to dream, because one thing I’ve learned these past few years is that God answers prayers. Furthermore, when you seek His guidance, He’ll align your will with His, so all dreams will be like great visions of what is to come.