This morning, father prayed about our family being favored to see the morning while others died because they didn’t have the grace of God.
I didn’t say Amen.
Not because I wasn’t thankful for my life being “spared.” I simply remembered my Aunt, Ebere, who died in the Sosoliso air crash.
She was my best Aunt.
My favorite among father’s longthroat sisters. She’d buy me Nasco biscuits. My best flavors were Banana and Strawberry. And when mother said she was spoiling me, she’d smile and say “o so kwa buru nwam.”
That I was her child too.
Although she was Mama’s age, she wasn’t married, and father was becoming increasingly worried that nobody was coming to ask for her hand. He was so worried in fact that he persuaded her to start attending the “It Is my Time” program at some prayer house close by. Even though we are catholics, father says he doesn’t want sme-sme prayers—a term he uses to describe slow, drab prayers, like the Rosary. So, when some people from the church started a prayer group two houses away, father was always there.
When Aunty Ebere started attending the prayer meetings, she stopped buying me Nasco biscuits. She said I was eating too much biscuit and eating too much is gluttony. “Gluttony is a great sin,” she’d say.
“The lord hates sinners. His grace would not abound with them.” She always said that part loudly.
“Grace would not abound.”
My trousers too became a sin. She said God wants them to be worn only by boys.
Talking, Walking, Dancing.
Everything became a sin.
She changed from a fun-loving woman to a desperately anxious woman. It was as though my aunt had been swapped in her prayer house and replaced with an overzealous religious fanatic.
The day I failed my maths test in school, she said I failed because I wasn’t paying my tithe, and so I didn’t have the grace of God to pass. Mother laughed. The way she’d laugh when we said something silly. But It didn’t seem like a joke.
Aunty Ebere never joked with things like that.
There were times when I attended the Block Rosary devotions just to say the rosary on her behalf. Father says the virgin Mary would always intercede when we pray. So I begged the virgin Mary to help Aunty Ebere get married.
4 months passed and nothing happened. No suitors, nothing. Father called a meeting with his sisters. Someone at the prayer group had told him the holy spirit revealed that one of them had made a charm to ward men away from Aunty Ebere. They all stared in surprise as father stopped talking. Aunty Ifeoma, the short one who walked with a limp, stood up and hissed.
‘O dika isi agbakala gi.
“It seems knot commot for your head,” she shouted as she stormed out of the house. Mama and I stood by the kitchen door, watching them.
One by one they all left. The six of them. Aunty Ebere kept shouting that their plans would never work. That her God was more powerful than any of their herbalists.
Two weeks after, I was in the verandah when she told father she had been seeing someone she met at work and that she needed his prayers to know if he was the One. Father’s face changed immediately. He smiled and did a little dance, boasting about how his God never fails. He appeared to be even more excited than Aunty Ebere.
That day, for the first time in a long while, Aunty Ebere bought me Nasco biscuit and said she’d bring him the next day.
That was his name. But I called him Uncle Emeka. He was a tall, bulky man with a beard that reminded me of the young priest in church who always stared at me. Aunty Ebere held him every time as though she were trying to leave her scent on him. Or perhaps she was trying to show us how much she loved him.
Father said his spirit agreed with Uncle Emeka.
And then that was the last time I saw Aunty Ebere.
When she called Mother that she was going to Abuja for an official assignment, I asked her to buy me dresses. Flowery ones. She kept laughing like she was having a hard time understanding what dresses meant.
‘They said the plane crashed around evening from technical faults.”
Mother was heaving with sobs as she broke the news to me.
Father said it was God’s wish. That God gave her to us and has taken her back to a better place.
All this time, I never asked about what God truly ever wanted. I never believed God would cause accidents just so he could take someone.
Were they without grace?
Was it a punishment or a reward?
And so when father said it wasn’t by our power and might but by God’s grace that we were alive, I asked God either to take his grace or make it more reliable.
Image by jwltr freiburg via Flickr
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