Tears glistened the eyes of everyone that knew her. Family. Friends. We were all present to pay her the last honours. Handkerchiefs dabbed trails of left by tear drops on our faces. But not everyone cried. Some wore sober miens. Others seem to be in a celebratory mood, but they didn’t slap hands though. For it was an interment ceremony of a woman we so much admired, if not loved. Her death was not so much of a surprise to us but many were not eager to let her go, as she was an embodiment of human and divine virtue. It was not her first call from yonder. She had answered death’s call 2 years earlier, and was willing to not reject this second and last call. Not even her loving husband and three wonderful kids could deter her for she was too eager to leave our visible cosmos for a land she had glimpsed two years earlier.
We knew when the diagnosis was confirmed. Cancer! But she lived on like one whose skin was brushed by a harmless feather. Not a few in her local church were unaware that she had a ‘terminal disease’ for which she visited the doctors for treatment. The chemo drugs came handy from relatives in the US who battled to preserve her cells from the rampaging cells that have run amuck. They were merciless and wouldn’t allow the normal cells thrive and preserve the essence of life.
A day came. That day was a dark and dreary one. She was gone and the doctors had warned us. But the husband, a firebrand pastor in Ikeja Lagos wouldn’t give up his beloved wife to be pulled out of his embrace by the gnawing and vicious fangs of death. The first time I met him in the 1990s, I was amazed at his piety and depth of spirituality. He literally lived a ‘fasted and prayed-up life’ and you’d feel honoured if he accepts to dine and wine with your household. Yet he was full of humility and his voice only bellowed and quaked when he climbs the pulpit on Sundays or at midweek services. Though not a spiritually ostentatious man, it was a known secret that he fasted and prayed for ninety days before the started his church, after resigning from his academic post as a lecturer in Rivers State. Before then, he had been a toast of churches whose members felt revived whenever he ministered in their churches as a visiting evangelist.
Now his wife of about 10years had gone. She was his only companion as he is a very quiet and unassuming man and not too many will feel comfortable lounging at the abode of a quiet man. Not known to be a loser, he locked himself up, refused any consolation and pummeled heaven with prayers. He wouldn’t give up out of weariness. His heart groaned and his voice quaked as he offered intense and heaven-renting prayers all day. After long and chequered hours of travails and supplication, the cold body of his long-dead wife, began to warm up. In the manner of a well-rehearsed sequence of events, her eyelids flickered and opened, her legs twitched, fingers moved and her mouth then opened. She heaved a heavy sigh of disappointed.
‘Darl’ she managed to call, ‘why wouldn’t you let me be?”
Shouts of Hallelujah rent the air as everyone saw the miracle live. Shock waves ran down the spines of close family members and sympathizing friends who had called in to condole with the loving pastor.
“What a beautiful place I’ve been and you forcefully brought me back”. She seemed a bit disappointed to have been brought back to life, and was oblivious of how much sorrow her death had caused many that loved her. But the shouts of joy muffled her seeming protestations and people danced and praised God exuberantly. Truly they would for all their lifetime on earth believe in the power of answered prayers by those who ask in faith, and not waiver in unbelief. At least, the prayer warrior pastor had brought his wife back to life!
The excitement died down days after. Though her family members were happy to have her back, she seemed withdrawn from the daily realities of living on earth. At the Thanksgiving Service, she shared with the congregation about her ‘trip to heaven’ and the glorious things that she ‘saw’ which she would not exchange for all the pleasure, fame and wealth in this world. She announced that it was the fervent prayers of her pastor-husband that made the Gates of Splendour be shut against her. But she was determined to go back there sooner than later, hence her concept of ‘living on a borrowed life’. No one was surprised when she decided to discontinue her PhD studies to allow her support her pastor-husband on full-time ministry. She would have been the 4th among her siblings to earn a PhD had she not discontinued her studies.
Like a woman on a mission, she poured in her life into serving God, and being a blessing to people that crossed her part. She was one person that seemed to have a perpetual smile that exuded from her heart of love. Nothing seemed to bother her and everyone around felt and experienced pure and undiluted love. But we all didn’t understand the full import of the ‘borrowed life concept’ until that fateful day when the husband had gone on a week-long crusade in Port Harcourt. Maybe it was her best bet to avoid any more snags of her trip to paradise. That night, she slept but by morning, her nostrils didn’t give out a whiff of warm air. She was gone and there was no prayer warrior to wake her up from the eternal sleep.
The hubby felt the tension in his heart as he saw her wave him goodbye in his sleep. It was far more real than a fading vision or trance. He hit the floor again to pray earnestly like he’d always do, but the thickness of the heavenly shield seemed impenetrable to his pleadings and supplication. The Gates of Splendour had admitted his wife, help-mate and confidante. Before the sun’s rays signaled the break of dawn, the news of her death roused him from his sleep. His loss was heaven’s gain. His loss was ostensibly our gain for we saw how truly a life can be poured in the loving service of God and others.
At the funeral which I attended with a friend who also was battling with cancer, the husband encouraged everyone to take a cue from the wife, by ‘living on a borrowed life’. I have not yet forgotten though this true-life story was played out before my eyes in 2003. She was a true auntie, and her husband has not remarried as he is yet to meet another woman like her yet!
NB: This is based on a true-life story.