Sunday, January 28, 2018



There remained only nine days before Levi would die, the medical experts had predicted.

Levi sat in his veranda, using his eyes to scan his compound, pondering where he would be buried when he died. He thought about how befitting his burial would be, and then realized that since he asked his wife to sell most of his valuable property, and there was nothing left in the family, he would be buried like a poor church rat.

He called Fabian in a croaked voice, and showed him where he wanted to be buried. Pointing at the place, "You see that cocoa nut tree, beneath it is where I want you to bury me, if your cousin fails to return. Who knows how he has been managing?" Levi asked.

"Father, you are not dying yet. You still have many years to live," said Fabian, "forget about what the doctors said. Haven't you read from the Bible where it asks, “Who is the man that says and it comes to pass when the Lord has not spoken?"

"Fabian," Levi called, "I think you are right. These days you people have been quoting Scriptures right. I think the right drug for a sickness is a comforting word; it heals a broken heart. If I have followed what some people said, I would have decided to commit suicide. How will a doctor tell a patient that he will die?" Levi moaned.

A few minutes later, Mildred came with a phone to give to Levi to speak with Dominic, his nephew. Levi was delighted to hear his nephew's voice, and they exchanged their pleasantries before Dominic began to ask him how serious the illness was. Though Dominic knew that sickness was serious, he still assured his uncle that all would be well. He promised to contact Nigerian nurses who would give him a proper treatment.

The conversation broke down when Levi began to cough. Then Dominic realized how severe the sickness was, and he wept bitterly.

Mildred picked up the phone, while Fabian and Adanta attended to Levi.

"Dad was taken to the General Teaching Hospital for diagnosis," said Mildred. "They discovered he is suffering from lung cancer, as the result of smoking and the snorting of snuff. Mum has sold our dad's Nissan Almera SE and other valuable property for the cure of Dad's health, and yet no improvement. We tried to reach you on phone, but no one has your new international number, since you said your old number was blocked. Please, Domi, see what you can do to ensure that our dad's health is restored. As I'm speaking with you right now, we are away from the hospital. Doctors said Dad has only ten days to live, starting from the day he was discharged from the hospital. No one is giving him medical care, except the drugs the doctors gave to Mum to give to him until he dies," Mildred groaned.

"The problem is that our dad doesn't listen to us," said Dominic. "When he was young, we used to tell him not to smoke, drink and use snuffing. See the sad effects of what he had accumulated. Nevertheless, we tried to do something before it is too late. Here in America, there are many lung cancer patients who have been living for more than five years. Even in Australia, such patients would be sent home under the care of palliative nurses like Silver Chain. I really wonder why our doctors would ignore treating Dad, instead giving him sad news that he will die. Who told them?" Dominic asked.

"Not only doctors from our country,” said Mildred, "medical experts from India and US affirmed that death is hanging at the neck of Dad with its knife to slay him.”

"Then, one thing is clear: we will not do anything without God," Dominic said, "we'll continue to pray, and by this, the world will know that we are born for signs and wonders."

Dominic asked Mildred to give the phone to Adanta to speak with her. Adanta could not utter any word because of her sorrow. She wept as she saw the deplorable condition of her husband.

Dominic decided to speak with Fabian later, as he was busy attending to Levi. Thereafter, two women in white garments came to Levi’s house. They introduced themselves as nurses from Emma's Specialist Hospital sent by Dominic to treat Levi, his uncle. Ann, one of the nurses, took measurements chest to determine his body temperature, while Lilian, the other nurse, engaged herself consoling her daughter that her husband would be alright.
Nurse Lilian later joined Ann in checking Levi’s body temperature. They discovered that Levi's blood pressure was high. Ann injected Levi with a medicine so his blood pressure could be reduced to the normal level. After a while, the nurses gave Levi drugs that would sustain him, because no one who had ever suffered lung cancer survived. The nurses knew it as well. They only wanted to prolong Levi's life.

"Sir, we are through with you for today, and we have prayed that nothing will happen to you," the nurses said.

"Young ladies," Levi asked, “How will you go without giving me your bill? Is the treatment for free?" 

"As we have said before, Dominic, your nephew, is taking care of the bill. What we'll do is to keep a copy of the bill with you, and send one to him, though he has already paid us some money for your treatment," the nurses grimaced and then left.

After a while, Adanta looked at her husband's face and found that there was still a ray of life in him. Her grief was a bit relieved. She allowed Levi to sleep, and she went to talk with her children. She met them at the veranda where I was also sitting, talking about the admirable deeds that Dominic had done in rescuing their father.

"My children, today marked the restoration of joy in our family. For many days now, our family knew no joy nor happiness. We have been living in pains and fear with endless sleepless nights. Now we have cause to give God all the glory," Adanta said.

"Mum, there is God!" Mildred said.

"Yes, we know, and we should also thank Domi for sending those nurses to treat Father," Fabian urged.

“There are really specialists who know the right drugs for patients. Can you see that your dad is no longer complaining of chest pain again, and he can sleep now unlike before?" Adanta asked.

"Mum," Fabian remarked, "don’t you see that Father is responsible for his sickness? When he was young, he could drink ten bottles of alcohol in a day."

"And not only that, he smoked,” Mildred added.

Levi was a renowned drunkard, and he smoked beyond his capacity, which had badly damaged his lungs.

There was a day he came back home drunk. It was around 6:00 p.m., after scolding his wife in a loud voice, he then bathed and went to bed. He slept, and woke up around 8:00 p.m., and yet he was under the influence and stupor of alcohol.

Since it was night, he thought it was the beginning of the dawn, and the sky was gloomy ready for a downpour. He called his wife for them to pray that it was time for God to destroy the world. He asked his wife whether it was how the weather used to be, and yet students had never started going to school.
Though Adanta knew that Levi was drunk, she joined him in prayer to avoid being beaten. While they were praying, Fabian and Mildred were outside laughing, and believed that none of them would sleep that night. Levi would be disturbing everyone in the family.

Once Levi had ended his prayers with his wife, he came out and was still complaining that the sky was heavy for rain. He saw Mildred coming out of the toilet room that night, and greeted her, "Good morning."

Mildred then smiled, believing that her dad had miscalculated time. At this time, Mildred knew that her dad would not stir up quarreling with her mum. This was because the level of the alcoholic influence over him was mild. Whenever the drinking gauge of her dad was mild, he played with everyone; beyond that usually resulted in war and his destruction of property.

At times, Levi would drink to such an extent that his eyeballs would turn to red like those of a hen laying eggs. When he was such a state, none in the family would dare talk to him. The worst part of it was that whether Adanta avoided him or not, he would look for a way to beat her up and command her to pack all her belongings and go back to her parents' home.

This disturbed Fabian and Mildred greatly, and Levi would never admit that he was drunk.

"No drunkard would admit that he is drunk," Fabian would say.

Adanta would bring food for Levi, who would be under the stupor of alcohol, sitting on a large stone with his eyes closed. He would use his hand to seize the plate of foofoo, and then make a ball of it with his right palm. While his eyes were closed, he would stumble with the plate of soup, and could not connect with the soup. He would become like someone eating from the ground, and then he would immediately open his eyes.

Fabian considered such behavior stupid. He would, together with Mildred, talk to his father about the shame Levi was bringing to the family. This was true because no one would be glad to have a drunk as a father.

"Dad, how long before you stop drinking alcohol?" Fabian asked, "I ask because no one respects the family of drunken father, and whenever we are with folks, I find it so difficult to condemn the drunks and their attitudes while you are one of them."

"Your dad is not a drunk," said Levi, "but what you need to know is that I have a light brain, I don't take more than four small bottles of alcohol."

Levi was a man who had a light brain, but could not control himself whenever he saw a bottle of wine sparkling. This had gone to the extent that he didn't like drinking soft drinks, and he considered them as what caused diabetes. If he would try to drink Maltina or Fanta (soft drinks), he would make sure that he had added a drop of alcohol to it, and then smoked his pipe.

Levi had one day rejected a nice wine that Fabian bought for him. Though when he saw the wine sparkling in the bottle, he thought that it contained alcohol, and therefore he opened it. When a drop of it entered his mouth, he spat it, and then called Fabian to collect his wine. While Levi was avoiding drinking soft drinks, he considered himself to be trying to avoid contracting diabetes.

Adanta and her children had wanted to stop him drinking alcohol. They were happy that Levi had completely stopped drinking when people got the rumors that Kaikai, a local gin was killing people because people were allegedly found using ethanol to produce it, and Levi became afraid to drink it again.
That did not stop him from drinking foreign alcoholic wines, and intaking tobacco, cigarettes, and snuff. When he moved onto such stupor, he would begin to misbehave with women around him, and he would not come back to his house with money, because those women would take advantage of his drinking, and then collect everything from him. This was how Emilia outwitted him since her husband died. And any woman who knew when he had money would invite him into her house, and gave him wine. Immediately, the wine began to disrupt his brain, and the woman would request money from him, and surely, Levi would give.

This inordinate but unnecessary spending of money caused Levi not to execute all he had planned to achieve. It was out of luck that he sent Dominic to America. He could have done more than this before this sickness came up.
Now, Fabian and other members of the family were no longer happy about the health of their dad, not only that he was suffering from lung cancer, but also could not remember anything, including ay discussion he had previously with someone. Mildred, who had been working to gain admission to study medicine and surgery, said that her dad was now suffering from a memory loss.
Mildred was able to identify alcohol, tobacco, and smoking as the major causes of memory loss before she brought her biology textbook to find out other causes of memory loss, such as head injury and stroke. She knew that her dad had never had a head injury or stroke.

Adanta did not think the causes of Levi's loss of memory were alcohol or smoking. She maintained that the memory loss was occasioned by stress, depression, and sleep deprivation. She knew, like a psychologist, that since Levi had been reported a lung cancer patient, he had been depressed, both mentally and emotionally, which had caused him endless sleepless nights. She therefore believed that as soon as Levi's health improved, he would straightaway regain his memory.

"We have lost dad, as he has memory loss," Mildred said. "We should not allow this particular ailment get us distracted. Our main concern is this cancer that has marooned him, leaving him in a depressed state. One thing about a memory loss patient is that he can still remember what had happened a long time ago, but cannot recall recent present happenings", Mildred affirmed.

Adanta responded, "My dear children, I was thinking that your father is suffering from one sickness, and I didn't know that all the sicknesses and diseases have teamed up to snatch your father from us. To me, I'm tired. I know the hell I went through before I could obtain the one million naira I paid to the hospital we came from, not counting the little money we had spent in the various medical centers where we took him to.

“What has demoralized my spirit is the decision the medical experts have taken to bring your dad home. If a patient is brought home uncured from the hospital, what would be the patient's fate? Nothing more than death. Thank God that the Minister for Health has reported that the decision which the doctors have taken by sending your dad back home is unjust and is against medical ethics. However, in his speech, he affirmed that the doctors have seen the condition of the patient and didn't want to be bothering the relatives of the patient for money since afterwards the patient will die."

"Let all be hopeful," said Mildred. "The words of Domi keep resonating in my mind, ‘by this, the world may know that we are born for signs and wonders.’ Now, I think, we need not put our hope in doctors, but God. With Him, everything is possible."

"I'm speechless to see sickness sapping Dad's strength, but one thing about him is that despite these pains and the grief he is experiencing now, he still believes that all will be well," Fabian moaned.

Adanta then went to Levi's room with me where Levi was sleeping. 

Unfortunately, we discovered that Levi was breathless. We wept, and a drop of Adanta's tears fell on the late Levi. As I wept, Adanta raised an alarm for her children that their father was no more. Fabian and Mildred ran to the room and saw Levi dead.

I then saw many faces that had never visited Levi when he was sick come to see what was happening. I looked at them, thinking that I would see some of my church members, but saw none.

I then said that if the church members failed to show up now that Levi had finally given up the ghost, that I would report them to the bishop. Thereafter, there was an emergency meeting of the elders of the land, and immediate arrangement was made to carry the corpse to a morgue until Dominic returned from US.

Before the lifeless body was conveyed to the morgue, Mildred called Dominic on the phone. Dominic answered the phone and thought that Mildred was to give him feedback about his father's health, since he had sent some nurses to take care of him.

Unfortunately, Dominic got the sad news, fainted, and then could not utter a word on the phone.

Mildred kept on saying, "Hello, hello, hello" several times.

I became confused, thinking possibly that Dominic was grieved to hear the news about his uncle's death or the network was extremely poor.

Sympathizers who gathered blamed Mildred for informing Dominic in the manner she did. However, none of us knew what happened to Dominic, so we were all speculating about the cause of his inability to respond.

Suddenly, Fabian's phone rang, and I thought it was Dominic calling.

Fabian, a little relieved, picked up the call, answering, "Hello, Domi."

It wasn't Dominic himself calling. The US lady made the call and reported that Dominic had just fainted after receiving sad news from one of his relations.

"Hello, I'm Rebecca Silver calling from US. I hope I'm speaking with Fabian, a cousin of Dominic?
"Yes, you are right. I'm Fabian.”

"Right," said Rebecca, "I've seen calls from Nigeria, and the last caller who spoke with Dominic is Mildred, who seems to be Dominic's sister."

"That is right. Mildred is his sister," Fabian answered
"OK, I'm sorry to inform you that Dominic fainted after receiving shocking news about his uncle's death from Mildred. Right now, he is receiving medical care," Rebecca said.

Thereafter, Fabian's countenance became pale. He did not let anyone know what had happened. For now, he did not know whether to think about the death of his father or about the health of his cousin. He felt his head spinning due to the accumulated grief and sorrow. He recalled what his father had said: that when he died, no one should cry for him because he knew that he was going to see God face-to-face. This made Fabian calm his mother and sister down, telling them not to make a mournful groan nor a grieving lamentation; the sympathizers were struck with awe to see none of Levi's family members crying, though Adanta's heart was sore and was inflamed by sorrows.

"Levi, you have gone to where you came from," Adanta moaned, "not that none gave you medical treatment, even after the doctors rejected you; we still tried our best to ensure your survival, but after everything, death stole your very soul from us. I have reasons to cry for you. First, your death has created a vacuum in the family. We can no longer enjoy your lovely stories, and second, we felt secure whenever you were around us, but now you are no more, our security is now uncertain. What an irreplaceable loss! I hope that your God will accept your soul, as you repented before dying. However, I will not cry like a person with no hope of resurrection. I say dear husband, rest in peace as death has healed you, and parted us. Yes, death has proven that God heals the sickness that proves stubborn to doctors".

A few minutes later, an ambulance came to carry the cadaver. The ambulance attendant left immediately. Though the cadaver had been carried to the morgue, Fabian and Mildred did not show any sign of grief. in  Each of them was affected by their dad's death.

Mildred thought about her education. To her, all hope was lost because her mother could not carry the responsibility unless Dominic would help her to study medicine and surgery. This was her ray of hope, as though a prisoner in trouble, hoping to be released. So, Mildred thought about what she was about to face as her dad was no more, and then she shook her head and exclaimed, "It's well,"

Fabian, who had joined the ambulance man to put the corpse in the morgue, was inside the ambulance and remembered that his life had been ruined because his dad did not live to bless his union before dying. There was a prophecy that said Fabian would not succeed in his nuptial union unless the union was blessed by his father.

"Aha, the grief of my dad's sickness and death has made me forget about a prophecy spoken on me," Fabian cried. "What will I do now since my dad is dead. I'm undone!"

As Fabian was groaning about his apparent predicament, the driver did not utter a word of comfort, since he was carrying a cadaver. He believed that no one should talk while carrying a corpse, though he felt for Fabian.
After depositing the corpse in the mortuary, Fabian returned home with a tally the morticians gave to him. The tally served as a receipt for the deceased, and must be presented the day the deceased would be carried away from the mortuary.

When Cornell heard that Levi was dead, he was a bit glad because he saw Levi as a barrier to his union with Mildred. He thought that since Levi was dead, the chance of wooing Mildred would be better. He then strengthened himself with tobacco and local gin, and went to console Mildred and her family.

Different faces crowded Levi's compound, including Rodwell. While Cornel's intention was to woo Mildred, Rodwell's was to ask Adanta to forget about what the burial would cost. This assurance of helping her bury her husband was to allure Adanta again into accepting him.

Adanta was not pleased to accept Rodwell's assistance. Rodwell had let people know about the amorous advances which he had forced upon her when her husband was in the hospital. Almost everyone knew that Rodwell gave Adanta half a million naira before doctors could begin to treat Levi. Therefore, Adanta vehemently rejected Rodwell's offer.

"Away with your money," said Adanta, "I dare not ask you for help; your money will not help me to forget about the colossal loss. For what reason do you want to help me? I'm not your wife. Nor no man in Africa like you could do any favor for a woman and demand nothing from her. I begged for help from you when I needed it most, but you insisted that I should sleep with you. Thereafter, you made a mockery of it. I want to tell you that I'm a fully born-again Christian. I have denounced such immoral acts and have embraced Christ. It is only a fool that will see a blazing of fire and put his fingers in it," Adanta said, crying bitterly.

"I'm sorry about that," said Rodwell. "Since I realized that you could not show up anymore, I then decided to make a public pronouncement of it. We can also forge ahead with the relationship, since Levi, your legal husband, is no more. Besides, what separates couples is death. Levi has no legitimate right over you anymore. Don't allow your creamy body to wither away like a withering grass in a blistering field," he pleaded.

A few hours later, the mortuary van arrived, along with police officers. Cornell thought Dominic had returned from US. with police as his bodyguards. He waited to see Dominic come out from one of the vans.

As Fabian stepped out of the house, the ambulance man then pointed his hand on him, signaling that he was the person that brought Levi to the morgue.

"Are you Fabian, the son of Levi?" the police officer asked. 

“Yes, I am,” replied Fabian.

“Then you are under arrest for bringing a living man for embalmment,” said the officer.

"No," replied Fabian, "my father was dead, and that is why he was brought to the mortuary. If he was alive, what would make the ambulance man to take him to the morgue, the first thing he would have done was to confirm whether he was still breathing, or he was completely lifeless".

The police officer was touched, and then he granted Fabian relief. The police, however, went inside the police van and opened the door for Levi to come out; thereafter, they drove away.

People who saw Levi could not believe it. Some thought that it was his ghost, while other believed he was the one. They marveled at this miraculous work of God. Looking at Adanta’s face, it sparkled with a blend of sadness and gladness. She was partly sad because, Levi had risen from the dead, though he was not healed. As Levi came into his house, he wept. "I have seen those who came for my funeral," said Levi, "those who mourned for my departure, and those who valued my existence. Cry no more. I expected a sad farewell from nobody. For now, I am willing to embrace death when it comes. This should be what every thinking human being ought to approach death. Accept it if you have made a right relationship with God. Since all the period of my pain and grief, my relationship with God is absolutely cordial. I have learnt a lot, and my spirit bears me witness that I will not die. This sickness will not kill me. Since I have returned from the valley of dry bones, my storm is over.

“And I want to expose one secret sin existing in the mortuary.  As I opened my eyes in the mortuary, I saw a man mounting a young fair lady that was brought to them few hours later after my arrival. I was speechless when at first I thought he was an evil monster as everywhere was crowded with corpses. Out of fear, I groaned, the man dismounted her. I realized that such men – morticians –are no longer human beings. They do no longer have consciences. They have a room where they first deposit any fair lady corpse who dies a sudden death. They use them first before putting them to the general whalehouse of corpses. No one knows if what they did is for a rightful purpose.

“As I moaned in fear, the man came to me, and made a lot of promises to me if I would not expose what he did in the mortuary, though as he made his unfulfilled promises, I also promised not to expose him so that he would not kill me and then put me back in the cold room, since it was confirmed by my people that I was dead, no wonder that they came along with some police officers to arrest Fabian that he brought them a living man for embalmment.

“Though, it could be because of their heinous crime that I have discovered that made them, by coming to arrest Fabian, to protect their image, I think when someone dies, he or she should be given some time before carrying him/her to the morgue. This is true, because those morticians are heartless towards the cadavers given under their care. There are people who would have regained their lives after death, but the way they throw the bodies makes some who would come to life remain permanently lifeless.

“Also, some people who regain their lives are at times beaten to death so that the morticians would not lose the money that would be given to them by the owners of such a fellow. If not that I and my children are born for signs and wonders, I would have still remained in the morgue," Levi moaned.

Since it was getting toward dusk, sympathizers began to leave one after the other. Cornell and Rodwell were not happy to see that Levi was alive, as they wanted him dead in order to get what they desired. However, they still hoped that Levi would soon die.

"Whoever suffers from long careers is at the door post of his grave,” Cornell yelled.

“Yes,” replied Rodwell, “and he should be willing to forsake whatever he owns, property and wife.”

“And his best, charming daughters," Cornell added, as he was making another plan to marry Bianca in case Mildred failed to marry him. He had heard from Levi the reason he was not allowed to marry her. Though he didn’t understand about Mildred’s sudden change of attitude towards him. He thought perhaps Mildred had known that he had amorous feelings towards Bianca, the daughter of Rodwell. Rodwell had never had an idea that Cornell was in mutual amorous dispositions with his daughter. If he knew, he would not accept him marrying his daughter on the basis that he didn’t like him.

Really, no right-thinking man would give out his daughter in marriage with an irresponsible drunk like Cornell. But one thing about Cornell was that he had enough money, and could lavish it on women. He had wasted his money on women, but this time around, he wanted a wife seriously. He didn’t want to marry one of the women that he had spoiled and women of good manners feared to marry him; not only that, he always got drunk, but no one knew about the source of his income.

Cornell had built a nice five-bedroom house and had also bought cars. He wasn’t a civil servant. He only bought pieces of red cloths, and a small clay pot and then constituted his own shrine. He was a servant of his father, Hullquist, who was a native doctor too.

People believed that Cornell was more powerful than his father, and so his father’s clients devoted much of their interest to him, Cornell. There was a rumor that had spread that he did occultic job for kidnappers so that no gun bullets would touch them. This kind of mystic work or service had made Cornell rich beyond peoples’ expectations. He had before tried to charm Levi into accepting him to marry Mildred. The first day he did it, Levi was speechless, until Cornell left his house.

At times, Levi would complain that any time Cornell came to his house, he would not feel at ease, unless he said “the blood of Jesus.” Once Levi said “the blood of Jesus,” Cornell's charm would not work again; though Levi did not know what Cornell was doing, he usually warned him not to come to his house again or to think of marrying Mildred.

“Young man, how many times have I warned you not to come to my house," Levi asked, "because each time you come, I never feel at ease? My daughter is not for you, and I can never be your father in-law,"

"Sir, with little conversation and interviews that I have had with your pretty daughter,” said Opete, “I realize that you are the only barrier against this union. Though Cornell is a drunk, with the influence of your daughter, he will be reformed. Don’t you know that there are women who are reformers? Your most respected pretty damsel is one of them. Please sir, give me Mildred or I die".

As Rodwell had walked towards his own place, Cornell got a cyclist and then went back to his community, with many things in his mind. As times, if he wanted to stop thinking, he would light up his pipe and then smoke it. Smoking and drinking had become part of him.


This touching novella, by Nigerian writer Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, via his firm, 

It will be serialized in this blog over the next several weeks.

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