Sunday, February 18, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? Acknowledgments, Preface






ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I have a long list of people to thank for getting this book out, but I have to begin with my editor, Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper.

Not only has he typed this from my long, weekly scribbles and spent lots of time teaching me how to be a better writer, he also provided much love and concern when I was struggling either with writing or life in general.

There were many Friday mornings (our usual meeting times), that I had to vent about something before I could actually concentrate on the work that we had to do at that appointment.

He sat there patiently, listening to what was bothering me that day (problems with “Aiden” – an ex you’ll read about later – my mother's ailments, my dog's health, my health, and on and on and on).

After I was done with this venting, he'd carefully help me feel better about it all. Sometimes, he'd “take Aiden's side” and others, he would agree with me, that whatever Aiden had done or said was hurtful.

Dr. Cooper would also help me calm down if I was upset about not being able to take better care of my mother, or if I was scared about something regarding my dog Happy.

He helped me relax when I'd get bad news from various doctors (ulcers, skin cancers, back pains, bladder problems, tendinosis, etc.).

All of this going on at the same time was sometimes just too much for me. But, his gentle soul always brought clarity and calmness to our meetings (and he even allowed my dog Happy to accompany us at his house and at the office where we met), and so I got it done. I'll always be thankful to him for that.

And I will forever say, he's the ONLY man, since my childhood, that I allowed to correct me! All others before Dr. Cooper tried and failed!

As for everyone else, the list is too long to present. The people that have helped me are written about in here. There are just too many to count, and anyway, I want you to get started reading my story!

Finally, I have to thank God. If not for Him saving my life, I wouldn't be here to write a memoir. To Him be all my gratefulness….






PREFACE

To copy a sentence from my editor's memoir – why am I writing this memoir? So, why am I?

The answer for me is pretty simple. If I, a former special education teacher, who taught more than one child with a brain injury, knew as little about brain injury as I did before my own (damaged temporal and frontal lobes), then more work had to be done to get the information out there.

I am no expert when it comes to research or technology as far as the brain is concerned. What I am an expert in is what happened to me, what is still taking place to this very day, and what I have learned from many others with brain injuries. And I know there are many others with brain injuries like me. From 2007-2013, the rate of brain injury increased 50%, hitting a record level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the New York State Department of Health, “In New York State, more than 500 people sustain a brain injury each day. Prevalence is estimated to be 50% higher than reported.”

According to other sources I’ve read, elderly people are particularly vulnerable, as they have a high likelihood of falling, possibly causing a brain injury.

And as a side note, more and more famous people are being diagnosed with brain tumors and diseases. The ones that have been reported at the time of this writing (summer, 2017), include: ice skating champion Scott Hamilton; U.S. Senator John McCain; TV host Maria Menounos; comedian Jim Gaffigan’s wife, Jeannie, a comedy writer; and former New York State Congressman, Maurice Hinchey. I wish all of them, and everyone else with these scary diagnoses, the best of health.

As for me, I know how easily “bruised” I become with others' careless wording. I know how triggered I am by thoughtless questions (such as, “Why are you wearing sunglasses inside?” to name one of the too-many examples that take place daily; you’ll read why I do here).

I realize that I'm very high-functioning as far as brain injury comparisons. However, there are many of us that, though we “walk-the-walk” and “talk-the-talk,” there is much going on inside of our brains that gets us “off course” and thus, bothersome to certain other people who don't “get it” and therefore steer clear of us.

That's why I had to do this: so, hopefully, caregivers, family members, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and/or former colleagues, fellow church-goers, and everyone else, can try to help those of us with this condition to navigate life as well as we can, now that our lives will never be the same, after this injury.

I don't expect this book to be a bestseller. I know it’s not in chronological order. Within chapters, stories go back and forth. Some stories and/or information is repeated. My memory is choppy. Some details are sharp, others vague or missing. Even so, what I do hope is that people will learn how to take better care of someone who has a brain injury.

As I compiled this preface, I met someone for the first time who told me how her doctors told her to “steer clear” of a family member of hers whose brain was injured in a car accident, because of how much of a toll that brain-injured family member was taking on this person.

I really gave that story a lot of thought, and that's why it's here in my preface. If a doctor is counseling his/her patient to “steer clear” of a family member with a brain injury, then who is going to help that brain-injured person in need of love and warmth, when its needed most?

Shouldn't the doctor help find solutions to the problems within the family that are due to someone's injured brain, rather than take the easy way out and just advise the others to avoid the person?

As the highly knowledgeable Dr. Travis Stork stated on his television show The Doctors, “…brain damage, particularly in the frontal region…can control…judgment, impulse control, memory, social behavior….” [My brain damage includes this frontal region, and I have problems with everything he listed.]

As a brain injury expert from New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, Wayne Gordon, said with respect to treating prison inmates, “You need to train the correction officers to understand brain injuries so that when somebody may be acting rude or answering back or forgetting what they’re supposed to do, it’s not a sign of maladaptive behavior or disrespect, it’s a sign of a brain injury.”

We all need love, whether we're healthy or not. People with brain injuries, mental health issues, and other behavior problems need just as much attention as (if not more than) those without such problems because their behaviors can lead to detrimental societal issues, on a large scale, and to terrible family disruptions, on a smaller scale.

So, please, show some love right now to someone you know that is not well emotionally. Whatever the reason, just be there for them, even if it's just simply saying, “I love you.” Words that are warm can truly lift someone's spirit when that person is in a dark place.

And the dark place is where our brains take us if we're not careful. We, the brain-injured, need help getting on with our lives in as positive a way as possible. Please lead us there in a calm and gentle way. Show us the love even though sometimes we can be very difficult to be around.

I can't believe I'm about to suggest this, considering I was mysophobic (which is explained in great detail here in this book), but how about a simple hug now and again? Hugs can really help calm the inner turmoil that is bubbling and brewing below the surface in the brain-injured's mind.

I know one day I received three hugs from a woman named Hilary that I had just met because I was volunteering at church with her little four-year-old son. Those hugs helped me mentally later on in the day when I dealt with one more doctor’s appointment. It's amazing what may seem a small gesture to you might leave a big impact on the receiver. [But always remember to ask if the person would like a hug. I shrieked when others tried to touch me when I was afraid of germs. You’ll understand that as you read my book.]

Now – about my fear of making enemies since I decided to write this candid book. Author Judith Barrington in her Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art stated sentences that I'm going to use because I'm sure that some of the things I told in my chapters are not how others remember them. I did my best to tell it all as I remember it taking place, but there will be one (or more than one) story that someone doesn't remember quite like that. But, I did my very best in truth-telling.

So – here's Ms. Barrington's paragraph. It could not be better stated than this, and I knew when I read it the first time (January 2016) it would end up here to be repeated: “As soon as I started to write about my own life, I understood that to speak honestly about family and community is to step way out of line, to risk accusations of betrayal, and to shoulder the burden of being the one who blows the whistle on the myths that families and communities create to protect themselves from painful truths. This threat was like a great shadow lurking at the corner of my vision, as it is for anyone who approaches this task, even before the writing leads them into sticky territory.”

And “sticky territory” it was. I threw my pen more than once when I was remembering a story from my life and then writing it here, because the floodgates opened in my head of various bad and/or sad memories. One gut-wrenching aspect of my life story is the domestic violence I’ve experienced on and off throughout my life. (I’ve chosen not to go into detail about that here – this book is about brain injury.)

Despite how upsetting to me it was sometimes in writing this memoir, I hung in there, and here it is. I hope you enjoy it, learn from it, and best of all – treat others better because of it.

I'm 100% positive that I've forgotten things that I originally wanted to include in my book. I tried to scribble all ideas down, but some scribbles got lost along the way.

I'm pretty sure there were people I told that they would be in my book, but then they are not because of my forgetfulness, or, that my editor and I HAD to streamline some stuff because this adventure became too large, long, whatever…. I’m well aware that this book cannot be perfect. I know there are mistakes in virtually every book that is printed. There will be mistakes, either of grammar, punctuation, etc., and even some facts. Remember – I have permanent brain damage. As Dr. Barry J. Gibb wrote in his book, The Rough Guide to the Brain, “…the brain can create false memories to embellish its version of reality – just as it can suppress memories of events it found unpalatable.”

I just hope and pray that I offend no one. That was not my intention. I just had to tell my story to, hopefully, help some others with what I learned in the struggle I survived. Writing about what I did remember, the way I remembered it, was very difficult at times. But I pushed myself through it.

All the comments from others:
“Your book's not done yet?”
“You missed your deadline?!”
“What's taking so long with that book?”
“Are you ever going to be done?”

And MANY more frightening comments like these actually slowed me down because I would get upset, and take a break.

That is, until my psychologist, Dr. Robin Scherm, gave me an excellent idea: “finish when you're finished” and just say, “oops” to the pre-determined schedule.

I heard these pieces of advice (that became my “script” when more comments came my way) at the same time I learned from one more endoscopy that I had multiple ulcers.

My gastroenterologist, Dr. El-Schaer, told me, the day after I saw Dr. Scherm, that I had to relax, step back from working so hard to complete the book, and take better care of myself.

So, on this day, I say this: the work will go to print when I'm done.

What’s a truly sweet ending to this, since just hours after I wrote the preceding paragraph, I attended a book-signing for the New York Times best-selling author, Elizabeth Lesser, at one of my favorite bookstores (Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY).

I quickly spoke to her before her excellent presentation about her book, Marrow: A Love Story, and told her about my book, that I watched her intently when she was on Oprah's “Super Soul Sunday,” and about my deadline stress. I asked her how long it took her to write her very first book.

“Three years.”

I smiled a huge smile for the first time in a long time because I stopped feeling too much pressure trying to wrap this up by 2016 (the year printed on my first author business card stating when my memoir would be published).

          Then, there are the words she wrote on the title page of my purchase of the beautiful story she wrote about donating her bone marrow to help save her sister's life: “To Janet – take your time. Your heart will know when it's time. [heart] Elizabeth”

Thank you so much, Elizabeth. The heavy weight I had been carrying on my shoulders was lifted as you slid that book back to me!

I know that I am being calmer now as I conclude this book (2017), than I was when I began it three years ago. I thank you for reading it, and I hope it helps your life in some positive way….

Janet Johnson Schliff

Lake Katrine, NY

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For the coming year, I will be excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. The excerpts are from almost the final version. The book is now available from amazon.com and from its publisher, outskirtspress.com: 
What Ever Happened to My White Picket Fence?


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BOOK TALK AND SIGNING

Janet Johnson Schliff will be speaking at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NY.
I plan to attend, also.

Rev. Nwaiwu Sermon, Don't Share Your Secrets




A sermon preached by Nigerian Minister 
Fortune Emerence Chinemerem Nwaiwu on 18th February, 2018.

"A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence"--- Proverb 11:13 NLT


Introduction

A man was seen at the front of a bank inserting his ATM card into an ATM machine, and he was using his hands and body to cover where he was putting his ATM secret PIN (security code). His reason for doing that was that he did not want people to know about his PIN, to avoid being swindled or defrauded. He could tell people the bank he operates with, but he would never disclose his secret PIN to them. He knows that his PIN is a password to his blessings and a source of his livelihood. If he tells people about his secret, he could be ruined and doomed.

I then remembered a man who told his son all about his ATM card PIN, and his son secretly took it to withdraw money. Thank God that the son was apprehended by police on the way, when the police discovered different ATM cards in his trousers pockets. They called his father on the phone through the phone number the child provided. The father came, and he knew that his son was in a big trouble. When he was asked if he was the one that gave his son his ATM card to withdraw money, the man – having realized that he was the one who would have to bail out his son if he said no to the police question – admitted that he was the one.

From the Proverbs 11:13, there are two classes of people that one may encounter in life. First, the gossip, and second, the trustworthy.

The Gossips: 

This set of people have flippant mouths. Their mouths leak their friends' secrets like a roof of a house leaking water during rainy seasons. Their intention of telling your secrets could, perhaps, be to ridicule you, disparage your reputation, or making you become an object of laughter. In most cases, you may be humiliated and begin to say, "What a world! Had I known, I wouldn't have shared my secrets with them!" 

Perhaps this thought resonated in the mind of Sampson when Delilah finally betrayed his secrets to the Philistine men. We see here that your secret is your life. Sampson revealed the source of his power to Delilah, a woman he thought loved him, a woman who decided to betray him to her people because of 1,100 pieces of silver. What about you, do you tell people's secrets because of money? Or food? Or to please people? Have you been betrayed by the revealing of secrets you told friends?

Note: When Sampson shared his secret to Delilah: "My hair has never been cut," Judges 16:17, Delilah called a man to shave his hair, scraping away the source of his power, and his strength left him. This time she knew that Sampson had told her his secret, and she invited in the Philistine rogues. Sampson thought he would do as usual to escape from them, but without realizing that the Lord had left him. His eyes were gouged out, and he then became completely blind. What a great tragedy! Telling of a person's secrets to people can destroy him, and if you are sharing your internal infirmity, how you're unable to feed well, how you suffer or what is your next good plan to achieve, my dear, you are selling your worth and at the same time destroying your future.

In Matthew 9:30, Jesus Christ charged two blind men He healed to keep the healing secret. In His word, He says, "Don't tell anyone about this." The reason Christ was charging these men sternly not to tell anyone else about this miracle is not known. Perhaps, He did not want to receive vainglory, or He did not want people to know Him by this miracle. Whatever may be the case, we see He needed a secret to be kept.

The Trustworthy Persons: 

These people are men of integrity. They are reliable, and they can keep a secret. But do such men still exist?  “Everyone beware of his neighbor,” as Jeremiah 9:4 says, “and don’t trust in any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will go around like a slanderer. God is the only trustworthy Lord, for He knows every secret in the heart of all men.”

Our society needs trustworthy persons. They will never tell your secrets to people, but they can disclose evil plans to the light. Yes, if you make your sin secret, you can never prosper unless you confess.

Mordechai and Esther were trustworthy people. Mordechai told Esther not to reveal her identity and nationality to the King of Persia, (Esther 2:10), and Esther kept her identity and nationality secret. But the moment Mordechai heard about the evil plan of two of the King's eunuchs, Bigthana and Teresh, who were planning to assassinate the King, he made the evil plan known to Esther and the King. Also, when Saul wanted to kill David, it was Saul's daughter, Micah. the wife of David. that revealed the plot to David, and asked him to run away for his dear life.

Where are the Mordechai and Micah of this generation? Who is to be trusted at this perilous time? Our political and religious leaders of this generation, are they reliable? Christians, can we rise up and reposition ourselves and be people of integrity? Can we will rise up and do the work of He Who called us into faith?

If no one tells you of his secret, know that you are not reliable, and unworthy to keep it. Perhaps you have betrayed someone's secret before. You've been mocked because of wrong, untrustworthy fellows, who spread mostly the odd parts of your life. Today, God will pay them back. He paid back the Philistines for what they did to Sampson, after Sampson prayed, “Lord, let me die along with my enemies.” We learn that 3,000 people died. You shall not perish along with the gossip, the wicked, nor will you die along with your enemies of progress.

God bless you.


For comments and suggestions email the Man of God via fortune.nwaiwu.fn@gmail.com


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Rev. Nwaiwu's sermon has been slightly edited. [WriteYourBookWith Me.com] 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Rev. Nwaiwu's Sermon, Put Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes



A sermon preached by Fortune Emerence Chinemerem Nwaiwu on 11/02/2018

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him for He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust"-- Psalm 103:13-14 KJV.

God as a father of all that dwell on Earth shows compassion to his children because He knows they are dust. There could be a time God would vent His fury on man's wickedness, but when He remembers that we are made of dust, He relents because he knows how weak any person made of dust is, capable of having many trials and sorrows.

Now, as Christians, never forget to continue showing compassion to anyone, putting yourselves in their shoes---their situations, getting to know what they are passing through and the factors that are causing them to react in the manner they do. In this sermon, we shall consider two prime questions that will aid us to consider someone's else problems as paramount as ours to solve.

1. What will you do when you see people who are confused and helpless? Put yourself into their situation, and no one would need to beg you before you would volunteer to help them. Why people don't show compassion on others is because they don't put themselves in other people's shoes – their suffering, pains, and problems. The moment we take people's pains as ours is when we make conscious efforts to help them, because we feel their pains in our bones.

Matthew 9:36 indicates that when Jesus saw a crowd of sick people who were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, He had compassion on them; His compassion motivated Him to heal them of their sickness.
Note: See yourself as a helpless person for Christ's compassion to work in you. You need help from God; would you humble yourself and look to Christ for a miracle over your unspeakable situations right now?

Nabal could not show compassion on David and his men when they were hungry because, as a wealthy man who lacked nothing, Nabal did not put himself in the shoes of the helpless David and his famished men. Perhaps Nabal had never experienced hardship in his life. If God would bring our political and religious leaders from the apex of their affluence down to poverty for them to know what the poor are passing through and mercifully bring them up again, they would learn to help people in need, especially the poor around them.

Note: David and his men had been helping Nabal, protecting his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing was stolen, but he had repaid him evil for good. What about you? Perhaps, you have served people honestly, but when you need help from them, they seem not to help you, because they never put themselves in your shoes.

Illustration: God has given me the gift of writing. I have written a lot of books, unedited and unpublished. I have searched for editors and explained my conditions to them as they wanted me to pay some money which I could not afford. Until one day, I contacted Douglas Cooper, Ph.D., an editor and former professor at Harvard University, in the US. I pleaded with him to help me edit my manuscript, offering him $80 even when I knew it would take me many months to earn the money. But when he saw how miserable and helpless I was, he put himself in my shoes, and then showed compassion on me, and then edited my work without charging me any farthing. I owe him many thanks.
Now, if God has delivered you, you owe Him thanks and gratitude. This is what the ten lepers Christ healed failed to realise, except for one fellow who came back to thank Him.

2. The evil I plan to do to people, what if they do it to me, how will I feel? You might make plans to steal, to rape people's daughters, to spread false rumours to tarnish their image; what if someone else were to do to you what you plan for others? How will you feel if others damage your good reputation? There is a golden rule for this attitude found in Matthew 7:12--- "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you."

Brethren, let us see all of us as one, and one man's trouble should be ours with love. By acting in love, and oneness, our problems will be lesser.

May God smile on you and show you his favour now and forever.

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You can contact the Man of God via fortune.nwaiwu.fn@gmail.com


Peterson's 12 RULES FOR LIFE




12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos




Somewhat controversial psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life has hit instant best-seller status on Amazon, where 91% of the over 600 reviews have rated it at five stars, the highest rating. The controversies have centered on his advice for rearing young men, but his prescriptions that apply to mature women and men seem rock solid. Here are the 12 rules and some comments.

Rule 1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
Not only is this healthful, but it aids in establishing your prominence in the human pecking order and in marking out your “territory,” a characteristic of all animals. Looking good is leverage; being attractive gives you “pull.”

Rule 2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
Consider the behavior of medical patients: a third don’t fill the prescriptions their doctors gave them; half of those who do get their pills take them incorrectly. “People are better at filling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves.” Don’t be that way. Take loving care of yourself, determining goals, and choosing your means.

Rule 3. Make friends with people who want the best for you.
I’ve quoted the jest, “it is hard to fly like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys” and noted some maintain we resemble the five people with whom we interact the most. We are part of this menagerie mainly by our own choice. We should carefully select out companions. Many “friends” are actually saboteurs, raising obstacles rather than helping. Some don’t want you to rise higher than they are.

Rule 4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Of the hundreds of millions in America now, you are not likely to be the top in any category. So, what? Aim for continual improvement, comparing yourself against yesterday’s you, achieving some little advancement. This is feasible and helpful. One percent improvement per day gets you twice as good in 72 days, the miracle of compound interest!

Rule 5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
What to allow your kids to do? Make your praise and blame be incentives to make them the kind of people you will continue to like, which is also going to make others like them; their paths through life will be smoother, if not smooth.

Rule 6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
This advice holds especially for those tempted to take drastic action to try to change the world. On a smaller scale, though, one is urged to heed the plank in one’s eye before acting to remove the dust particle in someone else’s. Such humility should breed moderation.

Rule 7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).
Why are you on Earth? Your “why” should help determine what you do and how you do it. Align your actions with your goals. Your “shortcuts” should not go against them. Else, your life will make less sense.

Rule 8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.
I had to fire one of our nurses recently. She had lied about a material aspect of my wife’s care. One cannot trust, nor be trusted, without truth.

Rule 9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
Hard to believe, but others have insights we lack. We must not merely appear to listen, but must really listen, if we are to gain from their knowledge.

Rule 10. Be precise in your speech.
“Know thyself,” Socrates urged. To do so, we need clear, precise thought. Careful observation improves precision. Careful conversation helps hone our thought. The effort to make what we say to be precisely correct helps speaker and listeners gain in understanding.

Rule 11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
Children need to master a certain amount of “dangerous” situations. We can go overboard in protecting them. To protect can be to weaken. When we reach maturity, we understand “old age is not for sissies.”

Rule 12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

This puzzling advice is offered to keep the “cat people” reading, despite its real subject: dogs. Actually, its real subject is the way we segregate ourselves into groups, psychologically and physically, sometimes on the most whimsical of pretexts. Be aware of the tendency to affiliate irrationally.

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P.S. An ezine for women I write for occasionally has found this topic too controversial for its readership.

Friday, February 9, 2018

PRISONERS OF HOPE, Final Chapter

CHAPTER EIGHT
The following day, the day the medical experts had predicted that Levi would die, Levi went to the hospital for a medical checkup.
Dr. Smart was very surprised to see him. Initially, the doctor thought he had seen Levi’s ghost, because most of the time, the ghosts of the patients who died usually appeared in the hospital. When Levi was checked, and no lung cancer nor memory loss were detected, the doctors glorified God that they had never seen this miraculous sign before.
Thereafter, Levi returned home to oversee how Fabian had been preparing for his wedding. Fabian thought that after the last speech of his dad in the church, his dad would soon die, and so he prepared his wedding on his own.
The eve of the wedding, when everyone had gone to bed, a band of hoodlums raided Levi’s house. Everyone in the house, including Rodwell, was awakened as these would-be kidnappers attacked, creating a frantic noise as they broke open the door.
Adanta’s mind flew like an eagle. 
Fabian knew that evil men had come to raid their house.
As they entered, they flooded into Levi’s room, where Rodwell was sleeping, and a voice roared, “See the father of the bridegroom.” Straight away, Rodwell was shot dead in error, while Levi was captured. Cornell’s men had thought that Rodwell was Levi.
As Fabian escaped through the window, Cornell saw Bianca in the dark corner of the room, mistaking her as Mildred; he killed Bianca with his small knife.
“You are a cursed beast!” Bianca yelled before she breathed her last.
Adanta became overwhelmed in grief. She believed that Levi would not survive this turmoil of kidnapping.
This same thought resonated in the mind of Fabian. “This is a calculated assault,” Fabian grimaced, “to ruin my wedding. I must find out the cause of this mayhem."
Mildred ran for her life and hid in a thick forest. She did not fear about pythons and deadly creatures in the bush, compared with these attackers, and she watched the whole scene from her hiding place. She could recognize Cornell as the chief conspirator, the man who championed this brutal mission. She saw Levi being beaten before he entered their car. She wept bitterly. Her grief was heightened when Cornell told his men that he had killed Mildred. Then Mildred realized Bianca was dead. She learned Cornell had been planning evil for herself, as she overheard him while she hid.
Cornell and his men zoomed off with their car; it was declared that Levi had been abducted.
Adanta did not believe that Levi was still alive. “Levi is dead,” Adanta groaned, “because these evil men did not come to spare the life of anyone.”
As Mildred came back from her hiding place, she overhead her mother sobbing. She sprawled at the feet of her mother and wept, “Gracious woman, Father is gone, and Bianca is also dead. I would have been dead, too, because I heard them mention, ‘Mildred is dead.’”
“Who will help us find the whereabouts of Levi?” Adanta gasped.
“Let us wait,” said Mildred, “until Fabian has returned.”
A few hours later in the morning, the whole community gathered to carry the bodies of Rodwell and his daughter to their burial. People wept bitterly because this had never happened in their land before. None of them knew the cause of Levi’s death and his daughter’s, though they all believed that Rodwell and his daughter had died by fate.
A madman who came around the place exclaimed, “Yes, he deserves it. Why would he ‘uncover the feet’ of his neighbor’s wife?”
No one valued what the madman was saying, though Adanta overheard it and pretended nothing happened. She recalled the sexual advances that Rodwell had made towards her when Levi was sick. The word of the madman made her believe that the death of Rodwell was designed by the gods of the land. The peoples’ tradition was that no one should ‘uncover the feet’ of his neighbor's wife. This was what Rodwell did not consider in what he had demanded from her in helping Adanta to pay the hospital bill.
Even after all this, Rodwell did not show any sign of remorse nor confess his sin, and he had allowed her daughter, Bianca, to marry Fabian so that it would give him the opportunity to seduce Adanta again.
Rodwell knew that anyone who ‘uncovered his neighbor’s wife’s feet’ must meet his doom, but he thought that Christianity had eradicated the values and norms of the land. So, he had his eyes gaze amorously on Adanta…and doing so brought his death.
Fabian returned from where he was hiding, and he met the people crowding in his compound. He wept: everything he had bought for his weeding had been taken away by those men. Not only that, his marriage had been ruined because his father-in-law had died, and his father had disappeared.
Fabian moved into his room and saw Bianca dead. This struck him speechless. He concluded forces were working against his destiny. Then he spoke, “Now I know that fate is against me; without my father, there is no family.”
The cadavers of Rodwell and Bianca were carried to their burial ground, doleful songs chanted, the bodies committed to Mother Earth, and the people departed in grief. Simultaneously, Dominic was having a series of bad dreams in the US. Upon awakening, the only dream he could remember was that his father was dead.
Immediately, Dominic called Fabian to ask if anything happened in the house. Fabian could not easily reveal the matter to him since Dominic had fainted immediately when he had been told mistakenly in the past that Levi died. Dominic had spent three days in the hospital before he was discharged. He was later told that Levi had risen from the mortuary.
Now, Dominic’s dreams had disturbed him profoundly, and so he decided to call home. “Fabian, why do you find it so difficult to tell me what is happening in the house?”
“No, Domi,” Fabian responded. “Dad is missing, a bond of abductors kidnapped him.”
“What the hell! Alright, do everything you can to find him. I promise to provide all the money needed. Get in touch with SARS and military officers to ensure that Dad is out of the kidnappers’ hands,” Dominic yelled into the phone.
Fabian summoned the elders of the land to discuss how Levi would be found. Fabian promised that anyone who helped discover Levi’s whereabouts would be paid a huge sum of money. The elders discussed this in detail and decided to alert the police that Levi had been kidnapped.
Cornell, in his house, was restless, because the spirit of Bianca had been haunting him. "Why must you disturb me? Yes, I killed you, but it was a mistake. I thought you are Mildred. I make my plea for you to forgive me. It was because of my love for you that made me ruin the wedding of Fabian with you. I did not want any man to snatch you from me, either by money or by power.”
“Your love for me has claimed the lives of your dad and mine, and now I demand your life, and our wedlock will be where no man can see us. As you laid your bloody hand on me, you can never have peace of mind, until you die,” Bianca’s spirit warned.
SARS got information that these kidnappers camped at Nbibi. SARS invaded the thick forest surrounded by rivers and encountered the kidnappers. They exchanged gun shots. One of the kidnappers was shot dead. Levi was badly wounded.
The kidnappers grew angry and saddened because they had lost a member; moreover, Levi, who was to be the source of money to them, was seriously ill. The kidnappers informed Cornell, their medicine man, about what had happened. Cornell asked them to carry Levi to Rumueke, where he would remove the bullets from Levi.
Cornell was pleased to help revive Levi because of the huge amount of money Dominic would bring. He with his boys had asked the relatives of Levi to pay 4.5 million naira before they would release Levi. Dominic agreed to pay, but he wanted to hear from his uncle, Levi, who had served Dominic as a father since his own father died when he was two years old. Levi had nursed him and trained him.
In fact, no one knew that Dominic wasn’t the first son of Levi; they all believed this. Sadly, as Dominic delayed in paying the ransom money, Levi died because of the gunshot.
Cornell told his men that Levi had died; his men could not do anything other than to ask him to bury Levi. He gathered some village boys and carried the corpse to a bush and buried Levi.
Dominic heard that his uncle’s dead body was nowhere to be found. He then became restless. “I can never have peace of mind, until I find the corpse of my dad.”
A few days later, rumors spread that the corpse of Levi was buried in Rumueke and, furthermore, that Cornell was one of the men responsible for his death. All the villagers in the Rumudashi community teamed up to come to Rumueke with SARS to search for Cornell. Since Cornell was not found, his father, Hullquist – a native doctor, was arrested together with his son, Chinedu, and Chima, his brother-in-law. Their clothes were stripped from them, and they were publicly disgraced.
Hullquist was accused of aiding the kidnappers, doing some medicine for them. His legs and hands were tied with a strong rope. He was writhing in pain as his scrotum touched the ground. People who saw him felt shame, though some people were happy he was being disgraced. Generally, Hullquist, his son, and Chima suffered. They were dumped on the road for people to see the father and relatives of the kidnapper. Later on, police carried them in handcuffs into their van and carted them off to the office.
“I am the chief of my village,” declared Hullquist. “I know nothing about the kidnapping of Levi. Though my son might be responsible for this atrocity, my people would bear me witness that I don’t support evil. Recently, I asked his mother to leave my house with her children before this happened. Unfortunately, none of her children was arrested. Chinedu is my son, begotten from Uju, my first and only wife, while Chima is my brother-in-law. Anything about Cornell doesn’t concern me.”
“Keep silent,” a police officer commanded, “Cornell is your blood, if you fail to bring him to the police station, your life will be exchanged for his. Do you know the gravity of the offense he committed? Kidnapping is a capital offense, and whoever is responsible for it must die.”
Hullquist felt his life had ended. He remembered his bags of money those police officers looted, as they raided his house and shrine. Hullquist was crying, “My money you are carrying,” because all his money stuffed in bags was taken away from him. “Ah, my twenty million naira is gone,” Hullquist groaned.
Hullquist thought about his gods and concluded that they did not have power to save him, “Where are you, you gods?" He asked. His idols and shrines were destroyed. He was left homeless. He thought about how he could survive now that all his earnings had been forcefully stolen by the police.
“O, God, help me,” he yelled in such agony of mind. He no longer called on his old gods again for help; he had found out that they were mere idols. He then put his trust on the living God. Two weeks later, a letter from Rumudashi came to the rulers of Rumueke asking them to find out where Levi was buried. They stated in their letter that Levi was buried in Rumueke, and so Rumueke should find out where he was buried within one week, and they demanded that Cornell should be handed over to them.
At this time, many SARS and ruffians blocked every road, and people could not go out for work for fear of being killed. This prevented me from going to school. I was told that the Commissioner of Education visited my school, and found a few teachers absent. Two teachers who came to school and left for Eketa market before closing the hour made the commissioner angry, adding to what he saw: people had damaged in the ongoing school building project, where the buildings were de-roofed by criminals. The zinc, tiles, giant generators, and many other things were stolen.
Having seen all the foregoing, the commissioner was angry and drove to our school. Those he found absent he gave a query to be answered on Monday, and then he broadcast on the radio that teachers left their duty to attend their customers at the market.
Before we would answer the commissioner’s query, we Rumueke people decided to make a search to find where Levi was buried. Someone suggested that they should write back to the Rumudashi people that if they knew where their son was buried, they should come and pick him up. This suggestion was clever, because if Rumueke began to search for where Levi was buried, it would mean that Rumueke people knew about the kidnapping and the death of Levi.
Since Rumueke people were unable to find out where Levi was buried, Rumudashi people, with the aid of police officers, came to the land to find out where Levi was buried; they had gone to different native doctors and their gods told them that Levi was buried in Rumueke. They came with their corpse-detecting machine and native doctors, including a large number of SARS and ruffians who crowded the whole land. Suddenly, the grave of Levi was discovered by the police dog. Morticians who came along with them aided to excavate the grave, and the rotten body of Levi was found.
At this time, when the body of Levi had been discovered, the men all over the surrounding communities, including Rumudashi, Rumuoga (Levi's maternal home), and other neighboring communities started to break into houses, and then made away with peoples’ belongings. SARS were shooting guns sporadically. The people of Ode and Anyim, some villages in Rumueke, deserted their houses to save their lives. They cried as they left their homes.
A large number of criminals were trooping into Rumueke land. When they saw Clement's beautiful house, Fabian asked his men to demolish it. Clement's house was burnt to ashes; foreign currencies and expensive properties were taken away. People at distant places shouted in grief as they saw smoke and blazing fires engulf the whole land. Houses and properties were vandalized. As people saw the properties that had been carried away from Rumueke, they were surprised because they never knew that Rumueke people had such properties in their houses.
Two days later, Clement returned home. He was in his car and saw his house being burnt to ashes. He fainted, and his driver drove him back to Port-Harcourt where he was admitted into a hospital, where he remained for three days.
After the destruction of my place, I went with other affected teachers to answer the commissioner’s query. As we got to the commissioner's office, we were first addressed by the Education Permanent Secretary, the “Perm Sec.” As we sat, I looked at the teachers' faces: they were all prisoners of hope.
Although before the honorable commissioner arrived, almost all the teachers were afraid of being sacked, I was the only man who was not feeling sad. I knew the God I served.
Then the Perm Sec came in to the large hall and asked: "Are you all come from G.S.S Ochie?"
We replied, "Yes, sir."
"You people are notorious teachers; you don't come to school but receive salaries," the Perm Sec groaned.
When he said this, I thought he was the commissioner, until a fair young man gently opened a door and breezed in. Everyone stood up for him until he asked us to sit down. Immediately, I set my prayerful eyes on him, and my spirit whispered to me that my case was over. As he began to address us, I was fascinated by his soft voice.
He spoke slowly and amicably. "So, you people are the absentees who went to Eketa market?" he asked.
"No sir, there are some of us who did not come to school for one reason and the other and have taken permission from our boss," we replied.
He scolded us and later called our names through our Time-Book. Each of us he called, he said, "terminated," until he called me, "Peterson Lawson," and he noticed that I had never otherwise been absent. He then asked me what happened that I did not come to school.
As I began to give my reason, "Sir, my community was raided," the next thing I heard was, "sit down there," and he stated that he would ask the Governor to terminate our teaching appointments. As we heard about termination of our appointments, I looked at the faces of the teachers again; all seemed not well. They began to cry for mercy.
One widow knelt down in tears, begging the honorable commissioner to temper justice with mercy.
"Woman, what do you have to say?" the commissioner asked.
The widow seized the opportunity to amplify her grief, "I'm a widow. My husband died two years ago, leaving me with two children, and I'm the only parent taking care of them."
I gazed at this widow. I saw anguish and suffering. To her, all hope was gone. I began to ask: "God, where are you?" I then felt the presence of the Supernatural Being, and I hoped it also touched the heart of the commissioner.
The Perm Sec then looked at the commissioner's eyes. I realized that the look was a sign for freeing these prisoners of hope in their custody.
Then the commissioner said, "I'm a preacher of the Gospel, and because of the cry of the widow, I've forgiven you all.”
Thereafter, as I returned home, I heard that Cornell was apprehended at Anambra where he was hiding. No one had thought that Cornell would be apprehended from such a place; everyone thought he hid within the thick forest near the rivers. He was sentenced to die. Since his shrine had been demolished by the police officers, people who had been held captive in his shrine began to be free. Many people in the land were happy for him to die. Those whose nice buildings were destroyed because of him did not want to see him return to the land alive.
When Dominic heard that a lot of buildings and properties were destroyed, he was not happy, because he did not ask them to tamper with people’s properties. He then returned from the US, and he went back with Adanta and her children.
Two years later, it was confirmed that those who kidnapped Levi were not the ones who killed him. One police officer confessed that he was the one who fired his rifle that mistakenly killed Levi. He wanted to shoot the kidnappers, but unfortunately, Levi received the bullet and then died. After this confession, Cornell and his men were released. Cornell had developed a sickness from the prison, and he had no money again to treat himself; all his property and great achievements had been ruined. He roamed aimlessly, complaining of body pains and severe headache. As he walked along a lonely road one night, he slumped and died unrepentantly.
A diagnostic check-up revealed Cornell had lung cancer and pneumonia. I guessed that the lung cancer was as a result of his avid smoking and drinking, while pneumonia was contracted in the prison. I called Mildred, who was abroad with her relations, and told her that Cornell had died. Mildred was happy that he died. He wanted to kill her, and by mistake Bianca was stabbed to death. 
I told Mildred that we should not rejoice for what had happened to our enemies, so that God would not be angry with us. It should be that when people rejoice, we rejoice with them, and when they mourn, we mourn with them.
Mildred understood me. One thing she said that moved me particularly was that children should listen to what their reasonable parents tell them. She was glad that she obeyed her parents not to marry Cornell; if she had not heeded them, she would have become a widow.

                                                     THE END


[This novella, by Nigerian writer and teaacher Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, douglas@tingandi.com, through his company, WriteYourBookWithMe.com.]