25 Dec A Christmas Miracle.
She sighed and shook her head as if to clear her head of the worrisome thoughts that plagued her. Her two boys would be up very soon and there was nothing absolutely nothing for them to eat. All the same, she placed the plates on the table. Surely, the star that had shined in the manger where the Baby Jesus lay would shine on them this day. They needed food. There was nothing in the way of presents for them. Since John had died a year earlier, they had been living from hand to mouth. But, at least they had always had something to eat. She had sent an SOS text message to her sister who lived in nearby Agege but had not received an encouraging reply. Her sister also had money problems of her own. Today, she had nothing to give them when they awoke. She clasped her hands and sat at the table.
He watched her face but there was no sign that she was alive except for the gentle, even pace of her breathing. The doctors had told him she was brain dead. He had watched her as she lay in a coma for two weeks. The result of a drunken driver’s foolishness. He had relived their life together for the past two years. They had gotten married in their late thirties choosing instead to pursue their academic careers at the university where they were both lecturers. They had so much to do together. She hadn’t even got pregnant yet. He held her hand willing it to squeeze his, hoping for a flicker of movement. But there was no change. The previous month, she had told him she wanted to go back to school. She wanted to get her doctorate degree. He had agreed with her. He was a PhD holder himself and a senior lecturer in the university and he wanted his wife to be as accomplished as she desired to be. They had made plans to go on vacation to Panama beach during the long holidays, just the two of them. Now, instead of them sipping on exotic drinks at the beach, she lay in a hospital bed. Motionless and liveless. He kissed her forehead. “Come back to me, my love. I can’t spend Christmas without you. I need you,” he whispered squeezing her hand. He prayed and wished for that more than anything in the world. But there was no response.
She clasped his letter to her breast. “I’ll be home by Christmas,” he had said cheerfully. She had fought tooth and nail when he said he was going to join the army. In the end the army had won. And her heart had been in her mouth till the next letter from him. He had been sent on assignment overseas. One of the Asian countries. He wouldn’t say where. But he was coming home to her. Since her husband died, he was all she had. She switched on the TV and turned to CNN. She was alone and was not expecting company. Except his. She had not seen him the entire year. Despite the fact that it was Christmas day, the news on CNN was all bad. There was an avalanche near Ecuador. Some bombings in the Middle East. Children starving in the Sudan. Her breath caught when she heard that there was a plane crash in North Korea. She was scared when she heard that a volcano had erupted in China. Then the phone rang. It was him.
“Mother, my flight has been delayed. I’ve been rescheduled for another flight and I will try to get home today as soon as I can.”
He cut through all her protests and the terror in her voice. “See you soon mother.”
She dropped the phone and stared at the receiver. She had lost her husband in the Dana air crash. Was her son to go the same way?
They said finding a wife was easy. All you needed was a good job and a good car. He had those. Being good looking and God fearing got you extra points. He had those too. He had neither BO nor MO. But he had been trying hard for the past year to put all that he had to good use and yet had been receiving more ‘javelins’ and rejections than he could handle. So much so, he had seriously considered going for deliverance in a church from any unknown ‘spiritual wife’ he might have had. Now, it was the end of the year and he was as single as ever. His single quest in life now was to find a suitable partner to share his life with. He felt uncomfortable in his white suit. It looked like he was begging for attention, and maybe in a way he was. His cousin Tade had said such a suit drew women like a magnet. Maybe it did but he needed it to attract the right kind of women. The pastor had told them last week Sunday to table their requests before the Lord. Whatever it was, that they wanted done before the end of the year. He had made his request. He really didn’t want to end the year alone. He got up as the congregation got up to sing the first hymn. There were still a few days to the end of the year. “Lord please…the bone of my bones, show her to me.”
The boys bounded down the narrow corridor to the sitting room/dining room. Ages six and seven, they were noisy and boisterous and hungry.
“Mummy, merry Christmas!” They chorused though not in unison.
“Merry Christmas my dears,” she said gathering them in her arms. The children glanced at the table.
“Mum, what are we eating this morning? Is it jollof rice?” six year old Sam said.
Her heart sank. She didn’t have the heart to tell them they wouldn’t be having anything.
“It-it’s a surprise,” she said.
The children bounced up and down.
“I like surprises,” seven year old Stephen said decidedly. Sam bounced up and down as his answer.
The children took their places at the table with their empty plates in front of them. She sighed and sat down. They bowed their heads and her voice was soft as she prayed.
“Father, we are thankful for this day that serves as a reminder of the birth of your Son. Thank you for the gift of life and health.” She paused and looked at her children with their heads still bowed. “Lord, thank you for the surprise you are about to give us this morning-”
A knock on the door interrupted her prayer. She hurriedly said an amen and went to open it.
She opened the door and found no one but saw a basket outside the door. It was covered with a napkin and there were two big dishes inside. There was a bottle of juice also in the basket with a note.
“Since I woke up this morning by 6am, God laid it on my heart to give this to your family. Have a merry Christmas.”
There was no indication as to who it was from but she felt it was one of their neighbors. Perhaps it was one of the old women who smiled at her kindly on her way to the market. Perhaps it was the newly wedded couple next door. Or could it be the grouchy old man who lived alone?
No matter. God had provided this gift. This miracle. She breathed a heartfelt prayer of thanks and went inside.
Stephen opened the dish as soon as she placed it on the table.
“Fried rice!”he said exultantly. “How did you know that was what I wanted, mummy?”
He did not know that he had dozed off but suddenly his eyes flew open and he felt a pressure. He looked up at his wife’s face. No change. She was still as motionless and as lifeless as before. Then he felt it again. It was unmistakable. A slight pressure. She was squeezing his hand. Then he saw tears run down her cheeks.
“Timothy,” she rasped out.
“Tolani!” he cried scarcely daring to believe it. As if to convince him, she squeezed his hand again. He shouted for a doctor. His eyes filled too as he lifted his eyes heavenward and breathed a prayer of thanksgiving. It was his best Christmas gift yet. His own Christmas miracle.
On the way out form church, his mind oscillating between thoughts of the poignant sermon the pastor had preached and wondering which of his friends house he would go to spend Christmas with, he bumped into someone.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said apologetically not looking up.
“It’s Ok,” a soft voice answered him. A fleeting vision in a white satin dress moved past him gracefully. He hurried to meet her. He did not know that face. And he knew every lady in this church.
“Er …hello, my name is Kolade. I don’t think I’ve seen you here before,” he said struggling not to stammer. Her beauty was nearly blinding him.
She smiled and said in that sweet soft voice: “No, this is my first time. In this church I just moved to this neighborhood with my parents. I’m Yewande.”
At that moment his heart was filled with an inexplicable peace. He knew who he was staring at. “Thank you Lord,” he whispered. What a Christmas!
She had finally left off CNN and gone on to watch the African Magic channel. But the ‘thrilling’ storylines had the effect of making her doze fitfully. Each time she awoke, she realized she hadn’t heard from him yet. She had no appetite. The rich food she had prepared for both of them wouldn’t go down. She tried calling him again and again but the line wasn’t going through. She switched on to CNN again. More bad news. The day seemed like the longest day of her life.
At about a quarter to eight, her doorbell rang. She got up and went to it, scarcely daring to hope. Her son stood outside the door, grinning form ear to ear. Before she could say a word, he wrapped her in his arms.
“Merry Christmas mother,” he said in his deep baritone.
Her heart filled with joy. She had her Christmas miracle, standing right in her living room.
P.S: You might get it early or you might get it late, but let your heart be expectant and your mood be exultant. Expect your Christmas miracle today!