I hate hospitals; hate the general downer atmosphere, strong smell of detergent and antiseptic, the look of despair or forced hope on the face of patients, the hard eyes of doctors and nurses who’ve seen a lot and probably don’t get paid enough.
In better circumstances, this would be like a dream excursion for my younger sister who’s obsessed with medical drama and swears she’ll become a doctor one day, but she’s standing beside me now, clenching the sheets in front of her, sobbing silently.
I try to stay focused, but my mind keeps wandering to the annoying, muffled voices coming from the television hung in the wall.
My ears catch the sound of the beeping machine my uncle is attached to and guilt grips my heart.
I try my best to be present. “Dayo, say a word of prayer for your uncle,” I hear my mum say and my heart takes a heavy thump.
I look my uncle in his eyes and they crinkle at the sides as he gives me a tired smile.
I try my best not to focus on how sunken his eyes look, or his cheek bones that I’m not too used to seeing, looking like they might pop out his thin flesh any moment.
“Dayo,” my mother calls again. I open my mouth to say something, but the words just won’t come.
Very few things can unnerve you like facing the possibility human mortality. This is too real.
It’s easy to pretend like everything is all cool with God in the family morning devotions, but this? I don’t think God will be too thrilled to hear my voice. Last thing I want to do is taint everyone’s prayer with mine. Especially when a man’s life is on the line.
“Dayo, this is a group prayer, so we’re not praying in our minds,” my mother says, adopting her usual passive aggressive tone.
I hear my Dad grunt something in support.
“In Jesus name,” I say finally. “Amen,” everyone echoes.
“Jesus, I know you’re good and no sickness or disease has power in your presence. No one loves you like Uncle Kamsi… Jesus, please touch him with your power and love.”
It’s time to go, mum just placed a kiss on Uncle Kamsi’s forehead, while still complaining about how my prayer lacked authority. I can already see tomorrow morning’s lecture coming.
Dad stops at the door, and he and Uncle Kamsi share a nod before he leaves the ward, holding my sister’s hand. She has been trying to hide her tears since we got here and it looks like she just failed.
I look my uncle in the eyes again not knowing what to say and just decide to leave. He reaches for my hand slowly and holds it.
“Meat pie, please give me a minute with Dayo,” he tells my mum.
Uncle Kamsi and Mum have called each other food related nicknames since they were little and there’s a story behind it that I don’t remember.
Mum nods and leaves the ward so we can have our privacy. Uncle Kamsi smiles now.
“Oya Dayo, what’s happening?” he asks.
“Happening how?” “That prayer.” I almost groan in reply. Him too? What else was I supposed to say?
“Nothing, I just… I don’t know.”
“Dayo, how’s your relationship with God?”
“It’s been okay,” I avoid his eyes and want to punch myself for that. I know this man and how fast he catches cues like this.
He doesn’t say anything. Just squeezes my hand a little. I raise my head to look at him. Seeing him like this breaks me. I am enveloped by guilt again.
“I… It’s not good. I am not a good person.”
He laughs. I don’t know why, but that annoys me a little bit.
“It’s not funny,” I say. “You don’t know the kind of things I’ve done. Tomorrow, I’m the one that’s going to have to explain the bible scripture to everyone. Mum and Dad keep trying their best to raise me as this… This saint, but I keep messing everything up.”
I pause to watch how he reacts and see if he’s going to speak. He doesn’t say anything. His expression is more serious now though.
“I just… Mum says I didn’t sound like I believed what I was praying for. I did, I know Jesus is good and he heals, I just don’t know if he wants to hear that from someone like me.”
“So you’re a sinner then,” my uncle says. I frown a little and then nod. He’s smiling again. Can’t this man take anything serious?
“Congratulations Dayo, you’ve just diagnosed what’s wrong with humanity.”
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I thought you were a Bible student,” he says and chuckles.
“Look Dayo, I understand the level of guilt and maybe anger and helplessness you feel towards yourself now. Trust me, I’ve been there. And should I tell you something that might surprise you?”
“What?” I ask.
“Come closer,” he replies and I lean close enough for him to whisper. “So has your mum Dayo, I don’t know about your Dad, but I’ll guess he has been there too.”
I narrow my eyes at the thought that my mum wasn’t always her zealous self.
“Dayo, first I want you to understand that Jesus loves you and nothing should ever make you feel the opposite.”
“Jesus loves you, he loved you enough to die for you, and nothing has changed now.
Remember the story of King David, how he did something so deplorable that he even sort of admitted he deserved to be killed?” I nod.
“And yet, when God talked about him, it was to acknowledge him as a friend, a man after his heart. David set someone up to be killed and took his wife, yet today we celebrate him in the bible hall of saints.”
He pauses to let his words soak in. I almost turn my heard to the sound of gunshots coming from the television but decide to not get distracted.
“Even though at that time David didn’t have the kind of grace we enjoy now. He wrote about it, but we have it now. It’s one thing to acknowledge sin, it’s another to be able to remove it.”
“Dayo, who can remove sin?” “Uh… Jesus?”
“Yes. So we are covered by his grace and blood. Our forgiveness is sure and our place in his body established, but our nature needs to be fine tuned, recalibrated, mind you, to work in God’s frequency. Hope my big English is not confusing you?”
I laugh at this.
“Dayo, anything that will make you run from God is of the devil. It’s in the moments we feel weak that we need him the most. No sane person gets dirty and runs from a shower.”
“Except jaja,” I reply and Uncle Kamsi joins me to laugh at the image of the little family dog making mum yell on top of her lungs, chasing it during bath time.
“Dayo, every Saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. You have a God that is intentional about you and like the book of psalms say, his mercies endures forever.”
I smile and nod my head. None of us say anything else. Uncle Kamsi breaks the silence after a while.
“Stop looking at me like that, I’m only having a surgery, I’m not going to war. ”
I don’t know why, but the way he tries to joke through the discomfort releases all the emotion I’ve been storing inside. I open my mouth to reply and find myself crying instead. I stop my mouth with my palm in case I get too loud.
“Uncle, I don’t want you to die,” I say. He doesn’t say anything.
“Jesus will heal you. Jesus will heal you. Jesus will heal you”, I cry, burying my face in his chest.
I can feel his ribs through his gown. It makes me cry even more.
“I’ll be fine,” he says. I hear the door open and see my mum stick her head in.
“Dayo, it’s time to go,” he says patting my back. I quickly clean my tears with the back of my hand.
“I’ll come back this evening,” mum says.
“Oh please, this time come with good gist,” he smiles.
“Bye Dayo, hope your school crush ends up liking you back.”
“Wait, what?” I say.
My mum raises an eyebrow and I start to stutter. I look at Uncle Dayo and see he’s smiling. I smile too and chuckle.
“Bye uncle. Love you.”
“Love you too.” I start to follow my mum out when he calls me.
“Dayo,” I turn.
“Jesus loves you. Never forget that.” I nod my head before stepping out of the ward, shutting the door with a soft click.