Heaven is a place in my mind
The land of fadeless day, streets made of gold, angels singing, the home of the righteous; heaven. I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were fervent believers who preached to us night and day. From daily devotions to weekly fasting and prayer sessions, they were determined to make us righteous. I loved them, and I did love their faith. They raised us right (or at least they did me). Ours was a happy home. Our happy home, however, soon turned sour.
You see, life goes on and on but makes sure to throw you curve balls at random intervals, to remind you that everything good is fickle and temporary. My parents had me in the first year of their marriage. I was tempted to believe they’d done it before marriage because they had me 8 months into their marriage. But as though they could see my suspicion, they repeated the testimony of my premature birth on every birthday of mine. They waited 8 years to have another child, and another just a year later. I was a jealous child, you see. I was used to having all the attention and love, and suddenly I had to share all that with two other people. What a foolish child I was. But my parents, tried their best. They loved us all equally, or as equally as they could…until they didn’t.
My parents didn’t stop loving us by choice, although they chose to go out that day. They didn’t even need to go for that vigil. It was my grandmother’s choice that they left us at home since she wanted to babysit her grandkids. It was the cruel choice of the universe to take them away from us. I was 16 and orphaned. That was my life’s hardest curve ball, and my world came crumbling down under its impact. I was an angry teenager, you see, mad at my parents for leaving me behind, and at God, that all their ‘goodness’ was not enough to save them.
Many will say I was lucky, and maybe I was. My grandmother raised us for the next 3 years…until she didn’t anymore. She too, left. At least she gave us hints. She’d been ill for 3 months before she passed. I was 19, orphaned, with 2 siblings – 10 and 11, to raise.
You see, life made the choice for me. I met Mr Goke at my grandmother’s burial. Her church funded the small gathering and I didn’t even know half the people who came. My siblings and I went to a church by the house where they preached in English. My grandmother’s church had their entire service in Yoruba. We couldn’t keep up. Mr Goke was from her church. He met us at the burial and asked what my plan was as the new head of the home. I told him I had none. Then he made an offer I could not resist.
We moved into the apartment he got for us the following week. My siblings changed schools and he paid. I took UTME again and I passed. He paid. I got into university to study Agricultural Science. He paid. Living expenses? He paid. Allowance? He paid. Boarding school fees for my siblings when I moved to school? He paid. I am not sure if he was god-sent since all of this came at a cost. But I did know I loved him and appreciated all he did for us.
Within 3 years, I had had 6 abortions. He insisted on having unprotected sex on some days. He said it felt different. After the 6th abortion, I got a contraceptive implant. I had learnt about it from my friend at school. So the pregnancies stopped. We kept at it regardless. I was never curious about his life away from us. He’d never touched me in front of my siblings, he always treated me with love and respect. He gave me all I needed…all we needed. I knew he was married but I did not care. I remember mother taught us adultery was a sin. Premarital sex was a sin too. But she wasn’t there anymore, was she?
Exactly 8 years after Grandma died, I took ill. It was severe so I went to the hospital. I was 27, a graduate, working, with 2 siblings in school. I never dated (we technically weren’t dating) and I adored Mr Goke. I was diagnosed with HIV. I found out that Mr Goke had it too. I immediately had my siblings tested. They didn’t have it.
They said it wasn’t a death sentence. I began treatments. Mr Goke and I continued like nothing happened. However six months later, he left too, and for the first time in my life, I lost it. The disease didn’t kill him. He too, like my parents had passed after a car accident. My life had been filled with tragedies but I had held it all in, until I got the news of his death. It’s funny how you would think I’d despise him after all that had happened, but his death hurt the most. Tears streamed down my face as I got the news and I wailed until I lost my voice. I thought I couldn’t go on. I didn’t know how. Now, it was not that I was new to sadness and sad occurrences. My life had been one sad event after the other. Even then, it felt unfair, that life just went on despite all the tragedies that had befallen me.
Somehow, I did go on. Maybe not for myself, but for my siblings. In fact, I went on for another 22 years. My siblings were settled. Disaster struck again as I fell ill for the umpteenth time. I knew it was the last because I started to see things, or people, that others claimed they couldn’t see. They said those things weren’t real. They were real enough to me though. I saw Mr Goke. I saw them too – mum, dad, grandma. They were with us, smiling. It was a picture I had imagined repeatedly – my heaven. It was mine. Perfect. All along, heaven was a place in my mind, a place where we were complete, and where I was loved and at peace. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, edging closer to eternal damanation with each drift, I wondered a few things. If there be a god in heaven, an unseen force in my picture-perfect heaven, would he understand? Would he forgive? Was there hope for a jealous, angry, sad soul like mine?