That day was a very busy one. I heard several incredulous stories. I will share them with you on another day. An account I share with you, however, is one that had an inexplicable effect on me.
She was already crying a river when she entered the booth. I leaned in closer to the wooden frame that separated us. I stole a glance at her through the broken fissure of the frame and said, “My sister, dry your eyes. You are in the right place. The good Lord will grant you the peace that you need as you have come to open up about your sins to Him.”
My words seemed to have aggravated how she felt. She burst in louder cries and I was taken aback. I kept mute and allowed her to cry especially because I felt any other word from me would make her feel worse. After a while, I figured she had stopped crying. She blew her nose twice and sniffed a couple of times. I waited for her to say something but not a word fell off her.
“Sister… Sister…” I tried to get her attention.
“Father, I don’t even know what I am doing here. This should be the last place I come. I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t even deserve to be alive”. That was the response from the other side of the booth. She resumed crying. I was completely clueless as to what to say. Before I could figure anything out, she said, “I’m sorry for wasting your time” and bolted out of the room in her tears.
You can imagine how surprised I was. I shrugged at her oddity and did the sign of the cross. As I headed out from the booth, it dawned on me that I had made a mistake. I should not have let such a distressed person leave. Her words, “I don’t even deserve to be alive”, kept echoing in my mind. I made for the parish door in order to catch up with her quickly before she left the premises.
On my way out, I met Father Marcus. The surprised older priest stood in my way. I tried to go past him but he was too big for me to find a way around him. I managed to shove him off my path and ran out.
Outside, there was no sight of the woman. I felt so disappointed at myself. I was angry at Father Marcus for stalling me. As I headed back into the parish, I heard sniffing sounds coming from behind a tree in the compound. I traced the sound and found the woman there. She sat under the tree with the trunk giving her back support. She buried her face between her thighs. She was still crying. She was distraught; her hair unkempt. I assumed that she would be in her late thirties.
“Thank goodness I found you. I was worried,” I told her. She looked up and shot an angry look at me. Her face spelled hostility. I got closer to her and touched her. She leaped and started screaming on top of her voice. She ordered me to leave her alone. She warned me not to come close to her for my own good and added that she did not want to be among human beings anymore. As she said these, she punched me severally.
She was uncontrollable so I watched her inflict pain on me. When she got tired, she gave me a tight hug. I couldn’t help but put my hands around her and tap her back to soothe her. I helped her sit on the floor. At this time, she had drawn the attention of the few people who were in and around the parish. They all stood afar and observed. When Father Marcus got to the scene, he tried coming closer but I signaled him not to. I instructed him to make every other person also leave the scene.
The woman was still crying. “Father, I’m sorry”. She coughed out after a few minutes. I was still quiet. “I don’t deserve any of these things. You’re being far too kind. I’m too much of a sinner to be loved”.
“You don’t speak like that as a child of God. The worse sinner is still loved by our Father in heaven. What is it you have done that makes you this apprehensive?” I asked.
“Father, I have sinned. I have sinned badly. It’s very bad. I can’t even speak of my sins. It’s beyond unbearable. I just want to die and go to my grave with my sin. God will never forgive me for the things I have done”. She started crying again.
“Let God be the judge of whether you deserve to live or not. Tell me what you have done. That is the only condition under which I can help you.”
After a few minutes of hesitation, she said, “I am a murderer. I killed two people”.
“Chai!” I screamed in my head. As much as I tried to hide my surprise, she noticed it.
“You see what I’m talking about? I am too wicked; too sinful. How can I kill the two people who meant everything to me? How, Father, how?”
My gown was, at this point, wet with her tears. “How did this happen?” I asked her.
She sniffed again and sat up. “Father, I lost my four-year-old son a month ago. He died in a car accident and it was my fault. My husband was driving him to school that morning. I was supposed to strap in into the seat but I did not. On their way, an articulated bus ran into them and my son died.”
“Hmmm… Sorry” I breathed heavily.
“My husband did not die but everything changed”, she continued. “Father, I am a wicked woman. I blamed him for careless driving. He didn’t know that I didn’t strap Junior in. My husband blamed himself for everything. He apologized but I won’t accept it. This was not because he was wrong but because I knew I was the one to be apologizing. We quarreled every day after the death of our son. Though he was clearly traumatized by the accident, I didn’t have mercy on him. I cried every day and he felt worse with each tear I shed. I knew it but I didn’t stop.”
“So how did your husband die?”
“You mean, how did I kill him? When I returned from work three days ago, he questioned me for the first time about why I got home late. Indeed, it had become a pattern. I was coming home late every day. I just couldn’t stand looking into my husband’s face. The sadness he wore on his face was depressing. His health deteriorated rapidly. There was nothing to come home to anymore.”
“So did you fight that night?”
“No, Father. The devil in me didn’t make me say a word to my husband. I went straight past him to the bedroom. I locked the door and slept. I … I …” Tears started trickling down her cheeks again. “… I woke up to see the lifeless body of my husband. He was right there on the sofa. The same place he sat when I came in that day. He was in the same position he sat when I left him to go and sleep. Father, had I not ignored him he would be alive right now. It was written all over his face”.
It was as if someone had cut my tongue from my mouth. Not a single word will come out. I felt sorry for the woman who sat before me but I also felt disdain for her. I could not believe all that she had just narrated to me. While I thought of her callousness, she dropped the biggest bomb yet.
“Father, the body is still at home. I haven’t been able to move him or call anyone. I’m afraid of what might happen to me when I call the police and tell them the story.”
“What?!” I screamed! “And it has been three good days? Woman, get up and let’s go to your house,” I commanded.
When we got close to the house, the woman went hysterical again. She begged me not to take her inside because she was afraid. The compound was a quiet as a cemetery. Because we were not expecting anyone to be at home, we entered the room without knocking. Just when we went in, the woman fainted! Her husband was alive and she could not believe it… Another woman came from the kitchen and introduced herself as a neighbor who came in to meet the man unconscious and took care of him. When the wife regained consciousness, she apologized to her husband and confessed all her wrongs to him.
Talk of surprises for the day; I witnessed the man magnanimously forgive his wife. All four of us wept… and the rest, they say, was history…