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It was a busy time inside the living room with my friends, as we undergo the last rehearsal of our Valentine Day’s love drama slated for presentation that afternoon at the school auditorium.

Mummy’s distinct voice was heard as she walked through the gate and the entrance into the living room, heading for the backyard. As I concentrated on the play, I could not look her way. But, somehow and suddenly everyone started to jump and scamper for safety. I still did not get the reason because my back was turned to mummy. I turned to greet her, and then I noticed a bent figure right behind her with face and top covered by a scarf. Startled, it was difficult to greet or hold myself together. Mummy was embarrassed and clearly disappointed.

“Never mind them Auntie, just keep following me”. She whispered unto the bent woman as she led her to the living apartments at the back of our main building within the compound.

After their departure, we gathered ourselves together, bewildered and disturbed about what my mother could be doing with such a clown and bent figure of a woman.

Who was she?

Where did she come from?

What has she got to do with mother?

Why should she come to our home?

I was not impressed or proud of whatever must lead mother to this sort of woman, and neither were any of my friends.

Our drama presentation was well attended and generously applauded. My script and role were the main characters, and I received warm ovations from the audience. It was a great and fun-filled Valentine presentation with many young lovers and adults in attendance. Lost in the euphoria of the celebrations and the positive turn-out of our drama presentations, I headed back home in company of school-mates and neighbors, completely forgotten about the case of the bent woman.

As I arrived home, mummy was waiting to get the report of how the Valentine celebration went. She was glad it all went agog, and everybody was happy. She then opened up to me about the stranger in our compound.

Ms. Kuku was a pretty young woman married to a farmer in a distant village. They had three children – a son and two daughters. She was afflicted with a strange illness that defied medical treatment three and a half years ago. Gradually it became difficult for her to stand upright and walk up straight. Her condition kept getting worse and was abandoned by family and relatives.

Her husband ran away out of fear and lack of funds to treat his wife. The children were sent to foster homes of distant relatives and others went into child labor.  As her condition deteriorated, the villagers alerted her parents and siblings who arranged occultist treatment at the shrine of a popular herbalist not far from our street.

Rather than get better, Ms. Kuku’s condition got more complicated and precarious, but she could not do anything about it as she had neither visitations nor support from her people. Occasional support only came through visitors and strangers that usually visited the herbalist for treatment.

Three weeks ago the traditional healer died, and was buried last week. Other patients in the healing home were collected by their people, but there was nobody to receive Ms. Kuku. Her parents and siblings believed it was a serious taboo to allow her live with them, so they kept away from her.

Great-grandfather, Pa Jonathan, was a “foremost” Christian Yoruba gentleman in his days. Grandfather Emmanuel was a wealthy Anglican community leader and close adviser to the king. He had a close encounter with the preachers of the Cherubim & Seraphim Movement of Moses Orimolade later in his life that he left family and property, and embarked on a missionary journey of northern Yoruba lands of Nigeria. He later died on this missionary journey and was buried in the church yard of one of the missions he helped to set up.

Dad was privileged to be trained in locomotive transport management and administration by the Americans. While training abroad, he took up the Catholic faith of his mentors and became a devoted Roman Catholic, “more catholic than the Pope”.  He would have been knighted by the Pope had he lived a bit longer. Thus, we were Roman Catholics, schooled and trained under the close tutelage of Jesuit priests and sisters.

Antonia, my elder sister traveled to Northern Nigeria, and got born again into an evangelical church movement that sprang up in Nigeria in 1973. Her attempt to introduce the new-found faith into the locality upon her return was rebuffed by the priests and laity of the orthodox faith. She was grossly persecuted by family, friends and foes, nevertheless, she refused to buckle. She set up a house caring prayer cell in our compound where people of various faith meet regularly during the week to pray and listen to Bible teachings.

While my mother would not discourage my sister from the new-found faith, she remain dedicated to her church activities and religious duties in the Church, scheming to become a Parish Woman Leader. As a respected women leader in the community and known trader, the family of the deceased traditional herbalist approached her to find a sanctuary for Ms. Kuku, saying she could “probably find healing and be delivered of her illness by the evangelical prayer cell”. It was rather out of concern and support, and not out of faith, that mother stretched out her hand of fellowship of the “good Samaritan” to Ms. Kuku.

Upon her acceptance into the ‘boy’s quarters’ of our house, the prayer cell’s Prayer Warriors, Bible Teachers and Evangelists descended upon her and the compound at regular intervals. Over time, Ms. Kuku, who were a chronic pagan and stark illiterate began to confess her acceptance of the gospel message, openly confessed and repented of her sins and sinfulness, denounced and renounced all her pagan and idolatrous life-styles and practices, and miraculously began reading the bible in the vernacular, while confessing Jesus Christ in their congregations.

By and by, the radiance of her color began to blossom and show. She was getting healthier by the day while most of her ailments and sicknesses started to give way and abate. Visits by her children and a couple of family member became regular.

About three months after her fellowship with the prayer group, Ms. Kuku was able to stand erect and walk straight up! She was able to stand up, bend down, and get up! It was a great miracle. Our compound became a Mecca of sort, with people from far and near coming around to witness the bizarre wonder.

The prayer cell grew. Mother and her children soon became regular devotees.  A patch of land was ceded to the group within the family estates, upon which they erected a district church of the evangelical movement.

February 14th of the following year saw the opening ceremony of that district church which drew prominent members from the orthodox churches, Muslims, and pagans unto Christ.  My mother and I, threw away our pride and self-righteousness, met Christ without hesitations, and became born-again Christians that day.

It has since been wonderful Christian experience with assurance of salvation and genuine hope of Heaven. Kindness to a pagan has led nominal Christians unto true and genuine salvation. What a surprise guest at Valentine!

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Donald was fourteen years old when he met Dianna, a girl of thirteen; at the wedding of Uncle Fred, the younger brother of Mr. Reinhardt, Donald’s father. It was one of those Valentine’s Day wedding.

Their discussions and exchanges at the august meeting encouraged Donald to start writing mails to the girl, most of which were favorably replied by Dianna. Nevertheless, Donald was not bold enough to clearly declare his affection and love for her.  He usually ends up around the topic, but never really got there.

At the peak of his deep feelings for her this year, Donald had become confused, and disinterested in his studies. How badly he wanted to see her, hold her and touch her.  Yet she was so far away. His school mates and friends noticed his terrible mood, but Donald would not share the truth with anyone.

He picked up the courage to write a special letter to his “girl” this time.

The letter got to Dianna late, in the midst of the end-of-the year examinations.

Upon her reading the contents, she was equally confused and unsure of the message.

She went to Jane, a senior girl of nineteen, and close confidant.

Jane explained to her that there is no problem having a male friend.  “You just need to be careful, and take full control of the relationship.” With experience and maturity, Dianna was guided into better understanding on how to play with boys without getting into trouble.

Donald graduated from high school, and secured admission to read polymer science at Cambridge University.

Two years later Dianna had become a medical student at Kettering University.

During the fall semester of his last year at Cambridge, Donald came home to visit his mum and brother, and meet with Dianna. Dianna shared the news with her parents, and they did not hesitate to welcome him into their home.

The homecoming was great for Donald and his elder brother, Steve.

Steve found a job as an investment banker at a Wall Street business firm after his graduating from college three years ago. The two young men were always a source of joy and inspiration for their mother, after the sudden death of Mr. Reinhardt four years ago.

“Would Donald be coming home to stay a while with me upon his graduation?” Mum asked Steve.

“I really don’t think so. He wants to start a project right away with a colleague of his from college. It is a United Nations atomic energy project, and he would not want to miss the opportunity.”

After meal, that night, Donald informed her mother and brother about Dianna.

“She has been a good girl from a good and respectable home.  We hope to meet this Valentine after many years of telephone calls and emails.”

“Are you getting married so soon”, Steve interjected, more out of jealousy, but equally out of serious concern for his younger brother.

Marriage is out of it!”  “I and Dianna met a long time ago, and became friends, and think we just need to see ourselves again after this long time.”  “She wants to be a surgeon, studying at Kettering. I hope to meet her and parents next tomorrow, and drive with them to the Allegheny Beach. She would ride home with her folks, while I drive home alone carrying mum’s Tuareg Jeep.”

He was happy to get the approval of his mother and brother.

Donald met Dianna at the front door. They shook hands, and he kissed her hand.

Diana was warmly received by the McCarty’s.

Donald was introduced by Dianna to her parents as a friend and a student of polymer science. at Cambridge. The parents chatted with Donald, exchanged views and pleasantries.

Meal was served, and everybody took off afterward for the beach, Donald driving with Dianna in front.

The two spoke of their plans after graduation, job prospects, life choices, and career.

Donald said, if given the privilege, he would love to spend the rest of his life with Dianna. Dianna quickly closed the topic, dwelling heavily on her studies and the internship after medical college.

The beach was  a great part of the meeting.

Donald was able to touch, feel and hug Dianna. She was still immature, unexposed, and green, sort of. She resisted all attempts by Donald to kiss, but had intimate hug and embraces from him. He gave her a special card for Valentine, with a special red rose from England. She promised to love him.

They went back to her parents, shared a meal at a special eatery, took some ice-cream, and departed. It was indeed a day Donald, and Dianna in her very secretive mind, would always wanted to look up to. As they drove out of his sight, Donald reminded himself that his first meeting with Dianna was casual, at a Valentine wedding. This meeting was real.  The next meeting should be their Valentine wedding day.

On his way from the camp, as he approached the bridge, he heard gun shots. Donald slowed down, turned off the road and waited to determine the incident.  Without thinking twice, he switched off the car engine, jumped out and locked up the car. He dashed into the nearby bush.

Five minutes later a car pulled up, and stopped right beside his jeep. A man pulled out holding a pistol. Donald could see him very well, as the man surveyed around the jeep, trying to open it. He couldn’t. He looked round, could not see anyone, and did not hear any voice. This bearded man in thick moustache and a small sombrero yelled at his partners. “Lay him on this car, and leave him to join the chorus in hell singing praises to the Devil.”

Donald saw the men as they brought out a blood-soaked man from one of their cars, and placed him on the bonnet of his car. He was too scared to speak. The gang drove off within seconds.

Donald waited where he was for a moment, then he pulled himself together, wanted to run. As he reached for his car with the intention of calling 911, after he had surveyed the scene perfectly well, the police arrived. Donald was arrested and accused of robbery and murder. Six months later he was convicted of robbery and murder, placed on death row, awaiting execution.

His mother and brother were totally depressed.

His friends and colleagues were distraught.

Dianna’s life was shattered, but she was strong. She stood with Donald throughout the trials. She vehemently believed his story.  Dianna prayed more regularly for divine intervention. She implored God in the day, she prayed fervently at night. She had a strong faith. Some other suitors came to her, but she never had their time. She was used to this chorus:

“They say that love’s a gentle thing
But it’s only brought me pain
For the only man I ever loved
Has gone on the morning train

I never will marry
I’ll be no man’s wife
I expect to live single
All the days of my life” 1.

Six months to Donald’s execution, the Legal Council for Truth and Justice, a Non-Government Organization, took over his case, and enlisted it for re-trial.

Panoramic sketches of the scene of the crime were taken from Donald. A new Prosecutor was found who took time to do a thorough investigation and findings.  The hoodlums who committed the crimes were found and convicted.

“The state and Jury are sorry for the wrongful carriage of judgment during your first trial. You are hereby pronounced not guilty and free to live your live as you please.”  The Jury declared.

Donald was freed. Ovations and accolades were poured on him from far and near.

He completed his education at Cambridge, while Dianna was practicing as a surgeon. They got married on the lover’s day of St. Valentine, and settled down in England, living in a country home with plentiful English red roses.

http://www.helium.com/items/2292224-a-valentine-story

1. Traditional- arranged by Linda Ronstadt
© 1977 Normal Music (BMI).

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