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I say initial because the dark cloud called loneliness took on various forms over the months. I could now see how easy it was for sadness to lead to intense depression and suicide – this is not to be taken lightly at all and only God can lift one out of that dark cloud. The mind is a very powerful force that needs to be controlled by the Holy Spirit through constant renewal especially during delicate times. It is very easy for things to go downwards and sadly only those who choose to be observant by taking the time to study what your ‘normal’ looks like will figure out that something is wrong. I had several loved ones around me who cared so much that they called, visited every day and sent presents (God bless you all) but the cloud got heavier and darker daily. What was worse was the face I put on for the world so no one could hear me screaming inside. Truly like all the widows who visited me in those early days had warned, the more difficult times start when everyone goes home and you are left to ‘move on’
I had experienced this sadness before but it was greatly overshadowed by fear so I did not identify it at the time. This was in 2013, the Doctors had diagnosed Neuroendocrine Cancer in the pancreas – it was a slow growing cancer which could stay undetected until it was too late (you can check Google for more information). Dapo saw the pity in my eyes and hated it. He was my hero, my Mr fix-it but he couldn’t fix this, no one could. Anyone who knew Dapo knew how resilient he was, he did not like being pitied and even though I knew he saw it in my eyes, I could never bring myself to admit it when he asked me – how could I let him know that the shiver he saw was not always from the intensity of his touch but the deep fear I now felt anytime I looked at him. I felt he would break into pieces, he was so fragile and the dreadfulness of those hospitals did not help. Anytime I allow myself to remember, I feel a sense of hopelessness and my stomach twists into knots so I end up crying. I cannot bring myself to watch CNN, BBC or any other news channel where I see people suffering. I constantly remember the long wards filled with patients, complicated machines and sad families. The smell, the blood, the tubes and equipment. I spent hours and days on the hospital grounds going or peeping into every public/semi private area when Dapo was in private test and treatment areas. I saw babies with tubes all over their bodies, children with shaven heads, people with incomplete bodies, people being wheeled to and fro, emaciated people going to the garden for fresh air. I cried and cried and cried. What kind of horrible world of suffering was this? How was I going to get Dapo out of here? The amazing thing was Dapo always had an upbeat attitude so we were able to get through those times. But now he wasn’t here.
In May 2013 when the medical team was not making headway with the chemotherapy they decided to explore surgery (if a surgeon could agree) they wanted to try something called a Whipple Surgery (please Google if you would like to know more) and the risks were extremely high. In addition, they would need to reconstruct the major vein and artery the tumour was resting on because there was no way to go around them. After thinking, praying about it and researching the scary procedure for some days, Dapo decided to take the risk and go under the knife. For the first time after the initial sojourn in 2012, he started talking about the possibility of death. Throughout this 4 year journey even though Dapo had been hopeful and trusted that God would heal him he never shied away from talking about death but I never let him. He would start conversations like ‘If God says it is time, I will like you to do this or that’, ‘if I am not here by so and so time etc’. I never wanted to hear it. Sometimes though when I saw it was somehow therapeutic for him I let him talk about it. Looking back, I wish I had recorded his voice talking to me. Maybe then that voice would not haunt my thoughts so much.
I married my first boyfriend, Dapo was my first love. So it is so difficult for me to accept that he is no longer here. It has taken a long time for me to stop turning around to tell him something only to realise he is not there. I did not date all through school because I did not want to fall into temptation so it was just safer to avoid boys rather than fornicate (in hindsight though I can see there is gap with Christian mentors in this area. Avoiding boys is not the solution) In addition, my brothers are handsome Itsekiri (Nigerian tribe from Delta state) hunks so I saw first-hand how a girl could get her heart badly broken because of a boy and vowed it would not happen to me (remember I was not a risk taker). It was very confusing for me because I had zero experience and he asked me to marry him a week after we started going on dates. I thought he was crazy! How could he be so sure already? I immediately said no. In fact, it took me some time before I agreed to date him. I had said no to guys all my life and there was no compelling reason to say yes to him. I was not ready to get married so to me there was no need to date. I wanted to travel the world, go back to school and then maybe I would eventually settle down with a stress less Caucasian in my 40’s! Dapo was an extremely patient friend, he did not rush or pressurise me. He said he was completely comfortable waiting for me because he knew I would come back to him. His confidence often irritated me but I found him really intriguing – ladies please make sure you take the dating and courtship period to prayerfully ‘shine your eyes’ on that guy who is proclaiming love. I know we all have our lists of things we desire in a man – he should be God fearing, he should be tall and handsome, he should be financially stable etc but don’t belittle the place of his character. I did not know how important it was for a man to be kind, patient and selfless until I got to know Dapo.
I was completely honest with him from the get go, he knew I did not have the same intense feelings he had for me. For him it was love at first sight, it was so bad that when he talked about how he knew I was the one for him I got jealous because I wanted to feel that kind of love too (thank God I eventually did!). He had spotted me in a crowd some months back during my cousins wedding and followed me around at the reception. At the time it was so weird because I kept sensing that someone was watching and following me but every time I glanced back I didn’t see anyone (the guy was a major stalker!). It was time for the bride to toss her bouquet (a retarded ceremony as far as I was concerned back then. It is so amazing how I later grew to love everything about weddings and everything romantic. Only God knows what he did to me!). Of course there was no way I was standing up for that but the efficient M.C kept screaming my name ‘Toju Adollo, cousin of the bride come out and catch the bouquet’. I wanted to strangle him but hey, it was my cousin’s day so I politely stood up.
As I walked hurriedly to the aisle, I again sensed someone watching me apart from the stares I got from the guests who were eagerly waiting for the outcome of the ‘exciting’ catching of the bouquet ceremony. I kept looking round and then I eventually noticed a man standing on the balcony above the aisle staring straight at me like a zombie. It was very uncomfortable because he knew that I could see him staring down at me but he didn’t avert his gaze for a minute. What effrontery! At least have the decency to stare stylishly! That was Dapo, he had such boldness and courage like nothing ever fazed him. After some days, my cousin called and asked if she could give some guy who was so besotted with me my number. She said even though she had tried to persuade him not to bother because she knew my stance on guys he still begged for it. She vouched for him and said I should please just agree to give my number so I obliged. Do you believe the guy did not call for over a month! When Dapo eventually called, he was quite annoying. His first words were ‘Hi, I am about to go for a swim, what are you up to?’ If I did not have his number stored I would have hung up. I answered very rudely and gave all his questions monosyllabic answers. He actually laughed at me and said ‘stop acting like a child, you don’t need to be so rude’. I mean here was somebody I did not know acting so familiar like we had known each other for ages. I purposed in my heart not to ever pick up his call again after that. He was very annoying!
Smart guy that he was, he called again with a different number and we ended up talking more and more after that. How he broke the ice, I do not know but I just felt very comfortable with him. He was very easy to talk to and down to earth. I found out that he was an Engineer working in Port Harcourt and that he liked to swim. He was very expressive and open about his feelings, he told me his world changed when he saw me at the wedding and he immediately asked God to help him woo me. He said he could not concentrate on anything so he just decided to follow me around. His friend who he came to the wedding with thought he had gone mad. Ladies, I do not believe you have to convince a guy to want you. When he does, he knows that you are the most precious thing to him and he dedicatedly woos you. Some months after we started talking he told me he was coming to Lagos and he would like to see me. I got quite scared because I knew where he was headed and I honestly was not ready.
We eventually saw each other one evening after church, my friend who I went to church with literally dragged and pushed me to meet him. She was so giggly because everyone was desperate to see me start dating. I mean why would a normal 23 year old girl refuse to date? Dapo kept a healthy distance between us like he knew how awkward I felt then he gave me two tickets to a stage play and said he would really like to take me but it was okay if I chose to go with a friend. He also said he would like to visit me at home before taking me out but only if I invited him first. This annoyed me even further. I really did not like his bravado. My friend was practically like a pimp because she kept nodding and answering questions on my behalf!
It was the Christmas of 2004 and he was in town for quite some time. I lived with my older sister so she noticed there was someone I spent hours on the phone with. She asked who it was and if I liked him. I told her I did not. She said why not go on a couple of dates with him to make sure. Prior to that conversation, my view on dating was that you needed to know you were ready to get married to the person in order to go on a date with them (What???”!!!!! You see why we need more Christian mentors in this area!) But it is not always that black and white so my sister explained that dating meant going out on social activities (not necessarily as boyfriend/girlfriend) and during the time together prayerfully assessing whether you were compatible and ready for courtship. I told her I would give it some thought but you know older sisters, she snatched the phone from me one day and invited him to the house.
Dapo blended in easily with my family and I blended in easily with his. We had gone on dates for about a month and I had been praying but there was no eureka moment where it suddenly clicked that I had fallen in love with him, you know like how it appeared in movies and books. At the end of December, Dapo asked me to marry him again and I of course said no. I knew I had feelings for him but I was not entirely sure if that meant I should marry him. He told me not to worry about it and that he was going to wait until I was sure about him. Over the months he’d keep asking ‘Do you see yourself getting married to me now’ ‘Do you love me?’ ‘What is God telling you?’ He took every opportunity to proclaim his love for me, he always showered me with gifts and constantly reiterated that he wanted to build a life with me.
I had read somewhere and heard a few people saying it was dangerous for a girl to have undefined friendships which just seemed to flow into romantic relationships because the boy could easily say ‘but I did not toast (woo) you now, did I ask you to be my girlfriend?’. So I thought it was a brilliant idea to discuss this with Dapo (honestly, he was a patient man. After all his love proclamations and marriage proposals I still needed to have this conversation with him?! I don’t know what was going on in my head). I told him that he had just been saying he loved me and was just taking me out on dates but he had not actually asked me to be his girlfriend (I am covering my face in shame as I write this lol!!)
He found this extremely amusing.