She was loved by many, a God sent to wipe the tears off the eyes of many. She was the mother most people never grew to know and the sister most didn’t have, and even if they had, their sisters can’t qualify where she stands. Her smile is like the cool drop of rain on a hot sunny day, like the ray of sunshine on a cold winter day, like the sign post that says ‘convenience’ on a bloody diarrhoea day.
Yes, she was calmer than the spring wind, soothing like the waves of the sea, she was just scarcely credible, a goddess in human form. She is aunty Anna.
I, like many others wished her well, we prayed for her. And like the local women did, many times after her act of kindness, they prayed God to give her an honourable man. For she was 46 and never been married.
She gave, and helped, and loved, like she was born for it. She did without complain or displeasure. Aunty Anna was what every person wanted to be like. More than half the okada men from our area, rode on motorcycles she bought for them. She shares wrappers to women every christmas and easters, she gifted them with grinding machines as well as sewing machines. Over 20 kids from the community primary school were sponsored by her, yet, she is just but ordinary.
Her day begins like any other. She says a prayer, a prayer that baffles me more than I can ever explain.
“Dear God, today you deemed it fit for me to awake and be among the living, so I ask that you bless me so that I can bless your people in return. Today, I ask not for me but for they who earnestly desire but have no means, those who seek desperately but cannot find. I ask that you fill me up to pour out to your children, that as I lay in bed tonight, I shall lay empty because I have blessed those you desired from me. I ask for the weak hearted that you use me to bring strength, to the downtrodden I ask to be a light to lift them up, to the needy that you show you are a provider through me, and to children looking for love, you make me a fountain of love to them. This and more I pray, Amen.”
Her day begins after a completely selfless prayer, then she drives her Mercedes 190 to work. We call her ancient, in fact, her car makes her look older but she insists she does not need a new one. All she needs is an automobile to move her from point ‘A’ to ‘B’ without hassle.
“The money I will use for a car I want – not need, want – I could give to over 10 families and change their story forever. As far as my car gives me no trouble, I will use it.”
Her happiness and contentment puts mine to shame. Once when she gave an older woman a new ankara, the woman asked her what political party she was contesting from and with a teary smile, aunty Anna told her she was no politician. She blessed her with long life and every good thing. She explained that she had just 3 wrappers, 2 were from people contesting for gubernatorial and senatorial seats respectively.
Aunty Anna was a walking ‘god’, she did no bad and sort to please every one before herself. Her story had gone far and wide, she got marriage proposals from men who thought she was sleeping on money beds, until they came close and discovered that at any given time, she contained in her account just what was needed to keep it active and nothing more. She used her singleness to serve God and his people. She identified with no church, political party or charity organisation. She just met people’s needs as fast as they come.
She started – just recently after seeing the need – to take care of the needs of single mothers and pregnant teenagers. She will hang around ante natal clinics and pay their bills, they’d go into labour and send for aunt Anna, most name their girls after her.
Then our prayers were answered, or so we thought. When the widowed general whose kids were all abroad, packed his prado jeep by aunt Anna’s house, the whole neighbourhood stood to watch. We were sad to know that if it worked out, she’d leave to a more posh neighbourhood but we were happy love found her.
Once when he visited, he drove off mad and her face was expressionless. I asked her and she said he wanted to marry her and have her move out of our ghetto. She loved it here and she said she would like them both to live in the ghetto. He refused and they ended the relationship.
“Work must continue”, she had said to me, “we had over 50 ‘almajiri’ kids to feed.” She was very calm as we handed food to the kids and smile and fed some kids herself.
On the drive home, I asked why she was so much at peace with it, she said “I have prayed about this my dear for so long. I stopped a while ago to concentrate on caring for people. But one thing I know for sure is that God will not give me a man that will have no place for my vision. I am content in a ghetto, he is not, I am happy in my corroded box on four wheels, he can’t survive a car without AC. Our lives are worlds apart. When God sends me my man, I’ll know.”
I was quiet as I pondered on her response.
Work continued, I was just an intern, I had told her I wanted to learn to love like she did. She doesn’t call me that, she said I have to learn to love like God does.
Then on a warm evening, an old green Peugeot 504 packed outside as we sat in the veranda to get some cold air, even though it was a battle of blood with mosquitoes, we got some little air. A man and 3 grown kids walked out, as they approached us, we realised it was a dad and his 3 children.
They came, she welcomed them. She apologised we had breakfast for dinner – tea, bread and eggs – so there was nothing left. She gave them fruits and glasses of water. The father held on to the glass, like it was some nerve calmer, he never drank until they left. Aunty Anna figured they came to seek for help, an ailing mother maybe.
The senior boy introduced everyone to us, said his father was a retired secondary school teacher, he taught Agricultural science. He was widowed and had been for 6 years. They decided their dad needed a wife and aunt Anna was not the top on the list – she was the only one on the list.
The father spoke with a lot of wisdom. He showed that the grey hair on his head truly did mean wisdom. He had thought in the community school for years and he knew aunty Anna, his late wife knew her too and she thought highly of her, she called her mother Theresa. He said, still holding onto his glass of cold water, that he knew she may not be considering marriage, but he pleaded that she gave him a chance.
NEPA had taken light, and a faint candle lit the little sitting room with chairs as old as the youngest child. And as he spoke, I caught a teary smile from aunt Anna’s bended head. It was the type she had when she helped those people on the streets, the same one she had when Polycarp stopped her in the city and introduced himself, he said he worked for shell and that she paid his tuition through out university. She didn’t remember him but she was glad he introduced himself. She had that same teary smile she does now as we sat around the faint candle.
As they set to leave, she promised to get back to them with a decision. The youngest and only girl kept holding onto aunty Anna as we walked them to the car. As we walked out, the father Mr Amos Nasmira sighted the bags of beans in the store house, he asked if she buys them and she said yes. He asked if she knew that farming them will cost her less and if she ever considered farming. She said she did but she had no knowledge of it. He said it was a good thing he was an agriculturist, aunty Anna smiled and then I saw it. Love in her eyes, it wasn’t the type she had when we shared food to the hungry, or supplies to the poor, it wasn’t even the same she had in her eyes when she prayed but it was there, a new kind of love.
As they drove away and we walked into the house, she asked me which had more ring to it: Mrs Anna Amos or Mrs Anna Nasmira. Then I knew her singleness was over, but I was glad and she was honoured to have made such good use of it.