By: Fr Godwin Abbah

I was called out to the hospital for a sick call on a cold February morning. As I walked in I got the usual stares that customarily come from people not accustomed to seeing people dressed in religious habits. I got a particularly long look from a middle-aged blonde woman who eventually greeted me and asked if I was a Catholic priest. “Father, I am a bad Catholic”, she started. We both smiled. We chatted for a while and she went on to ask if I would please stop by and pray for her daughter.

As I walked into the room I half expected to see a sickly red-eyed girl laying in her bed. Instead, I met an empty bed and seconds later a bright smile came bounding in. I was about to ask her where the sick person was when she told me her mother had told her that I was coming. I was a bit confused and fumbled with the hand sanitizer. Behind me I could tell she was trying very hard not to burst out laughing. I obliged her and starting the laughter myself at which point she let it out full blast, and that was how we started our prayer.

The next Saturday I went back to the hospital to see the smiley Mikayla. I took with me some simple prayer books and a booklet about St. Teresa of Avila. I left Mikayla and her parents after we prayed together. When I next went on a hospital visit, Mikayla was ‘coincidentally’ in the very same ward. Her mother saw me and came to meet me. Her face was changed. She told me that Mikayla had developed measles which complicated matters for her leukemia treatment. Mikayla now looked like the girl I originally expected: red-eyed, barely conscious, and very pale. My heart broke. I began to make more constant visits to her.

Some weeks later, on one Sunday evening I decided to go for a prayer visit with Mikayla. As I approached the desk where the nurses were I greeted them and asked to see her. They looked at each other awkwardly for a moment and then one of them gently said ‘Mikayla passed away this morning’. Time stopped! I looked at the ward as though to confirm if this was a rude joke and found emptiness. I began to walk away hoping something would change. Nothing. Numbness.

I went through a phase of anger with God. My prayers were prayers of protests. “Why did you let her die? She was so young! So full of life! So much to live for!” The tears flowed without bringing any answers. I shared my mourning with her parents. They shared with me their own grief, confusion and sense of loss. We were vulnerable together and it was a source of strength.

It took all the strength I had, human and spiritual, to preach and celebrate the funeral service of Mikayla without breaking down. It was sheer grace.

After the funeral Mikayla’s parents and I became closer. I invited them over to have lunch with the community. Some members of the community shared moments of their own loss with the grieving couple. They would later tell me how healing this was for them. Also part of the healing was the overwhelming support they received from all corners of the world. From friends going on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to light a candle to Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Massachusetts, celebrating Holy Mass for her at the Vatican. The overwhelming love and response helps them feel that they were not alone.

At this point you might be wondering where I’m going with this. Death is a rude familiarity. We all know this. I guess what I learnt from Mikayla and her family with is how mysterious this human connection we have with each other really is. I came to Cape Town from Rustenburg a stranger to the people and the environment. How is it that I got so close to someone I spent a total of about 15 minutes of lucid time with? How is it that I met her and her family at the time when her final months on earth were near? How is it that it feels like I have always known her? Could it be that they were the reason the Lord sent me to Cape Town? I now look at the web of connections that came to be as her own beautiful thread reached heavenward.

Months later I attended a talk at UCT which resonated with me. He said scientists observed that ‘the power of sub-atomic particles lay not in their individuality but in their interaction with each other’. That took me back to that primordial sense of connectedness that I felt with this person who I barely knew. It seems it is a principle written into the very nature of created things and led to the thought that if it is so for created things, wouldn’t it be even more so for the God who is TRINITY?

I have a picture of Mikayla in my room and every time I look at her picture the mystery of our human interconnectedness smiles back at me through her joyful grin. I know that I will reconnect with her again. I will once again be one with everyone and everything that there is… because I will be in God completely… In God who is all in all.


About the AuthorIMG_2891

Fr Godwin Abbah

Father Godwin Abbah is a Nigerian Redemptorist priest. He had his philosophy studies at St. Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan in Oyo State of Nigeria. After that he was sent by his superiors with his classmate to have their Theology training  at St. Josephs Theological institute, Cedara, Kwazulu – Natal. Soon after ordination he  worked at Sesobe, a beautiful village at the border of South Africa and Botswana in Rustenburg diocese. He was there for a year. Thereafter he was moved to Holy Redeemer parish, Bergvliet, Cape town. He served there until September of 2015. At present he is serving at St. Mulumba Parish, Alakia in the city of Ibadan where he had his initial introduction into Redemptorist life.

 

  • S-L Pimentel

    What a beautiful article, Fr. Godwin. And may I say that your departure
    left a hole in our hearts here at Holy Redeemer. We are all
    interconnected. No matter where we live, what language we speak, the
    distance of time or space. We are connected because we are family. We
    are a family of God that comes together around the table of the Lord.

    About
    10 years ago, I had life-changing year working as a volunteer in
    Germany. The people I lived with that year became so much a part of me
    or my life, that even now, all these years, later, I miss them
    desperately. Some I’ve had the opportunity to meet up with again in
    various parts of the world. Others I only stay in touch with on Facebook
    or Skype. And some, I’ve never heard from again. But I always feel
    closest to them during the Eucharistic prayer, when the priest says,
    “you have gathered a people to yourself, from the rising of the son to
    its setting” and at the end “we remember your Church scattered
    throughout the world” (I think that’s the old translation) because I
    think of these brothers and sisters who in their own countries are also
    celebrating the Eucharist.

    Similarly, every time we come together for Mass at Holy Redeemer, we are connected to you in Ibadan.
    Blessings
    Sarah-Leah

    • Godwyne Abbah

      Thank you Sarah-Leah! Your experience in Germany and the link you made with that beautiful prayer in the liturgy of the Eucharist is so refreshing. Thank you for sharing. I miss you all very much. Lord willing I will definitely come visit. ❤️