25th June 2019. 10:00am.
We sat on the pews, forlorn and lost in thought. The silence was loud except for occasional whispers here and there and a few “hellos”, ” excuse mes” and “please push up” . Occasionally, a soft whimper, sniffing, blowing of the nose could be heard; all evidence of silent crying. Other than that, it was dead silent and the air had an unbearable melancholic energy.
I focussed my gaze on the pulpit; eyes swollen, heavy and itchy from all the crying I had done the past three days. Something about the pulpit always intrigued me: one moment a new couple is excitedly starting their happily ever after, another moment new parents are dedicating their bundle of joy to God, another moment one lies there, lifeless, oblivious to what is going on; a journey ended, a chapter closed. All this happens in one place; and sometimes one immediately after the other.
“Excuse me” I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I looked right to see a young man dressed in all black with a tag marked “Usher” handing me a booklet. I took it and wore my eye glasses.
Right there, on the front cover was her smiling face, eyes looking directly into the camera. I stared directly into her eyes, transfixed as though somehow if I looked long enough, I would see what I had failed to see for 3 years; pain, suffering and a cry for help. I saw nothing, just her beautiful eyes that softened when she smiled. I looked at the rest of the booklet. In bold black, it was written;
Daughter, Sister, Friend, Mother and Wife.
Snatched by death
I still couldn’t believe Asia (as she was known to everyone) was dead. Oh! how death lingers right under our noses and takes from us when we least expect it! Asia was alive 3 days ago! Asia was with me 3 days ago! Fighting back tears, I let my mind wander to what would be the last time I would ever speak to one of my best friends again.
22nd June 2019. 2:00pm.
“So you wanted to talk” I said, finishing the last of my fries. We had ordered our favorite extra cheesy Burger and fries from Burger King and we had eaten this over laughter, noise and chit chat; doing close to 7 months worth of catch up.
“Yeah, I need you to listen to everything first before you give me your opinion” . Asia said, sounding unusually serious. “I think I’m getting a divorce. I need to leave Sean”.
” What! Why!” I somewhat screamed, looking at her, wide eyed. Asia and Sean were the “perfect couple”.
She burst out crying, and in between sobs she said; “I can’t take it anymore; the beating, the emotional abuse, the slavery… I can’t take it anymore!” She was shouting and shaking by now. “I have tried to be the best wife to Sean. I have sacrificed too much for him, but what do I get in return? Physical and emotional abuse! I can’t take it!”.
Very confused, I asked; “What are you talking about?” This was a genuine question. You see, Sean was perfect! He was Asia’s and other girls’ dream. He was a born again Christian, he was actively involved in ministry; he was a choir member and a youth teacher at church, occasionally preaching in the main services too. He was a lawyer and a known “man of integrity” in his circles and above all, he dotted on Asia; with a protectiveness that looked more cute than annoying. He didn’t hesitate to splurge on her and show it. He didn’t hesitate to love her in the ways she understood love. Sean was a reference for when the older people at Church spoke to you about the kind of man you marry. In short, Sean loved Asia, he showed it and he made sure we knew it. So you see, my question was genuine. Clearly Asia had to be overreacting to a lovers’ fit.
“It all started 6 months after our wedding” She said in between sniffs. I looked at her in disbelief! Asia had been in an abusive marriage for 2 and a half years! How!As if reading my thoughts, she said; “I know you must be wondering why I’m just speaking now after all this time. Well, it didn’t start out violent. It started with mean and sometimes even funny comments about my clothes, my body, my job, my friends, my talents and so on. He would just throw a sarcastic comment about my friends and him not wanting them around me and then laugh it off, but the next time I’d invite or hang out with friends, he would throw a tantrum and not speak to me for days or even weeks saying I’m disrespectful and not submissive. So I stopped hanging with friends or doing things that I knew triggered his anger….the cycle would repeat itself if I wore something he didn’t approve of or if I insisted that I needed to go back to work “. I remembered noticing some changes in Asia(thinking she had become too reserved) and thinking she was adjusting to married life and trying to strike a balance, so I didn’t inquire into it.She paused briefly to call her brother, Emmy who was babysitting her 11 month old son while she was with me. Rhaghai was fine and there were no problems, Emmy had told her.
“And when did the physical abuse begin?” I probed when she ended the call.
“Somewhere along the way, his tantrums were followed with a shove, then a slap, then full on beating. He would attack me as though he were a violent animal. He hit until he he saw blood or I was lying helpless, only then did he stop . He never took me to hospital lest something caught wind of what was happening, pur family doctor always came home”. She paused to blow her nose. “I should have left, but I always stayed” she added, starting to sob again. “….because he always apologised after that. He bought me flowers, booked me spa treatments, sent me on vacations and get aways…he always went on his knees and cried, begging me to forgive him, promising to change. Besides we have Rhaghai, I didn’t want him to grow up without a father in his life. So I always gave him a second chance until 8 months ago when he beat me and I ended up unconscious for 4 days. I decided to report him to our church couples group, pastor, his parents and my parents with the hope that they would help me and support me to leave”.
“What did they say?” I asked.
she laughed sarcastically, tears streaming down her eyes. “They said I’m not praying enough. I should take it to God in prayer. I’ve been fighting this battle in a physical way, now I need to get spiritual and pray and besides, Sean can’t be that bad. I may not be submissive enough that’s why I’d triggered this.”
I wasn’t surprised. This was not the first “You are not seeking God’s wisdom” kind of advice I’d heard from church groups.
“They even reminded me that Sean is a godly man who loves God. He may have fallen just for this moment, but that does not make him a bad person…and since he knows and loves God, God will change him when we call upon His name. So I need to pray without ceasing because the devil is trying to shift my attention from fighting the real enemy; which is him by making me fight my husband and my marriage. They said God hates divorce. Instead I should prayerfully work through this situation…you know, like the woman in War Room….blah blah”.Trying to wrap my head around what felt like a rollercoaster of thoughts, I asked; “Did you ever fight back?” Thinking to myself that I’d hit the son of man who ever laid a finger on me.
“Yes! This one time he hit me because I’d not made his tea as hot as it should be. So he poured the tea on me and pounced on me. We were in the kitchen so I picked the nearest frying pan and mingling stick and went straight for his head, he lost his balance and I hit him some more”.
We both laughed at the thought of a petite 5’4 Asia pouncing on a 102kg of all muscle, 6’2 Sean.
“….but this was short lived since he beat me to stupor when he regained his balance”.
At this, we both fell silent. Asia had been talking for 3 hours and she didn’t seem like she intended on continuing. So, it meant it was my time to speak. But speak and say what? I was at a loss for words. I remembered the first time they met. I was there. It was at a music camp 5 years ago. One didn’t need to be a magician to know that Sean was the center of attention for most girls and that Asia was his center of attention. Theirs was a relationship written from heaven (or so it seemed). They suited each other perfectly and had a beautiful friendship prior and during their courtship, they had the same principles and beliefs and they were from different branches of the same Church. One their one year anniversary, he proposed. Eight months later, they were married and since then until this moment, they were “couple goals”. That’s why it was hard to imagine Sean was a wife beater. Wive beaters didn’t look like Sean…..but that’s the thing; wive beaters didn’t come dressed in black with two horns and spiting fire. They were just ordinary men in the handsome face of the man you madly fell in love with, the one who cried when you cried, the one who did everything to protect you.
“So, I’m waiting for your opinion” Asia shook me out of my thoughts.
“You are on the right track. Leave before you get killed. I know we are Christians and there is the “what will people think” aspect, but your life is at stake, girl. You will die if you prolong this. For now, leave the house. You can come live with me as you sort yourself out. About the people saying you should be more spiritual about this, girl, these people are in healthy marriages and when dusk comes, they’ll return to their safe houses and loving spouses, leaving you with your violent husband and another your life in danger. Turn a deaf ear and leave. Your son will thank you in the future”.
With that, we chatted more and hugged goodbye. At 12:33am, I received a text from Emmy. Asia was dead. A fight had ensued between the two because according to Sean, Asia had left Rhaghai alone all day as she visited friends. Sean had stabbed her and run away.
25th June 2019. 11:00am
“Let’s all rise as we usher in the body of our beloved daughter, sister, friend, mother and wife; Asianut Amalata who has gone to be with the Lord”. The pastor’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
We stood as Asia’s casket was wheeled into the church. A white casket for our Angel; Asia. Snatched too soon by domestic violence.
Writer’s Notes and Disclaimer.
The above narration is purely fiction written to portray the struggles of Christians and people at large facing domestic violence. Any relation to true events is purely a coincidence.
I would like to know your thoughts on domestic violence and solutions to domestic violence especially in Christian marriages where the topic and divorce is shied upon.