WHEN LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL [A Short Story]

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Aneen’s parents both had to go their separate ways after the birth of Aneen. There breakup wasn’t due to marital crisis, it wasn’t because of incompatibility in terms of character, it wasn’t because of irreconcilable difference, neither was it because of in –laws problem. It was a hard decision they had to take to save themselves and their remaining unborn children from calamity.

Mr and Mrs Lawal got married without knowing each other’s genotype, they weren’t so lucky as they discovered they were both AS genotype after marriage. This discovery was after Aneen was conceived and she actually came out having Sickle Cell Anemia.

Her Grandmother told her it was a very hard decision both her parents had to take because they loved each other very dearly. Their type of love was rare to find as their heart beats as one and one partner wasn’t complete without the other, but they had to go their separate ways to avoid bringing forth unhealthy children who might suffer the consequence of their foolishness should they refuse to part ways.

The love they share may later turn soar if they spend most of their lives caring for sick children. There might not even be time to rekindle their love if they dwell in sadness due to their children’s unhealthiness so after many considerations and deliberations, they thought divorce was the best thing to do to avoid stories of woes.

Aneen was put in her Grandmother’s custody after her parents divorced. Her mum had to relocate to Abuja to start life afresh and her dad traveled out of the country in search of greener pastures.

Growing up wasn’t a palatable experience for Aneen as living with Sickle Cell Anemia was life threatening. She was that skinny girl with bony face and fragile feature who sometimes wished she wasn’t born.

It’s usually hell whenever she had crisis and if it was her arms and legs affected today, it would be her chest tomorrow or her belly the day after. Hands and feet pains aren’t excluded, lower back pain was more threatening and joint pain was the most frightening. People around always shed tears whenever Aneen crisis started and Aneen herself was always in severe pain. The doctor explained that sickle cells are curved and hard, they don’t flow as easily, and they can get stuck in the small blood vessels of the chest, belly, and joints and that’s when the crisis occur.

The doctor explain further that the cells slow or even totally block blood flow, so some parts of the body don’t get the oxygen they need. This is what causes intense pain that lasts from a few hours to a few weeks. The pain of sickle cell is that stabbing, throbbing, sharp and severe pains which seems to come out of nowhere.

Aneen was not too lucky to have crisis once in a month like some SS patients do. Hers comes every now and then and she was always in and out of the hospital which made her misses school often. Money wasn’t her problem as her parents sends more than enough to Grandma but sometimes money might be useless if there’s no good health.

She was so fragile, her class mates nicknamed her ‘sicky sicky girl’ often times she was rushed from school to the hospital where she stays for another few days before resuming again.

Her teachers had a close watch on her because her crisis was one that doesn’t give notice. School life wasn’t a beautiful experience for her because she doesn’t have friends. Not that she wasn’t brilliant or beautiful, in fact her good brain was a saving grace for her most of the time. Despite the fact that she misses school very often, she was a genius who catches up with school work any moment she was around but it seemed her class mate were always careful of her bad health so they seldom play with her.

She was also a beautiful girl despite looking skinny and fragile but her fragile looks doesn’t attract friendship and it doesn’t get to her. She was a girl who was trained self love by her grandmother and she believed in appreciating one’s self if others doesn’t.

She was a book worm who always takes delight and pleasure in reading. She tops the class despite her truancy caused by ill health and her mates keep wondering how she did it. It seemed so unbelievable that Aneen, the sicky sicky girl who doesn’t come to school often would be the one to lead the class. The girls in her class started beefing her and would talk behind her back. Little did they know that sickle cell may affects other parts of the body but it doesn’t affect the brain.

The only person that comes through for her in the class was Mahmud Adedire. His eyes were always on her without her knowing and whenever she had crisis, he would be the one to run to the school clinic if their teacher wasn’t in the class. He talked to her even when others wouldn’t and as little as they were then, he had words of advice for her which she appreciates.

“Always eat good diet, ensure you don’t have mosquito bites, good food and healthy life style reduces crisis.” Mahmud would say.

“How do you know that?” Aneen would query.

“My cousin is also living with Sickle cell disorder, she stays in my house and I go with her to the hospital most times. I heard the doctor tell her this most of the time.” Mahmud explained.

“I see, so tell me, does your cousin have crisis as much as I do?” Aneen asked with a smile, feeling very comfortable in the company of her caring friend.

“Yes she does. She said the pain is like getting stabbed repeatedly. Whenever she’s in pain, I always cry, it’s exactly as if I was the one feeling the pain.”

“Yes the pain is life threatening, I pity my grandma because my sickness is really traumatizing her. Sometimes she feels I should have gotten used to the pain and not be so miserable whenever I have crisis. She doesn’t know each attack is a weight on my chest and a dagger in my heart. The intense pains weaken my soul and cause me low moments. I don’t fake the pains, my Grandma is caring but I wished she understands me better. Sometimes I wished I wasn’t born. The pain is becoming unbearable.”

“Please don’t talk like that, a leaf will not fall without the perfect knowledge of Allah, you’re created for a purpose and your creation wasn’t a mistake but a blessing.” Mahmud cheered with a smile.

“You talk like a sage! You need to be me to know exactly how I feel.”

“I know exactly how you feel because I have a cousin with the same condition. You don’t know I always have my eyes on you in class. I know it’s not easy but you’ll pull through bi’ithnillah.” Mahmud said again with the wisdom of Lukman.

This and numerous other memories was what Aneen shared with her only caring friend in class. He said soothing and encouraging words to her and his intelligence was way beyond his age. They were both just nine and in primary six preparing for the primary school common entrance. With a friend like Mahmud, school became a little bit fun and knowing someone cares for you is a great driving force which gingers and lifts the spirit. Now she looks forward to school days to behold Mahmud’s smiles and soothing words. His ever unrelenting offer to help with her heavy school bag to the gate before they part ways always bring smiles to her face whenever she remembers.

Apart from Mahmud, Mrs Badmus her class teacher was another guardian angel sent to her by God. She loved her too much and always watched out for her. She shared her food with her and always bought her gifts. She sees a motherly figure in Mrs Badmus and was always free with her. She was always at Mrs Badmus table every break time to give her gist about her home and Mrs Badmus was ever ready to listen to her. Mrs Badmus and Mahmud became her inspiration and her driving force to always stay healthy in school.

There was a time Aneen was stable for consecutive two weeks and was in school everyday but one week out of the two weeks, her friend Mahmud wasn’t in school. She was so worried and school life was kind of boring without him. Everyday after assembly, she fixed her gaze on the entrance expecting him to walk in but she was disappointed each time. She still believed he would come that day and never stopped expecting him and not until close of school that day did it dawn on her that he wasn’t coming.

The following day, she couldn’t bear the wait again so she was forced to go inquire about him from their class teacher and that was when she knew he wouldn’t be coming to school for the whole of that week. Being a very inquisitive girl, she queried her class teacher on the reason for his absence and the teacher hesitated before telling her. She wouldn’t let the teacher rest so she had to tell her that Mahmud would be absent in school for a while because he lost his cousin who was living with Sickle Cell Anemia.

What happened after made the teacher blamed herself for telling her. Aneen broke into tears and asked her teacher if she was going to die too as she had the same ailment. She cried non stopped and it took the teacher a while before she could console her.

“Aneen darling, you’re not going to die, you may have the same ailment with Mahmud’s cousin but you don’t have the same destiny. Wipe your tears and cry no more. You know you promised me that you’ll fight till the end. Aneen you’re a warrior and warriors don’t quit until the war is over. Promise me you’ll stay healthy, you still have good years ahead of you so don’t panic. You shall be through with your education, get a good man who will love you dearly and raise beautiful kids.” Her teacher consoled with soothing words but Aneen wasn’t convinced.

“But Mrs Badmus, can a sickle cell patient give birth?” Aneen queried.

“Of course my darling, a sickle cell patient can live long and raise healthy children. The life expectancy of sickle cell patients can be up to 50 years now and above compared to before when it was just 14 years. Alhaja Asiata Onikoyi Laguda is the oldest person in the world living with sickle cell and she turned 93 on the 1st of November 2018. She married and raised children so you see my dear, the lifespan of a man has been predestined by Allah whether sickle cell or not, every human shall die at the appointed time.” Mrs Badmus lectured and Aneen gave her a tight hug.

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Aneen’s Grandmother had aged and weak now, she could no longer take care of herself not to talk of caring for a grandchild with sickle cell anemia who always went in and out of the hospital due to sickle cell complications. Grandmother was invited by her son who resides in Osogbo where proper care is assured and that is where she would be living till the end of her days. Aneen was given the option of choosing who to live with between her parents and she chose her mother.

Aneen’s mum had long remarried when she was 4 years and was living with her husband in Abuja. She had three other children and Aneen felt she would be more comfortable with her mum than her dad. Her dad had returned to Nigeria and just remarried two years ago with a toddler. Her parents respected her decision to be with her mum and she relocated from Lagos to Abuja after her primary school education.

A new life started in Abuja and her mum was just realizing how much trouble grandma had gone through raising a sick girl like Aneen. The old woman must have gone through lots of sleepless nights which Aneen’s mother had just started. Her husband understood and was supportive. Together they cared for Aneen and her siblings too loved her like a big sister. Before she arrived, her mum had lectured them about Aneen’s ailment so it wasn’t too strange to them but her crisis still left them in awe.

Aneen’s mother couldn’t stop thanking God for making a good decision to leave her first marriage. How much of SS children would she have raised had it been she didn’t leave. Raising one SS child was hell enough not to talk of multiple. That would have been soul draining and too pathetic for her. Even with one SS child, she lived in panic everyday with the fear of the unknown. It is a known fact that the lifespan of SS patient is short with little exceptions and bearing this in mind, she had zeroed her mind about eating the fruit of her labour on Aneen.

Though she wanted her daughter to be around for a long time, surpass her in age and not die before her but her mind wouldn’t just be at rest. Whenever Aneen had crisis, she always think that was the D-Day but Aneen always fight like a warrior everytime and life continues. Through her troubles she always give thanks to God and prayed fervently to Him to spare her daughter’s life in good health.

Though it wasn’t easy having high hopes on a sick child but Aneen’s mother kept her hope alive. Though her faith sometimes get shaky with various news she hears of SS patient dying before the age of 15, she hope hers surpasses 15. She hopes to give her in marriage to a man who would love her more than anything in this world and put her mind at ease knowing she’s in safe hands.

Days rolled into weeks, weeks into months and months into years and the sicky sicky Aneen whom everyone thought wouldn’t pass 15 due to her excessive Sickle cell complications was now a graduate of physiotherapy with second class upper division.

Her parent’s joy knew no bound, the girl they thought couldn’t build a hut ended up building a breathtaking mansion. They celebrated her and their hope was once again rekindled. The God that saw her to this stage will give her a long and less complicated life.

Her parents advised her to go for her second degree as money to support her wasn’t the problem, they wanted her to live a fulfilled life, have the best of everything and no regrets. She agreed with her parents, living life to the fullest by getting to the peak in her career wasn’t a bad idea, if at all death had to snatch her away, she would be fulfilled having lived short but well.

She completed her second degree and started work. She secured a placement in a big private hospital in Abuja and she was doing fine.

The quest for love and companionship is just a natural phenomenal for all human and Aneen wasn’t left out but unfortunately guys wanted just friendship from her and not marriage. She was the regular girl with sickle cell anemia whose appearance announces her ailment. She doesn’t need to tell anyone before they know she’s SS. It’s very glaring in her outlook. Some SS patients are very lucky not to look it but Aneen looked it and guys were on the run.

Human mentality is that SS patient can die anytime plus a lot of money is required in maintaining their health. No one wants to marry a woman that has a short life span, forgetting that Allah owns the key to every life and he takes at the appointed time. A healthy person may slump and die without a prior notice while a sick person can live long by the will of Allah.

This was a trial Aneen had to battle with. The most painful part is that guys wanted her as a fiddle. They don’t want a serious commitment, and immediately the issue of marriage is raised, they took to their heels and run. All they wanted was a platonic friendship and Aneen wanted marriage. Her biological clock was ticking away, in few months she would be 29 and this was really bothering her.

Money wasn’t her problem, what to eat or wear wasn’t her problem either. She’d achieved enough educationally and all she wanted now was love. She was at a stage in her life where she needed a man’s companionship, her soul yearns greatly for it and she couldn’t wait at all. She wanted to be loved and cherished, she wanted to dwell in a man’s world and have the joy of companionship. Aneen was beautiful no doubt, even a blind man could testify to her beauty but beyond beauty, guys wanted a woman that would be around forever and not one that would just exit like a mirage.

This was definitely weighing her down, she told her mum about it and the latter advised her to love herself more, believe that her own man is somewhere in search of her too and would locate her soon. As if what her mum said was a prayer, she met Abdullah few weeks after.

Abdullah was a medical doctor whom the hospital Aneen worked with just employed. It was an instant connection. They became friends and he confessed to love her exceptional brilliance. They started with friendship and after two months, Abdullah proposed marriage to her.

She was really happy and the joy she felt within was indescribable. She smiled throughout that day till her jaw almost dropped. She got home and informed her mum who advised her to seek Allah’s guidance through istikhaarah. She did as advised and few weeks after, she gave Abdullah the yes answer.

Abdullah’s parents also resided in Abuja and he would be taking her home to see them. He took her to his parents on a Saturday and their countenance revealed she wasn’t welcomed. They called their son to the room and she didn’t know what they discussed but Abdullah came out with a long face. Watching Abdullah’s sad face made her heart pounded beyond ordinary. She could hear her heartbeat as it beat fast and she told Abdullah she wanted to go home.

He took her home and on their way, he told her his parents wouldn’t welcome the idea of him marrying a SS. Aneen was mute and didn’t reply Abdullah no matter how much he spoke to her. He begged her to forgive him and prayed God send her a man very soon. He dropped her at the front of her house and turned back.

Aneen walked into the house and broke down into tears. She wept till her eyes were heavy and blurred from tears. Her mum consoled her never to despair and keep her hope alive. She prayed for her and fed her with encouraging words but Aneen was inconsolable.

“Mummy, is being SS a crime, why is life being unfair to me. Why do I have to live an unhappy life, as if falling sick from SS complications isn’t enough, I still had to battle with rejection and lack of love. Mummy why……………”

“My dear please be patient and await the bounty your Lord is about to bless you with. Abdullah is not yours that is why he’s not staying, your own man will come and very soon too. A man that will look beyond your ailment and love you unconditionally………………..” Her mum tried to say but she interrupted.

“Mummy Abdullah loved me but his parents are the problem………….if a man loves me and his family doesn’t, I still have a problem.” Aneen said amidst tears.

“My dear, Allah does his work completely without leaving a loophole. He will give you a man who will love you and whose family will love you for who you are. Please my daughter stop crying for every hardship comes ease. All you need is believe and the one who’s capable of doing all things will do it for us.” Her mother comforted.

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Aneen listened to her mother’s advice and started praying hard with faith. Ramadhan arrived and she intensified her prayers in Ramadhan. She never missed her Qiyyamul-layl during the holy month and during the last ten days she increased her worship in search for the night of majesty, laytul Qadr which is better than a thousand month and whoever is fortunate to seek it gets his prayers answered among other positive things like Jannah.

Aneen prayed for an Eid gift from Allah and expected it with high hope. She was happy having utilized the most of the holy month and equally fulfilled in character and good deeds.

On Sallah day, she went with her parents to Eid and after the Eid prayer, one of her patient saw her and was asking her some questions when her mum shouted her name to come over to the car. She waved to her mum to tell her to give her more time and that she would join her very soon. Her mum was annoyed as guests were already waiting for her at home.

Whenever she does something that irks her mum, she had the habit of calling her with her surname to register her displeasure or to call her attention to something and anytime her mum does this she knows she had to quit whatever she was doing. Her mum shouted at the top of her voice and this singular act does something marvelous.

“Aneen Lawal!!!! If you don’t come here this minute, I’ll leave you here.” Her mum shouted and she apologized to her patients and hurried to the car.

She entered the car and her step dad zoomed off immediately.

“Aneen why are you like this, I told you before we left home that we’re leaving immediately after the Khutbah.” Her mum said staring hard at her.

“I am sorry mum, the woman is my patient and she was asking me something very important.” Aneen apologized but her step dad has something different to say.

“Someone is waving at me to stop, the person is running towards the car. I can see him through the mirror.” Aneen step dad said fixing his gaze to the mirror.

“Who’s the person, you can slow down a little let’s hear him out.” Aneen’s mum advised and her husband stopped the car for the person to catch up.

The person did catch up with them and was panting heavily. Aneen’s step dad wine down the car window and asked the young man what he wanted.

“Please where is Aneen Lawal?” The young man queried while panting heavily.

“What is this one saying.” Aneen’s step dad asked in confusion.

“Sir, I heard someone called Aneen Lawal and I saw Aneen as she entered this car. I have been trailing and waving for you to stop since but you didn’t see me.” The young man explained.

“You heard someone called Aneen Lawal, my Aneen is not the only Aneen Lawal in Nigeria.” Aneen’s step dad said and made to drive off when the young man stopped him. All this while, Aneen’s step dad was the only one who could see the man because he wined down the window, the car glasses was tinted so others couldn’t see him.

“No sir, I have ever known only one Aneen Lawal in my entire, please allow me see her.” The young man replied with pleading eyes.

“Who are you?” Aneen’s step dad asked.

“I am Mahmud sir. Please tell her Mahmud Adedire from Smart kid primary school.” Mahmud said and Aneen’s step dad conveyed his message to Aneen who opened the door immediately and jumped out of the car to behold her old friend.

She almost jumped on him but restrained herself.

“Mahmud!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” She exclaimed excitedly.

“Yes this is me, Aneen you haven’t changed a bit.”

“And you haven’t changed either. You still have your look, how did you see me?”

“I didn’t see you, I heard your name and since I haven’t come across someone else with that name, I knew it has to be you. Is that your dad?”

“Yes my step.”

“Is your mum in there as well?”

“Yes.”

“Let me say hi to her.” Mahmud said and Aneen knocked the window to call her mum’s attention and the first thing her mum said after rolling down the window was ‘Aneen let’s go home, you know you’re looking for my trouble’.

“Mummy chill now, my friend wants to say hi.” Aneen said smiling.

Mahmud greeted Aneen’s mum and she replied cheerfully and later gave Aneen the ‘let’s go home look’ again. She looked at Mahmud and he gave her the ‘don’t leave me look’

“Mummy you can go, I’ll join you later.” Aneen replied

“Aneen are you kidding me, you………….” Her mother exclaimed.

“Mummy don’t worry, I am safe.” Aneen assured her mother and the car drove off.

After Aneen’s family left, Mahmud took her to where his family were and introduced her to them. The females took turn in embracing her and it turned out that Aneen would be spending her Sallah in Mahmud’s house. She joined them in their big bus jeep and off they went.

The driver parked in front of a big gate and hoot for the gate to be opened. He drove in and everybody alighted. It was a big house and Mahmud walked Aneen to a seat beside the fountain and asked her to sit. He took his seat too and smiled at her.

“I have been looking for you.” Mahmud started softly.

“Really?”

“Yes, you don’t know how much trouble my heart had gone through trying to look for you.”

“Mahmud, I am not lost. I’ve been in Abuja and you know it.”

“I know you’re in Abuja but I didn’t know where exactly which made it difficult. Dad was given a federal government appointment and we had to relocate to Abuja and I’ve been looking for you ever since. Alhamdullilah now I found you I am never going to let go.” He said with a strong will and Aneen was silent, she suddenly became shy.

“So how is your health?” Mahmud asked

“Alhamdullihah, I have less complications now compared to when I was younger, I’ll pull through like you always told me.”

“Yes you’ll pull through and not alone, we shall pull through together. I assure you that I will never leave you come what may and I’ll stay by you to walk you through the turbulence.”

“Errmmmmmm.” Aneen stammered without finding the right words.

“Don’t bother to say anything because you don’t need to say anything. I am here for you Aneen, by your side forever. You are one of the reason I studied medicine and surgery, and it’s time to take care of you Aneen please marry me.” Mahmud proposed and she never saw it coming, she broke into tears and shook her head.

“No Mahmud, I don’t deserve a good man like you…………..you don’t have to be trapped for life by marrying a sickler like me. You don’t have to pity me, don’t worry, I can survive without you.” She replied with teary eyes.

“No Aneen, I am not marrying you out of pity for you, far from it. I want to marry you because that is what my heart desires, it is from the bottom of my heart and I have always told myself the period I was looking for you that the first thing I’ll do after seeing you is propose marriage to you. Aneen please don’t deny me the pleasure of spending forever with you.”

“Your family?” Aneen asked softly.

“My family know everything, in fact we were all looking for you together. They gave their consent a long time ago so Aneen you have no problem.”

“Your genotype?” She asked softly again.

“I am AA, if not, I wouldn’t be doing this. Please Aneen, let’s become one.” Mahmaud pleaded and there was silence.

“Aneen.” Mahmud called to jolt her back from her thought.

“Mahmud you have to give me time to pray and think it through.” She said firmly.

“Fair enough, but please don’t keep me waiting for too long. I had waited long enough to find you, I love you sincerely Aneen, I wish I can open my heart for you to see.”

Aneen spent the whole day with the Adedire’s and they were warm and sweet. The few hours spent with them was like eternity and deep down in her heart, she couldn’t wait to join the family. Mahmud dropped her later in the day and went in to greet her parents. To Aneen’s surprise, he made his intention of marrying her known to her parents and they told him they would accept him as long as their daughter accepted him.

Aneen’s mum once again advised her to seek Allah’s guidance which she did and few weeks after she consented to Mahmud’s proposal.

“Mahmud I’ll marry you……….you are my Eid gift by Allah and I love you.” She said and Mahmud couldn’t hide his joy.

“Eid gift?”

“Oh you won’t understand, don’t worry I’ll give you the gist later. For now let us become one and dwell in each other’s company forever.” Aneen said with over flowing excitement.

“Oh thank you baby……….and you’ll never regret given me your heart, I love you so dearly, I have always do and I’ll do forever.”

They got married and Mahmud was already prepared for the challenges that’ll come with marrying a SS patient. He bore his responsibility with patience and with absolute trust in Allah. It’s a big sacrifice to marry a SS patient and he took solace in Allah’s reward bearing in mind that Allah owns our lives and he takes it at the appointed time, besides a SS patient can live a normal and lively life despite complications. Like travelers on a journey we are, each person will alight at his destination, either he’s a sickler or not so Allah knows all while we know not.

The couple were blessed with children, the husband was generously supportive and bears in his mind that she wouldn’t die unless it’s her time.

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“Every soul shall taste death…….” Imran verse 185

“To every people is a term appointed: when their term is reached not an hour [moment] can cause delay, nor a moment can they advance it.” Al-araf verse 34

[Raise the banner for sickle cell awareness. The pains is real, the trouble is not fake, it’s soul draining, it’s faith shaking. It’s a deadly disease, make sure you get tested and match the right genotype before marriage.
Don’t bring forth innocent children to suffer untold hardship. Allah does not give us burden that we can’t bear. Don’t be misled, sisters don’t allow a brother talk you into marrying someone of same AS genotype. Don’t let someone with exaggerated piety put you in an eternal trouble…………………let’s raise the banner, SICKLE CELL IS AVOIDABLE………………Lajfingers]

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8 Comments

  1. Hmmm barakallahu feek sister.you reminded me of myself.Although I wasn’t a sickle. But we were both AS. Thanks to my doctor uncle who created the awareness and my Dad had to enforce it on me. It wasn’t easy. But Alhamdulillah its a story I am now narrating.

  2. Barakalahu fih sister. nice Story with a great lesson and message.

    observations:
    About the tinted glass.You can see anybody or anything when you are inside the tinted windows or glass but you can’t see through when you are outside…

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