Olorunfemi Oluwakemi Banwo

In Remembrance of Kemi

My friend’s funeral was on Saturday. It was 9am, the morning was not so bright… not so anything really. I cant remember how the day was. It just seemed like any other day but that we were going to my friend’s funeral. The invite said “home going” which had helped me push it from depressing to acceptable. However on the day of, as I wore my black dress, black stockings and shoes it didn’t seem so quite acceptable anymore. As if every piece of black was a nail on the truth that she was dead. Kemi was actually dead. She was never coming “home” again. At least not in our sense of the word home. I hadn’t cried since the first couple of days, when I’d been told. My coping mechanism had been to put it completely out of my mind and move on with whatever I had to do for that moment, that day, that week. Then July 18th came and I was forced to remember. I chose the biggest black bag I had, not because I had a lot to carry, but because its drag in my grip felt like an anchor. An anchor that I could balance my stride to and focus my mind on.

The service was, not to sound morbid, wonderful. A friend of mine echoed my thoughts recently. That it was the best funeral she had ever been to. Kemi had always been a force to reckon with and the testimonies of family, friends, and acquaintances all enforced that. The church was so full of people that eventually you had to stand because there were no more seats. Every aspect of the ceremony testified to Kemi’s love of Christ, from the dance, spoken word, musical numbers, and more. It was so wonderful because of the impact everyone could feel that Kemi had had on people’s lives. There was a point that I could not hold my composure, when they played two videos of Kemi talking about God and how you should “give him a try.” It was truly more than I could handle. However it was beautiful in that even in death, she was still preaching of His glory. In her days at the hospital, in the cancer ward, she even went to the rooms of other patients to encourage them. She had so much love coming from her family and her friends that she knew that not everyone on her floor had that same support. There were people who were alone in their fight. She had the giving heart to encourage them even in the midst of the biggest battle for her life. When she said in one video, that you are alive and should be happy in that truth and in that blessing, I felt so inspired. I knew my mourning was not for Kemi but for myself in losing her. She was in the bosom of our Father and in a much better place. No way would she want to come back here to the trials and tribulations. However in her absence she has given us a message: To live!

To live in Christ. To live for Him. To fully and truly LIVE. In the days since, I have been reflecting on my life.

Have I truly lived?

I don’t think so. However its not too late. For any of us.

In memory of her fight her family has set-up a memorial fund for cancer research : link.

You can also read Kemi’s testimony about how she overcame breast cancer. Published in 2012: link.

 

grief, early stages, notsoskinnydreams, christianity, dealing with grief

Grief

My friend died yesterday.

This is the first time someone this close to me has passed. I discovered that doubts, worries, and fear are not the only things that can mess up your frequency with the Holy Spirit. Grief will as well. Its like having cotton balls stuffed in every orifice so you feel suffocated by grief. Even your eyes become sore and tired. You go to sleep (if you can sleep) to grief and wake-up to it waiting there to remind you. She’s dead.

I googled “handling grief.” Google highlighted:

  1. Face your feelings. …
  2. Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. …
  3. Look after your physical health. …
  4. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. …
  5. Plan ahead for grief “triggers.”

Number one has been especially difficult. Number two is what I am doing right now. The rest… I will figure out. I almost did not make a post today. However I know once you get off the wagon it’s hard to get back on. Writing is therapeutic for me. So bear with me if this post is not that clear nor insightful.

Of all the things that can block you from God, grief feels like the most powerful. Its not a feeling of losing faith. Its more like when you get physically hurt and the pain overshadows everything else. I tried to pray yesterday and my prayers stuck in my throat. I couldn’t even think what to say. I just wanted to wallow and praying required being hopeful. Maybe that’s not the right way to say it. It required more energy than I had or was able to direct mentally. Yes, shame on me. After failing, I got up and went to where my family was praying so I could be enveloped by prayers, even as a third party.

This morning did not bring new energy or self-motivation. However God is ever faithful. Today’s verse of the day on my bible app, I felt was especially for me.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (NLT)

The first time I read it, I was on auto pilot and didn’t really let it sink in. However, I would come back to it through-out the day. By the third time of reading it, I could finally smile a little. I closed my eyes and said, inside me, God I just need a little time. A little time to be selfish and wallow, to grieve and not think everything is sunshine, just a little time to dig out of what I was feeling. I gave myself a day to be internal. I didn’t make it therapeutic. I didn’t focus on how I felt nor did I try to dig up memories. That is going to be a longer process that wont just be “a little time.” However I was able to shut out most of the outside noise. Now the day is almost up and there is no extension. It’s for the best. Tomorrow morning, I lead bible study. A God-send really. You cant be in a position like that and wallow, nor be selfish. It requires you opening up to God in a selfless way to be used and to minister his word. As you minister you cannot help but be healed and touched as well. Thats a wonderful benefit of being involved in ministry/the church it makes it really difficult to avoid God. Your involvement will have you touched by Him on a regular basis. During this time, I need that more than ever.

Where is My Courage?

Today my neighbor died.

My family and I had been praying for her for several months. She’d been diagnosed with lung cancer and lived with only the owner of the house, where she rented a room. I remember when I first met her. I’d heard what sounded like someone choking coming through the walls of our townhouse. It was so distressing I went over to see what was going on. There I met a woman that seemed worn-out by life. Immediately my own life troubles receded to white noise. In front of me was a woman suffering and seemingly alone. Unlike her, I had my family around me to support me. She told me how she’d just found out yesterday that she had lung cancer. She had overcome cancer several times now from different parts of her body. She exclaimed that it just didn’t want to let her go! That she would die alone with the cancer.

I really didn’t know how to comfort her. I was used to quietly sojourning through my troubles. When I did out-voice them it was passed when I needed comfort. The only thing I felt could comfort and help her was God. However… I never said his name. I didn’t open my mouth and tell her about how his water could quench her loneliness and weariness and give her eternal life. I didn’t talk about how even death shouldn’t be feared because He is there waiting for us. That he will lead us to springs of living water and will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev 7:17). All I did was give her love in the way I thought she would accept it. In hugs and comforting words. I withheld from her the greatest comfort there was. We exchanged numbers so that she could call me whenever she wanted someone to be with and also when she was in distress. At the time I believed I would ease her into conversations about Jesus.

The next day I realized where I’d erred. I sent her a text:

“.. You’ve been on my mind. How are you feeling today? I don’t know if you’re Christian but I wanted to share a verse with you. Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” You are in my prayers and I hope we can be friends.”

she responded: “Thank you very much, my friend.”

She never contacted me again after that.

Days, weeks, and months passed and I prayed for her but never approached her again. I’ll be honest, I was scared. I did not know how to go about being what I considered “intrusive.” My family has always been very reserved. Not opening doors that someone hasn’t already opened and invited us into. The coward in me wanted her to make the next move so I wouldn’t have to. Since she never did I considered my prayers enough. Now I feel terrible. Now I say “God rest her soul” not knowing if she was saved or not. For me that hangs on my head. I felt it when I first met her that God had brought me to her but I’d wanted him to make it easy and comfortable for me to engage and share him with her. Where is my courage in sharing my faith? Its easy to write about it, talk about it with other believers but where does it go in the face of those not yet in him? The last task Jesus gave was to share his truth.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 18-20 (NIV)

Now I pray that she is with Him. I’m praying that she’s receiving the solace she didn’t have on earth. I pray that next time I do better. That next time I don’t limit my understanding to my own but let him take control. I pray that God does give me a next time, another chance to share his love with no limits and no shame. This world can be too harsh not to go all out for him. People perish from lack of knowing him.

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
Romans 10:14