To Nigeria with love - Anna Chaplain on a mission
Updated: Feb 4
They say 'charity begins at home' and Anna Chaplain Fumni Makanju has been making sure her father in Nigeria is receiving the love and attention he deserves. Fumni, who is also an Anglican licensed lay minister, is based at Christ Church, Erith, Kent. She returned from visiting her widowed father after Christmas and has written this account of how he is managing the challenges of the worldwide pandemic:
Since my mother passed on in August 2012, my siblings and I have maintained a very close contact with our father, who has refused to come to spend time with us in the UK. Not because he can’t travel but because of his set routine and interactions with people in his community. He would find life here boring, and I am sure he would miss his organic food. Despite being old and frail now, my father has aged gracefully since my last trip in December 2019.
His steps now are very slow, and I see him trying to move faster. I explained to him he is now 93 going on 94 and he needs to slow down. His feeding is still the same as my mum planned but now very little quantity. He will tell you his stomach can’t take quantity but quality. He ensures he takes a lot of fibre and his favourite breakfast is Weetabix and freshly plucked oranges from his orchard and, when not available, he buys from the local market. The next meal and last meal for the day would be any of our staple foods but with vegetables. He has only two meals a day. He has a hot herbal drink just before he goes to bed. I was able to cook a lot of different stews and soups which he is still enjoying.
My father at his age still reads his Bible and commentary books as well as the daily newspaper and it is no surprise that each year when the church has a Bible quiz, he wins all the top prizes. Now he is an independent participant because any group he is on obviously wins. You can ask him any question about a reading from the Bible, he would tell you where in the Bible it is from and be ready to give you a sermon on it.
He is so happy the Premier League football is back on and his favourite team is Arsenal, so you know why most of the family support Arsenal too! I need not say that even though his medical health checks are all fine, he has hearing and eye challenges. My sister as a paediatric consultant here, has bought him several hearing aids, but dad would just not use them. Only when he is going to church. I found it upsetting during this last trip because each time I spoke to him I would have to raise my voice and it would seem I was shouting at him. I tried convincing him to wear his hearing aids, but he said I need to accept the fact that he is old and that he is trying for his age. He is quite assertive now and would always have his final say.
He now has regular naps because he still gets up too early at 6am. He shaves and has his bath and is well dressed and ready for the day. Dad is coping well with the Covid situation in Nigeria and has asked God to protect us all. He has a portable water tank and wash hand basin outside the house so anyone going in washes their hands first, uses the hand sanitiser and face mask before going in to see him. He would also sit away, social distancing. It was good to note that every request from people to visit him was turned down politely and only in exceptional circumstances like his personal physician visiting to check on him.
Dad is of the opinion that we are all in God's hands and we must keep to what the scientists are saying so that we protect ourselves and others. The good thing during this period is the opportunity of having a mobile phone so he can take calls and make calls. Dad attends church once a month on a day set aside for senior citizens. He goes with his face mask and hand sanitiser. He looks forward to such Sundays. On other Sundays he is home tuning into the church service on his FM transistor radio. The only other outing he makes is when he goes to the barber's with his personal kit, the barber also wears a face mask.
Fortunately, we have a strong network of reliable people who are trusted by myself and my siblings. He no longer goes to the bank himself so when he needs monies, for example, to pay his workforce he sends his trusted aide.
The pandemic has not changed the maintenance of mum’s beautiful garden and potted plants. So far, I can say dad is coping very well despite the pandemic. Each day I thank God for his life and the opportunity of having him as my father. He knows how much he is loved, and he knows when he is gone to be with the Lord, that he was truly loved and cared for by his children.
We need to care for our aged parents and ensure that they are comfortable even in old age. The love and care we share and show to dad, I believe is what has helped my father so far. His faith and trust in God are even stronger now and I believe he is numbering his days. His last words each night now is 'may it be God's will that we speak again'. Amen
Licensed Lay Minister and Anna Chaplain
Christ Church, Erith, Kent