We called him Tony, the talented Tony. Since childhood, his star had always shone bright. He was academically gifted, he had leadership skills, he was a good sportsman, he was well liked by his peers – basically an all-round great student with a bright future. His parents were proud to have a son like him and even we the villagers took pride in being associated with him.

After performing well in both primary and high school, he of course proceeded to the university where again he performed well as was expected. We the proud villagers hired not less than three buses to attend his graduation. We wanted our son to know how pleased we were at his achievement.

Can you imagine our joy at his wedding? Our son had found a lovely woman whom we approved of. We were very happy with the way his life was progressing and we cited him to all the young people as a young man worth emulating.

We received the news of Tony’s wife’s pregnancy with the jubilation it deserved. Our son was continuing to do us proud! We heard that she was having difficulties with the pregnancy and we sympathized with them. Some of us even travelled to go visit them carrying traditional herbs that were known to help pregnant women. We wanted them to know that we were walking together with them.

It broke our hearts to hear of the demise of Tony’s wife while delivering their baby. The village was in shock and tears. We all rushed to the homestead of Tony’s parents to condole with them. We could hardly believe the tragedy that had unfolded but such is life, we could only remind them that life is but a mist for all of us.

Tony surprised us with his fortitude. We expected him to fall under the weight of grief, but he was a strong tower; we expected him to be overcome with sorrow, but he was a beacon of hope- already taking excellent care of their child who had survived. He was an excellent mobilizer, managing to successfully fundraise to offset his wife’s medical bill. He efficiently organized her funeral, taking charge over the event and impressing everyone with his stoicism. We couldn’t possibly have been prouder of our son.

Once the funeral was over as well as the culturally prescribed mourning period, Tony resumed his work as a teacher. In fact, the very week he resumed he was to be marking national examinations. His peers were very happy to see him back to work; everyone remarked at his apparent strength.

One evening, his peers got a distress call. They were asked to go to the local market immediately. On arrival, they found a rugged Tony talking to himself, he couldn’t recognize any of them nor could he answer any of their questions. He was lost in his own world, adrift in life’s high seas.

His peers took him to a nearby hospital hoping that some first aid could remedy the situation. Meanwhile, they informed his parents. At the hospital they tried counselling which yielded no results. It was impossible to counsel someone you could not communicate with. His parents on the other hand insisted that he be brought home, his peers felt that he needed specialized attention and the village would not be able to offer any medical intervention, but his parents insisted. In the end, Tony came back home broken, wounded and lost.

The villagers embraced their son Tony and covered him with all the love they could offer. They accepted him with no judgment whatsoever. If you met him on the road and he couldn’t recognize you, no problem; if he came over to your house and rolled the table over, no problem; if he attended your function and spoke gibberish, no problem. We knew that our son needed our care and support more than ever.

His parents encouraged him to follow a normal routine of waking up early and helping out in the homestead. Many would have seen their efforts as pointless, but they were acting out of faith – faith that the son they knew would return.

After about three months, a miracle begun happening, slowly by slowly Tony seemed to regain his faculties. He started remembering people and events, he started answering questions, he started engaging meaningfully. The entire village breathed a collective sigh of relief, their son was back.

Maybe it was the unconditional love and support that he received, maybe it was the non-judgmental attitude the villagers adopted, maybe it was the space he was given to just be, maybe it was his parent’s faith – whatever it was, it healed our son Tony.

As I speak, Tony is back to work. He is not merely going through the motions of life, he is not merely surviving, he is thriving, and nothing could please us more. Love healed our son and we wish this same love to whoever else needs it.

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