Tears alone could not solve my problem but it was apparent that the surprised appearance of my two children was something I never imagined since I had had the impression that their mother’s family would not have allowed them to come bid me farewell.
But I knew that blood is thicker than kokodolo and therefore despite my initial resentment that was mixed with frustration and hopelessness, the best that could ever have happened to me was the presence of the only two people in life who, no matter what, believed that their father was an innocent man. Pastor Samuel Weagba might have apparently realized that I needed that brief respite with the children and therefore he excused himself, which I was totally against.
“My son,” he said his voice very low, “I realize there are people who still believe in your innocence and I am taking leave of you so that you can meet your children.”
“Father,” my strained voice echoed in my ears, “my final journey is not far away and while I appreciate the presence of my children, I need additional comfort that only God can offer.”
The pastor regarded me in silence for some seconds and folding his hands around the Bible, said, “Sometimes the body of Christ demands the ultimate sacrifice,” and some tears filtered into the old man’s eyes, “but I will be with you, like Christ said, till the day comes when the truth can be made known to the world that has condemned you.”
Fighting back tears I folded myself in my corner and surprisingly gained a measure of comfort as the good man shrugged his shoulders and with a careful nod of his head, strolled out of the room. The warder shut the door behind him. Few seconds later, the same warder reappeared with the announcement that he had made earlier and ordered me to follow him. We entered an adjacent room where there was a glass-window. I was still shackled when I entered the room and my eyes fell on my fourteen year old daughter April, 14, and directly beside her were Jim, 12 and my late wife’s younger sister Dawn, 16.
For several minutes we stared at each other. I lowered myself onto the chair and lifted my shoulders. Neither of the children could stand my awkward position likewise their young aunt. I knew I had to be brave enough to comfort them that despite being in chains. Dawn and April then raised the popular Gospel song in Monrovia, with the title: Lord Give Me A Day, and as the two young women’s voices echoed throughout the building, it was as if a church choir had come to visit. The brief meeting was so emotional that I could only reassure them that they had offered daddy the best comfort he had needed together with that of Pastor Weagba.
April said, as I held her fingers through the open window available for me, “Daddy we have asked God to send you back to us because we love you.” Their comforting words filled me like a knife in my heart, and we took consolation in tears. Though their visit time was short and therefore before departing, April, Dawn and Jim informed me that they had sent a letter to the president of Liberia to pardon and save my life.
“We came up with the letter,” Dawn said, “and we got support from our local community church.”
“How did you send the letter?” I enquired.
“We sent it to one of the newspapers,” April added, “we told the president to give you back to us.” My children’s action was encouraging and I commended them for their efforts, particularly so with the involvement of the churches in the community, where we had worshipped on Sundays.
Our brief meeting was characterized by emotional tears and we were able to ease each other’s pain and I briefly explained to them the visits of Pastor Weagba and the positive impact that it was having on me.
THE DAY of my execution arrived and I was ready for the journey. Alone I had rehearsed the four most beautiful hymns that I needed before the end of my life and it had given me so much hope that anyone seeing me would not believe that I was a condemned man. The four songs were ‘Farther Along (By and By), Be Still My Soul, How Tedious And Tasteless The Hours Is, and the fourth one was Lord Give Me A New Day.
The first stanza of the lyrics of Be Still My Soul went like this:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Outside the Monrovia press had been making brisk business about my final execution. Some of the newspapers ran large banner headlines that screamed my last journey. Some said: CONVICTED KILLER BOWARD TO DIE; THE END OF A KILLER; and KILLER’S DAUGHTERS BEG FOR MERCY.
It was evident that I had no sympathy in the media. Murder was a serious business and anyone found involved was condemned to be taken out of the living. I contented myself with what had happened in the last couple of weeks and was convinced that even if I was put to death, as a retribution for my former wife’s murder, there could be justice somewhere for me, and my wife in the great beyond. I was not particularly fond of the idea that I had to die, for I exhausted the little effort and finances at my disposal. What I had left was the future of my children that cried out to the president of Liberia to have mercy on me. That cry, as far as I was concerned, had come and gone and it was time for me to go.
Five special police officers came to me and rushed me into a waiting police jeep and it sped towards the famous South Beach where several government officials were executed by a military junta in the 1980s. I had come to this particular area since the famous Barrack Young Controllers had built a mini-football stadium there. The officers did not utter a word as the jeep raced to my destination. I could not see outside as the jeep’s sped windows were all rolled up and locked.
In about three minutes we arrived at the destination and my heart leaped in my mouth, meaning fear of death began to take me captive. Upon arrival, Pastor Weagba was waiting for me, and he rushed to my side, as soon he saw me. However, one of the police officers violently pushed the old man away, and he lost his balance and went down. I screamed but I could do nothing else. Another police officer hurriedly went to the old man’s rescue and later lifted his Holy Bible, after it had fallen, and was open in the middle.
With some difficulty the old man rose, and moved towards me, and grinning, said, “My son, today the Lord shall show you His love.” His voice was cool and reassuring and it sent a smile across my face.
I knew it was too late, but then I realized that with God all things were possible. But questions flooded my mind: What did the old pastor mean? Had he seen some vision about my release? If yes, how could that be? True, it was not for me to doubt what God had revealed to His servant and therefore I kept my posture and followed the instructions of the officer nearest to me.
Of course, there was a large gathering of people that did not want to be left out of the drama and therefore I swept my eyes across the multitude to at least take a glance at my children but it was no avail.
Remembering the old pastor’s reassuring message, I began to sing the song, Lord Give Me A New Day, because yesterday brought me lots of problems. By now the time was up and the chief warder walked me directly under the machine that was supposed to kill me. That moment was tense and I began to lose my grip on any hope of being physically saved. I began to sing the first two stanzas of the hymn ‘How Tedious And Tasteless The Hour Is.’
I sang the first and second stanzas:
How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus I no longer see;
Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers,
Have all lost their sweetness to me;
The midsummer sun shines but dim,
The fields strive in vain to look gay.
But when I am happy in Him,
December’s as pleasant as May.
His Name yields the richest perfume,
And sweeter than music His voice;
His presence disperses my gloom,
And makes all within me rejoice.
I should, were He always thus nigh,
Have nothing to wish or to fear;
No mortal as happy as I,
My summer would last all the year
I waited for the time. My hands were already bound behind me and all the formalities had been concluded but then I saw Pastor Weagba making his way through the officers and coming towards my position. I was confused because he had completed his prayers and had called on the Lord to show His mightiness. My mind was still in such a confused state, when the pastor, smiling reached me with his two hands open to embrace me.
“The Lord has done it,” the pastor said, “you are free my son the president of Liberia has announced your pardon.”