Yakubu’s Gift

Life unfolded in front of Samira’s eyes as she watched her friend bid his last good-bye. She was an assistant nurse in the operating room that day.

Nobody knows when life will throw you a surprise. One thing she did know is that she wanted to be a better person. Better than she ever thought. Better than her friend’s expectations of her. She wanted a life without regrets. That, she learned from her dearest friend.

Samira’s friend, Yakubu, wanted her to become a doctor. He knew she had the potential. They met in Federal Government College, Minna, when he joined the First Aid Team where she was the leader.

Back then, Yakubu expected Samira to become a nurse. She helped  younger students to go to the health clinic, as well as in personal matters, where wounds are much deeper than what the naked eye can see. Samira talked to everyone as if they had been friends for a long time. Yakubu was a witness to it.

Yet, Samira did not have a constant group of friends. She enjoyed the company of Yakubu only. She was used to working and spending her leisure time  alone, or with Yakubu. Sure enough, the pair stayed close for ten years..

But as is common in other relationships, too, their friendship came to a quiet time when Samira was busy with work and Yakubu was not able to keep in touch. For more than six months, they did not communicate. Will their friendship be permanently changed?

Chapter 1 – Drink More Water, Please?

Samira was the leader of the First Aid Team in FGC Minna. It was a very hot day when Samira and her team were patrolling the school for the clubs and organizations campaign. She wanted more members to join the First Aid Team so they would know the basics of helping other people in times of disaster. Samira believed in the importance of being prepared to help others.

As she prepared her materials, she asked her team,

“Ready to look for more life-savers?”

The other students, mostly seniors, smiled and laughed, as they knew Samira was very passionate. The form master in charge of the clubs and organizations in school visited their room to check out their materials.

“Isn’t that water pack not too heavy?” the professor asked.

Samira motioned to her companions, “We can carry it. It’s fine, Sir.”

She had had the idea of giving out free water as a unique campaign to promote drinking enough clean and safe water.

The bell rang and students trooped into the assembly hall for the First Aid Team’s talk. It was time for Samira to speak.

“Why don’t we start by drinking water?” She instructed her team to distribute packs of sachet water to each student. “What a pleasant day to save lives! Yes, you heard it. By drinking at least eight glasses of clean water a day, your life is being saved.”

Samira was confident. The students listened as she talked about their organization’s aims and goals.

As soon as she finished, one student raised his hand and asked, “Can I join your team?”

Samira answered, “Yes, of course. That is why we are here. For more lifesavers to join us. But just one favor…drink more water, please? Seems like you need more.”

Samira’s team laughed and the boy replied, “I am Yakubu. I may look pale, but I want to learn the basics in hygiene, first aid, and more.”

Samira smiled back at Yakubu as she said, “Meet me at the Team’s office.”

Samira remembered Yakubu’s face that day. She knew they would get along well. Who would have thought their friendship would last for more than ten years? Samira knew Yakubu would leave a mark on her life forever.

Chapter 2 – Water, Please? I Need Some

Samira was surprised by a call during one of her hectic and busy days. Even while juggling hospital records, prepping for major operations, tending patients in the ward, and assisting doctors, Samira tried to be healthy inside and out as much as possible. This meant keeping her emotions stable as well to be able to perform the tasks at hand. She keeps her diet clean and her body fit by walking and jogging during her spare time, not to mention her long hours standing and walking around the hospital.

The phone rang two or three times in her pocket as Samira finished updating patient records. She stowed them in the cabinet and changed her shoes to sandals as she prepared to leave the hospital. She double-checked the clock, which showed 5:30, meaning it was time to go home. Samira forgot about the phone call, but as soon as she stepped outside, she toook her phone out her pocket.

“Not again,” she sighed.

Samira always missed a call every time she was on duty. Checking her phone while on duty meant meant unnecessary distractions when she needed all her focus to remain on patient care.

The missed call showed an unknown number. It was followed by a text message from the same number. Samira sat on a bench a few steps away from the hospital to wait for a ride home. As soon as she opened the message, the first line made her freeze to her seat. Samira felt a bit dizzy and cold as the wind brushed through her shoulder.

“Hi, Samira. My days are almost over. Please give me a call or let us have lunch outside. -Yakubu.”

The message was as simple as a plain text on a prescription pad, but as meaningful as the result of each laboratory test to a patient’s family.

Samira held her mobile phone tightly as she recalled the last day she saw Yakubu.

“Oh, dear. It was almost a year ago,” she mumbled to herself. A year can do so much in the life of a person. Similarly, sometimes minutes of waiting may seem like a year for another person. As Samira thought about Yakubu, tears started flowing from her eyes, though she did not notice.

A passerby asked, “Lady, are you alright?”

Samira replied, “No…not really…I think I need something…”

The passerby, a woman, asked again to help, “What do you need which I can give to you immediately, dear?”

Seeing that the woman held a bottle of water, Samira spoke her request in a shaky and distressed tone, “Do you have some…some water, please? Please, I need some.”

Samira met Yakubu at a time when she was very hopeful about the future. Her dreams and ambitions were all she ever aimed for. Preparing for her dreams was like the water flowing from the river, flowing as if it would never dry out. She wanted her plans to roll out perfectly, which is why she prepared for everything as early as possible, even if it meant sacrificing simple joys and rewards.

Chapter 3 – One Cannot Pour Water from an Empty Cup

Samira dreamed of becoming a nurse since the Senior Secondary level. Joining the First Aid Team, she was already exposed to medical terms and basic first aid. She knew what to do during disasters.

After she graduated from Secondary School, she applied for a degree in Nursing Sciences. Samira worked hard. Long nights reading books, coffee spills, and sacrificing moments with new friends and living the adventurous life as a teen. She did not regret any of it. She knew she was doing everything right for her dreams.

In everything Samira did, Yakubu stood by her side. Cliché as it may seem, Yakubu became her best companion, a best friend. Some acquaintances thought Yakubu to be Samira’s boyfriend or admirer, but he laughed through all the teasing. Yakubu was comfortable assisting Samira, and he knew himself to be motivated by her. He supported Samira and admired her will and courage, her determination in the field she chose. He wanted to be like Samira, firm and passionate about her career.

Yakubu took a course in Engineering and finished it with flying colors. He was inspired to be the best he could be. He seemed to be interested in Engineering as well because of his exposure to his father’s construction company when he was a child. He shared this dream with Samira, knowing he could get inspirational wisdom from her.

As Samira recalled her memories of Yakubu, she drank the water that the woman had given her. She could not yet reply to the unknown number, as she cannot believe what she saw. She sipped water from the bottle.

Samira thought maybe…just maybe…someone had given her number out. Maybe the message was missent, maybe it was for another person but one number was changed. She sipped more water from the bottle. It was now about half-empty.

Samira thought. “I do not have so many friends. I do not even have time to go out with my schedule in the hospital.”

She drank water again, this time a big gulp. Three drops were left inside the bottle.

“I should call immediately. This is not a good joke. Maybe this is an emergency.”

Samira took public transportation home. As soon as she arrived at her house, she removed her things and took a shower as a safety protocol.

After this, she replied to the text message, “Can I call you, please? -Samira.”

While waiting for the reply, Samira reminisced about her life so far. She had been living away from her parents since university, and stayed in a dormitory for work. She almost always lived alone. Maybe that is another reason why she did not have many friends. Samira had never experienced unforgettable bonding with a group of friends or a night out. All she did was study, work, and study.

She then realized, “I guess I was living an empty life just to chase for my dreams.”

She was about to break down when her phone sounded. It read: “I do not want a call. Let’s have dinner.”

From that point on, she knew it was Yakubu.  Indeed, for more than ten years, they had been a family, knowing eachothers’ secrets, being familiar with their mannerisms, memorizing common lines and statements. She was very sure.

The message was followed by a name of a restaurant along with a complete address and  the contact number to confirm that the reservation and meeting place was real. She called and true enough, Yakubu had made the reservation. Samira thought, maybe Yakubu wanted to tell her something.

“I should prepare,” she thought.

She ought to prepare her mind, as she knew Yakubu very well. She knew that he would scold her for not resting enough.

“You cannot pour water from an empty cup, Samira. You cannot help many people if you are tired or not feeling well,” Yakubu’s voice resounded in her head.

Chapter 4 – My Cup is Full

Samira went to the restaurant that Yakubu had sent to her. It was a simple and cozy place where they could have coffee or tea while talking, close to nature with plants and trees surrounding it.

As she arrived from the hospital, Samira sighed in relief when she saw Yakubu from afar. Tall as he was, Yakubu seemed to have lost weight, as his jawline was prominent and his forearms skinny. His pale skin had not changed. Samira smiled as she waved.

“I am very happy to see you again. Are you happy?” Yakubu asked.

As Samira sat down, she replied, “I am also happy to see you.”

“That is not my question. Are you really happy?”

Samira laughed and paused. Yakubu’s questions were harder than a doctor’s questions about medicines.

“Well, I am tired. I was thinking about our lives before…” she replied. “It was easier before, wasn’t it? But I knew you were fit for your career.”

Yakubu proudly said, “I know. Thanks for pushing me.”

There was silence as they looked around the restaurant. The wind blew in response to the sudden quiet.

“Shall we take a look at the menu?” Samira asked.

“I am dying, Samira. I want to spend the rest of my days enjoying my life to the fullest and I want it to share with you. My family is already burdened. I also requested these for you to look at.”

He handed over his laboratory tests and diagnosis with shaky hands. He smiled but with tears in his eyes as he narrated how time seemed to fly after he knew he was terminally ill with leukemia.

Samira could not believe what she read. She cried all night with him at the restaurant. She asked questions that were clouding her mind and hiding the fact that Yakubu had little time. She felt guilty about not keeping in touch with him for months as she was busy with work, and disappointed with herself for not becoming a doctor as Yakubu had dreamed for her.  Samira listened to his answers and stories and smiled and laughed while reminiscing about the past. She spent dinner with Yakubu with mixed emotions.

Yakubu was happy and satisfied as he drove Samira home and bid her a temporary goodbye, “See you tomorrow, Samira. My cup is full tonight.”

Samira smiled, reminding him to rest well and that she would ask the supervising nurse if she could rest for two or three days. As soon as Yakubu’s car started, she went inside her house feeling down but contented. Samira realized a lot of things because of Yakubu. One was that everyone needed to fill their cup to be able to help more and share more. Samira slept smiling as she breathed deeply and calmly.

Chapter 5 – Water is Important

It was a Sunday morning when Samira woke up to many messages from the supervising nurse. Most were about her work, but there was one encouraging her to rest and enjoy her days off, and another about applying for the hospital’s scholarship for medical students.

Samira replied to her supervisor, “Thank you so much. These are all noted.”

She smiled as she sent a message to Yakubu as well, “Do not be stubborn. Drink lots of water to keep you hydrated, as we will have a long walk. See you in a while.”

Samira prepared to see Yakubu. She cooked a meal with vegetables and sliced fruits as well. She planned to walk in the park under the trees and eat the meal in the fresh air.

Yakubu picked Samira up from her home and they headed to the park. They laughed with each other just like in the past and strolled along while listening to music.  Samira carried the basket with the food and let Yakubu walk unburdened.

“Ah, this feels good. You are serving me well,” He chuckled.

“You are something. If it weren’t for your weak muscles, I would not carry this. But thanks, I get to rest for days because of you,” Samira replied.

They sat down under the tree, feeling the fresh breeze. Samira talked about missing everything they used to have.

Yakubu interrupted to Samira, “If you are going to cry and be sad today or in the coming days, please do not talk to me anymore. Please, let us talk about your dreams and plans. Make sure you accomplish them.”

Samira smiled and wiped a droplet of tear from her eye. “Well, actually, I still want to become a doctor, but I am too busy to learn,” She replied.

“Don’t you have a scholarship thing in the hospital? Maybe you can apply. Don’t tell me you are too tired,” Yakubu insisted.

“Oh, you know me well. I do not rest. These have been the best days off I’ve had since…” Samira was interrupted again by Yakubu.

“Oh do not tell me, since you got the job???”

Samira giggled, admitting it.

Yakubu stated, “Work is important. So is rest. How can you be so stubborn? One day, you will regret everything you have not done when your time is almost up. Do you not realize this?”

Samira replied, “Actually, I have just realized it now. Thank you.”

Samira brought out her phone and messaged the supervising nurse to send the application form for the scholarship, and that she would prepare the requirements as soon as she got back to work.

Yakubu stood up slowly, as he was tired of sitting. “Let us walk…but slowly, alright?”

Samira assisted him as they walked quietly, comfortable in the silence. They reached an old tree and stopped. Yakubu looked up and closed his eyes. Samira did the same. They smiled at each other as they opened their eyes.

“I know you will become a doctor one day. A good one. Please help those people who are in need. Teach younger women. Inspire them to do good… as you do. But, please DO teach them to rest.” Yakubu reminded her.

“I will. I promise.” Samira held Yakubu’s cold hands in her warm ones.

They went back to their lunch area under the tree and packed up to go home. Samira offered to drive instead of Yakubu, and he accepted. Yakubu fell asleep during the ride home with the music on.

Chapter 6 – Overflowing Water

Samira was awakened by a loud phone call. She had set a ringtone for emergencies from the hospital. It was three in the morning and everything seemed calm and quiet.

She was needed at the hospital, as a patient was having trouble breathing and Samira knew about their medical records. She picked herself up and got ready to leave.

She thought, “Just another day.”

It was her last day of rest, yet it was an emergency.

As soon as she arrived at the hospital, Samira looked for the supervising nurse and found her in the records room.

“Hi, Samira. Can you please look for an Usman…”

Samira interrupted, “What is the first name? Usman…”

“Yakubu,” the nurse replied.

Samira fell to her seat in disbelief. She could not accept what she heard. Making her way to the emergency room, she looked for a familiar face and she saw Yakubu lying down on the bed.

That morning, she bid her final farewell to Yakubu. She smiled with tears in her eyes as she said her thanks to him.  Nobody knows when life will throw you a surprise or climax. For Samira, this was the climax. Yakubu was there during her important and life-changing moments. Yakubu inspired, motivated, and supported her more than anyone else.

Just as Yakubu slipped away, Samira received the news that would change her life forever. “Your application was accepted. Welcome aboard future Doctor!” Samira received the scholarship just as Yakubu had imagined. She cried tears of joy as well as sadness. She knew she could not share the news with Yakubu anymore. She was happy. Genuinely happy.

Samira took another break from the hospital to prepare herself for medical school. Her final day before her time off, she walked through the park before going home, reminiscing about the moments with Yakubu that she spent there.

She thought, “It was you who pushed me to do this, but I am happy that you did. I just wish you could see my accomplishments. How I wish you were here. You were the best person in my world.”

Samira cried long and hard for the first time. She spent the afternoon in her uniform at the park under an old tree, thinking about the rest of her life.

Being a nurse and saving lives is a tough job but a fulfilling one. For Samira, it was more than a job. It was her life. She wanted to further this life and save even more lives by becoming a doctor.

Like an overflowing river, Yakubu’s inspirations and motivations would always mark Samira’s life. She would achieve more. She could do anything, as Yakubu believed. Samira believed in that too, and she inspired other aspiring doctors as well. The world needs more people like Samira, who had the will and passion to help, and like Yakubu who motivated and inspired others to reach greater heights.