Laverne – Part 1

Read Time: 6 mins | Non-Fiction | Part 1

Ra Ra Rasputin, lover of the Russian Queen…” she sang in falsetto with a horrible Russian accent. Her gray fleece was insufficient to keep out the cold London air which she could never seem to get accustomed to, though she had been living there forever. She had cuddled up next to me under the bus stop as we waited for our ride home, dancing a jig as she sang all the words to a song which I had never heard before, but which became one of my favorites over the years since that night. Verne always had this way about her. A belly full of laughter would betray heavy, deep sunken eyes that harbored a sorrow which she never spoke of, except to the pages of her journal, or her God.

What I know of her life, of her childhood, of her marriage, evokes a pain that gnaws at my soul. Yet I can’t stop giggling at her silliness. Moments where she would submit to erratic, infantile humor, which made one forget that the world was a shitty place most days, and her life had more trauma and finality awaiting at any given moment. She had been given six months to live, and yet here she was, two years later, embracing life as though tomorrow was worth all the anticipation of a coronation.

I had not seen her much throughout my life. The big sister who had left home when I was still a boy, and returned when I was a young man, was not the same person. I barely remember her as a child, and the faded memories I have were of her wedding, and the two lunches I had at her home just after she had married. Her husband, a gruff of a man, had rebuked me for not wanting to eat pumpkin and I hated it for a long time afterward. There was another lunch or dinner at her home sometime after that, where I was given a wooden toy, which I knew I wouldn’t play with, simply because it was from the man who yelled at me. Then, she was gone. A scholarship to the UK was her reward for her dedication and her intelligence. Life went on.

There were the occasional letters my mother insisted that I write, as my big sister would be assisting with my tuition and the cost of books for school. She would write back, always excited to read my letters, and her enthusiastic responses kept our communication alive and the relationship intact. But then the correspondence ceased. Life went on.

The news of her illness was like a clarion call for the family to unite in prayer. Verne was away from the flock, but we rallied as only family knows how. The news wasn’t good. Not much of it was shared with me at the time, but what filtered down to the last sibling was sufficient to convey the direness of her situation. That she survived was a miracle. That she was alive, and thriving was even more of a reason for the family to grow closer. It is one of the blessings of near tragedies.

How I ended up at that bus stop on a cold winter’s night, being taught the words and melody to Rasputin with my long-estranged sibling, and the seven years I spent in her presence is a story I have hesitated to tell. Fate has a way of weaving its own version of your story, and you could resist all you want, but it’ll take you on that winding ride, nevertheless. Verne embraced her journey with a resolution that was forged in chaos, betrayal, and abuse, but most importantly, a resolute faith in God. Her belief in the divine, consumed everything, influenced the beginning of every sentence, and would diffuse the swirling volcano of emotions which surged through her heart on days when her illness would wreak havoc with her very existence.

In the summer of 1998, a surprise visit rekindled our relationship. Not that the love one has for their sibling ever dies, but there had been a separation of kindred souls that at first, I had blamed on distance, and simply growing apart. But her return trip to see her family, without her husband, revealed a lot more which explained the absence and the cessation of our monthly letters for several years.

Beyond the prying eyes of family, friends and a close-knit church family, covenants are at worst irrelevant, and at best, brittle. It would be another four years before she trusted her little brother enough to delve into the details of her marriage. They were staggered conversations, which occurred over many late nights and early mornings, like I was conducting a secret interview with a fugitive in hiding. They were emotionally tedious affairs, like watching someone trying to separate wet pages from a book without losing any of the content.

“You don’t have to listen anymore if you don’t want to.” She always apologized when the words failed her, and I had learned to simply nod and go on about my business. Like a dripping faucet that had never been fixed, there was always a slow feed of painful memories that would ease out at the most inopportune moment and dampen the fabric of our peace. Such is the nature of a burdened soul. But her strength in her pain held one captive and a willing listener to her dismantling of her sufferings. She was not a storyteller, who weaved a tale to get a message home. Rather it felt like conversations via telegram.




Then there would be a long pause, a change of topic to something much more pleasant, before returning to her journal.

Verne dwelled in her own bubble of fear, and probably did so since childhood. It didn’t help that she married a man who himself was the product of a dysfunctional home. That she found the courage after twenty years to leave a marriage devoid of love and submerged in fear was not an act of isolated bravery, but rather due to the violent intervention of friends who were determined to defend her. What she has shared with me isn’t worth repeating, suffice to say that she endured every invention and ingenuity that his jealousy and impotency could contrive, all because her beliefs demanded it, and the elders of her church family condoned it. There was no hiding from her terror. Only a mask worn in public to hide the guilt and shame which found adequate shelter in the self-righteous, misogynistic ego-stroking, of misapplied headship theology. While at home, she wore the mourning shroud of fear and loathing, as his evil found fertile ground in the shadows of silence.

After much time away from the sanctity of her marital home, as her husband called it, and undergoing the process of deconstructing the world of justification within which she had existed for so long, she realized how much the silence of the leadership in her church community had enabled the savagery she endured. As Frederick Douglas once wrote about slavery and the church, “the pulpit covers the infernal business with the garb of Christianity.”

To be continued…

14 responses to “Laverne – Part 1”

  1. Nigel, you are a master of ‘just enough detail’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks David… Took a lot of restraint to rein myself in writing this story. So many times I wanted to just pop off.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh. Wow. So much hit close to home. The power of silence…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been around an abusive person who was SO good at being a perfect individual in public that people didn’t believe the abused victim. It sounds like her husband may have had that trait, too, to the detriment of your sister.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s amazing that fear could silence the intellect, break the will, and impose absolute cruelty, without anyone realizing. Thanks for reading Vera* 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Do I need a box of tissues for this story?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure Janice. But thank you for reading and commenting. It means a lot


  5. Your writing style seems to be so diverse. Compared to your previous stories, this one is more reflective, personal, and already pulling on my heartstrings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I try my hand at everything. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment


  6. Joycelyn Charles Avatar
    Joycelyn Charles

    Nigel, I’m so torn I’m in tears.
    It is sad that the church leadership covers the internal business with the garb of Christianity.
    So many people have and are still suffering from church hurt. You’d think the church as a body would come to your rescue, but in fact like the sons of Eli who knew what his sons were doing, turned a blind eye to the abuse that was being dealt to many of its church members.
    I pray God’s abundant blessings be upon you my dear and I want more. Laverne was a fighter in her own right and God eventually rescued her.
    I thank God that HE knows how HE made me, for that story would have ended differently earlier.
    Thank you for sharing your God given gift with us all, I love and appreciate you my dear. God bless you greatly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reaching out. It’s been years I’ve been debating whether to write this story or not. There is more to be released over the next three days, as she never quit on life or her faith. Her story is inspirational in many ways, and she was committed that many lived a victorious life. Verne had a heart for people, and she was a strong woman. God bless you as well, and thanks again for taking the time to read. Your comments are truly appreciated. 🙏


  7. I find this first part really fascinating
    You are a great writer 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Luisa for the kind compliment. You made my morning. 👌

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re more than welcome🌹

        Liked by 1 person

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