It has been a full year today without you. I had never imagined life without you even for a second, but here I am in a new reality. On Thursday, 19th November 2020 you and your friends undertook that journey of love and friendship to join another friend in Ondo State for the burial of her mother-in-law which would have been more of a celebration of her life. Your journey tragically turned out to be a feast of deaths instead on the Ore-Okitipupa Road, less than twenty minutes to your destination. In less than twenty minutes, a celebration of life became a harvest of grief and sorrow to many families and friends.
My friend, Victor Chukwuani, former INEC National Commissioner and a member of the entourage, was in the car directly behind and was a first-hand witness to the tragedy. The driver of the bus conveying you and your friends drove very carefully according to Victor. That did not stop a trailer coming from the opposite direction to lose control on a straight stretch of road and ramming into the salon car in front of your bus, killing everyone in it instantly before going headlong into your bus. You, and some passengers, died on the spot. Others died later. In a split second, ten precious souls were dispatched to eternity. In an instant, children became orphaned, others became motherless and husbands became widowed. Arguably, Nigerian roads and Nigerian drivers have notoriously facilitated appointments with eternity through fatalities than anything else in Nigeria, and had once again lived up to their murderous reputation.
For a while I tried to situate my new circumstance. Mallam Nasiru el Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, who himself had known serial grief, was very helpful when he paid a condolence visit. He told a story in the Quaran of King Solomon and the Angel of death. For want of time, I cannot repeat that most insightful story in detail. The moral of the story however is that death is inevitable, its time immutable and that we either travel to keep our appointment with it or it travels to keep the appointment with us. In other words, I should not ponder if you would have lived had you not travelled. Your time came, and you travelled to keep your appointment with death, an appointment that admits no adjournment.
Your capacity for love was legendary. You gave generously of your time, talent, and resources. You were passionate about everything you did, and you were available to all who needed you. Relationships to you were sacred. You were the ultimate wife and home-maker. I was your life. How you balanced me with the children remains a mystery. Your friends called you “gumbody” because of how you stuck to me. I was your full-time engagement.
You never believed in half measures. You went for the very best for yourself and for everyone else. You hated pettiness and sullenness. You loved life and lived it to the fullest. You loved laughter; song and dance. With you, there was never any dull moment. You were a fashionista and you were glamorous. In spite of your social standing, taste and style, you remained down to earth. I recall the crowds in our homes especially during campaigns and how you personally coordinated the mass cooking and ensured that all, irrespective of social status, who came by had a proper meal. No matter the crowd, you ensured that food was available all day for everyone. Your compassion was boundless and extreme, and you were always in prayer. You loved God and adored the Blessed Virgin Mary and would do anything for God. Whenever the children were errant, you threatened to report them to the Virgin Mary, and they immediately became compliant.
I have always reflected on life and death and the meaning of both. The more I do, the more confounded and perplexed I get. This is understandably so because the day we unravel this mystery, we shed our humanity and begin to share in God’s divinity. That day will never come. We can only hope to find meaning in Isaiah 57:1 “The righteous man perishes and no one lays it to heart, devout men are taken away and no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their righteousness “
Psalm 116:15 reinforces this, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones”.
When therefore is the best time to die? The best time to die is undoubtedly when one dies.
We miss you tons. We miss your insights, strong oud, your laughter, your dance, songs, and prayers. The flood of grief and emotions when you went to Heaven is evidence of how deeply you touched people in your relatively short but remarkable life. We are consoled by the signs you showed us that you are not only in a better place with your Creator, whom you faithfully served while on this mortal plane, but you are also in the company of our adorable Mother Mary. You are now our personal Angel in Heaven having upgraded from wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. And Angels live in Heaven. Continue to Rest In Peace.
The year 2020 was our annus horribilis. First was the COVID-19 pandemic which not only shut us down for most of the year but changed the world, and our world. Then your dear mother died rather suddenly. A few days later my mother followed, then my cousin, Ndoma. It was a season of bereavement, and it poured. We buried my mother on Tuesday, yours on Friday and Ndoma on Saturday, all of the same week. We thought the worst was over, and then came the #EndSARS riots. For reasons that remain unfathomable to date, our Calabar home, which took us all of eighteen years to build and complete, became a target.
It was completely looted. Only the floor was spared, and not out of choice, I believe. The cars were burnt and nothing was left of heirlooms – our wedding gifts, mementos from our many travels, rare books or manuscripts. We were trying to rationalize these successive travails when two weeks later, you undertook the journey from which you are yet to return, and will indeed never return. In spite of the manner of your death, a lady of peace dying in a tragic and violent accident plus the suddenness of it, God has been faithful and merciful. The children have been strong and are growing up to be beautiful young ladies. Zara is taking on more responsibility for others and herself and has become remarkably independent. Kamy is organized and was class prefect. She and Eva are in secondary school. Nkiru is expressive and is easily one of Start-Rite’s dance stars. Asi is a lady.
Ugo, Nosa, Chiazor, Ada and Nneka have all stepped up and grown into bigger roles. Ugo, by the way, is shortlisted for the Miss Nigeria Pageant. With her rare beauty and intelligence, she should win. When Nneka sings in church, tears flow freely. Start-Rite School, your dream, and passion, is at the next level. Philip and his team are as awesome as ever. Apart from your physical presence, your spirit reigns, and we feel you always and everywhere. The home has remained the way you made it; orderly, well-kept and peaceful. The dogs, cats, and birds are still one family. The children are guided by “mummy won’t like that” or “mummy would love that”. They still seek your approval in their actions.
You were every part of my adult life, and you spoilt me. Now I have to take responsibility. I have to learn to keep an eye on everything. I am learning. With you watching from above, pleading for us with God and with Mother Mary also interceding, all is well and will remain well.
We cannot touch you any more can’t hear you, can’t see you, but we feel you all the time because you are
alive in our hearts”.
Your life was a blessing, your memory a treasure. You are loved beyond words and missed beyond measure. You remain in our hearts, and we will love you forever, so you cannot die. You live as I will hold you in my heart until I can hold you in Heaven.
Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba SAN, a lawyer, administrator and lawmaker, served at different times as the leader of the Seventh Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Chairman, Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Victor Ndoma-Egba and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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