It sure doesn’t feel like twenty years already. But I know that the years inbetween have been loaded with oh so much. This was probably the hardest article I’ve ever written because, while I knew I needed to get it done, I just haven’t been able to get through it. If you are reading this then that means that I succeeded (Yay!)
I can still remember that cold December of 1999. My father, after a long week of ministrations (yeah, he was a Pastor) and work (and yeah, he was a surgeon in orthopaedics), took us out as a family one Saturday. I always look back on that weekend, wondering if he knew it would be our last family outing, something we had not done in a long while. I sure didn’t.
That Monday, he was coughing profusely. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance with my Mum and some of our church family. My siblings and I spent the night and the next couple of days at the house of a family friend and fellow associate pastor.
I can remember the midmorning of the 14th, when my Mum came with our Senior Pastor’s wife, Pastor Mrs Obasi-Ike, and we were called to meet with them in the living room. We were watching The Lion King for probably the 100th time when they called us. Quite the foreshadowing, huh.
I don’t remember what Mrs Obasi-Ike said. I only remember her speaking about my Dad, and the line that would define the rest of my life. “…he has passed on to glory. He is dead.”
I remember my sister Joana’s sudden gasp. My Mum’s eyes had been red all along, and now I knew why. I don’t remember my brother and older sister’s reactions. I too was processing the news.
I remember them all going inside and me staying in the living room with the other church ladies. They were talking about how I was probably not reacting because I was too young to understand. But this 7-year old boy did. My father had died. He was no longer here. I would never see him again. These facts were dawning on me gradually.
I cried that night.
The rest of the week passed by in a swift blur with every detail impressed on us. From the Service of Songs to the Funeral to the trip back home and on to his home town for the burial ceremony. We spent Christmas in Zaria with our family friends, the Adepojus, and New Years’ with our Grandpa in Offa.
I remember Grandpa commenting on how it was a new millennium. My Dad never got to see the new millennium.
I always wonder how my brother and sisters went through it all. We talk about it from time to time, but I know it’s not the same. For me especially, my mindset of the world and my existence was forever changed. I would go through my teenage years and adolescence with full consciousness of something lacking. I would observe my classmates and contemporaries and be always reminded that I was missing something. Sometimes I wondered if I would turn out well, or how I could turn out into the complete individual that I was supposed to be.
I wonder how my Mom felt through it all. We talk about it too, and will most likely talk some more today. I know it hit her the hardest. She would take on dual roles for the rest of our lives, something she never prepared for.
I know we all had a lot of questions too. Could it have been avoided? If we hadn’t been where we were would it have turned out this way? Did we pray enough? Was there something we could have done? If our parents hadn’t married, would this have happened?
God used many people to cushion the effect of the loss. Oh, I am so grateful for our family in The Redeemed Christian Church of God in East Africa and here in Oyo Province 2. I am grateful for our family in The Navigators worldwide and in Nigeria. I am grateful for the support of our friends in Calvary Ministries (CAPRO).
I am grateful for our family: Aunty Deborah and Uncle Yakubu, Daddy Glory and family, Uncle Sola and Aunty Florence, Uncle Gbenga, Uncle Rotimi and Uncle Femi. They were instrumental in much of our childhood even till now.
For the Adepojus, the Babatundes, the Gbadamosis, the Ozidus, the Baiyes, the Onukas, Pastor Oni, Pastor Bolanta, Dr Arije, the Macauleys, the Gbades, and so many many many others.
There was so much support from people who accommodated us until we were able to stand on our feet. Who helped my Mum to get her car. Who were willing to sponsor our education. Who assisted my Mum in getting a job. Who drove us to and from church for months. Who have kept lifelong friendships
One of God’s greatest gifts to us was Family.
It hasn’t always been rosy. We have had our conflicts and bumps along the way, but God has healed every hurt.
Financially, we had to learn contentment early. I can still remember the day we cashed my mother’s N37,000 cheque on the deadline when we were supposed to pay the N30,000 acceptance fee for my admission into secondary school. You can imagine what we had for the rest of the month. Looking back I don’t remember the lack as much as the fact that we were fine.
We had to learn not to expect people to feel sorry for us. The world really doesn’t slow down for you to get back on your feet, you know. We learnt to make the best of what was provided.
It wasn’t always easy. But God has been with us all the way. Some places and opportunities we got were purely by divine favour and not through the machinations of human ingenuity.
God blessed us with a great man as father, and an amazingly super-woman as mother. Bringing these two lovers of God together was God’s wisdom. Godly homes are His wisdom in action, I tell you.
These two had giant libraries of books and videos full of godly material. From music to encyclopaediae to doctrinal writ we had access to so much that, even after Dad was gone, we had a great heritage to build on.
Many of the verses I know off-the-cuff were songs my Mum used to sing casually while doing other work. How would I not remember these Scriptures, especially in the moments when I need them?
Their good record gained them strategic friendships that have transcended times. Many people have favoured us because of our parents’ track record. All our lives we’ve met people who see us and reminisce on some good thing my parents did for them. Even to this day in my new workplace, a visiting retired staffer told me he was treated in my Dad’s hospital.
Our greatest treasure is Jesus.
Godly homes are strategic displays of God’s wisdom, and we are blessed to be the product of one.
Going through these together helped in keeping us close. We had our fights and misunderstandings through the years, but at our core we always knew we were the best we had.
God blessed us with the gift of humor and laughter. My Mum bursts with joy and is now uncomfortable where people are frowning or down. She adds life wherever she is. Her grandkids love her so much.
Knowing my father was in heaven with God pulled me to seek God and the heaven He spoke of. I became a sort of escapist believer from a young age, devouring everything I could on heaven and the end times. I lived expecting the return of Jesus in my youth. But little did I know that God was using those times to shape my heart to seek Him, not just for heaven, but because He is worth seeking. Because of His love.
I grew up to understand that God is my Father. I grew to understand that my father had been a caretaker whose time was completed, and that God had always been my Father. That didn’t always make it all better, but I’ve lived most of my life with that understanding.
My siblings and I have been tools in God’s hand to encourage and bless many in our words and influence. No, we’re not celebrities or anything. But I hear testimonies and am thankful how God brought us out of the gloom we experienced.
There is much that needs to be said of the challenges my father faced growing up and how God helped him become the man he was, but this is not the place for it. It is not my story to tell yet. But someday we will.
Do I still miss him? Of course I do, mostly because I am gradually forgetting the details of the person I am missing. To this very day I have my moments where I reminisce with God, where I cry my eyes out, and where I rise with the assurance that He is my Father and is with me.
The family has grown so much bigger. All of my siblings are married now with wonderful kids, to God’s glory. I am a grateful uncle!
Once, one of my nephews saw a picture of my Dad and didn’t want to let go of it. That tore at our hearts, realizing he recognised someone he had never met. Imagine when they finally really meet.
I can’t wait for my Dad to meet everyone.
I know he is at rest in the presence of the Lord he followed. I know when Jesus returns we will be reunited. Our attention will be taken by the Lord of course, and that’s where it should be.
WHY DID I WRITE THIS?
I know that someone else is going through similar cases of loss. I wrote this as an encouragement. There really is light beyond this tunnel because God is your Light.Our experiences may not be the same. But with the pen of our lives in the hand of the Great Storyteller, we are assured that will bring beauty in our stories, no matter how dark it might seem now.
When you trust Him with your life, you can also trust Him with your future. He is able to keep you and show you His beauty in the places of the ashes you have seen.
You are not alone.
I pray, above all, this is an encouragement to you as well. When Jesus died and rose He defeated death and the power it should have over us. He can give you the experience of that victory, going through life without the fear of death and its loss.
Treasure the memories of your loved one, though they may be gone. Thank God for the time you had with them. Commit the pain and hurt and regret and anger that you may feel to Him. He can take it. You can’t bear it alone. Don’t hold it inside.
Grieve. You have the right to. You must. But remember that you have hope in Jesus.
Talk about them. Talk about the good times and the questions you have. Don’t keep it inside.
If you’ve read this far, I encourage you also to be a listening ear for someone. Ask how they are doing, and care enough to listen.
If you need to share with, feel free to reach me at email@example.com.
Here’s to healing.
Here’s to victory.
He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair.