The 3 day long celebration of my grandfathers long life started with the slaughtering of cows and goats. These were gifts given to the family from various family members, in-laws and well wishers.
In keeping with tradition the different parts of the cow is given to different family members and groups. These are all traditions important to the Igbo people of Imo state Nigeria. The first day was a wake-keeping with service of songs. During this time the family was inundated with visitors all day coming in to offer their condolences. The following day our family gathered early in my grandfathers compound. There was a pilgrimage of his children, grandchildren, and extended family to the mortuary to collect his body. His coffin was then ushered home from there by family and well wishers all wearing white T-shirts with the inscription ‘adieu papa’ and carrying enlarged photos of him.
We were in a mile long vehicle caravan with many village youth following on foot, accompanied by masquerades, singers and dancers and several military grade cannon shot salutes.
The first stop was to the council of Elders hall. There the Elders said some prayers and performed some traditional rituals over his body. We then continued on with his body to the family compound. Once home, before anyone could see him, he was dressed by his fellow Elders and they readied him for viewing. The immediate family is allowed to see him followed by extended family then the rest of the village. After the viewing, all of us including my 99 year old grandmother, escorted in her wheelchair, proceeded to the funeral mass which took place at his local parish Catholic church. At the end of mass, he was eulogized by my father, his first son. We returned to the compound after church, where my grandfathers body was laid to rest in the newly dug gravesite in front of his compound. As the oldest grandchild I was asked to be one of the few people to throw in a shovel of sand and I was asked to say some words and lay the wreath on the newly filled grave on behalf of all the grand children.
By now the street where the compound is located and the next street have been transformed by over 30 canopy tents and chairs. Each tent is occupied by a different group. There is a tent for the various in-laws from different villages, the age mates of my aunts and uncles, different organizations my grandfather belonged to, dignitaries, church groups, the youth of the village, the unmarried women of the village and so on. There were over 700 people gathered to eat, drink, dance and celebrate a long and very well lived life. The festivities concluded the next day with a thanksgiving/outing mass where our family attended church wearing white to symbolize a new beginning.
My grandfather was the best man I know. He was a man of God. A man of peace. A man that went by so many adjectives. Loving. Loyal. Peaceful. Religious. Jovial. Magnanimous. Infectious. Fantastic. Phenomenal. He equally studied the Bible and the Koran and knew both well.
He died at age 105- a centenarian. Although plagued by dementia in his last few years he was still very strong physically and continued to attend morning mass regularly until the end.
He was a man without enemies. He believed in the power of education and that anyone could be anything they wanted to be. He imparted this belief to his children and grandchildren. He wrote and spoke the queens English like an Oxford graduate and had the best penmanship that I have ever seen.
He had a full career as the Manager of a Nigerian based British company for many years in post colonial Nigeria and he continued to be a consultant for them for several years after retirement from the company.
He was conferred the ‘Oha’ of Owerri which loosely translates to a tribal leader/ruler of sorts of his people. In this role he was very involved with town goings on and very well respected by all in the community. This is evidenced by the turnout for his burial and the commentary given by those that attended.
He is survived by many.
A wife of over 80 years, 4 sons, 3 daughters (he just lost one daughter 3 months prior),
27 grand children, over 20 great grand children and one great great grand child. He had many nieces, nephews, grand nieces/nephews, cousins, 2nd and 3rd cousins
Whatever he was not able to achieve in life has been and will be accomplished by his offspring. Amongst whom are doctors (MD and PHD), lawyers, engineers, nurses, nurse practitioners, professors/lecturers/teachers, accountants, policemen, musicians, business owners/ entrepreneurs, pharmacists.
His offspring reside all over the United States, United Kingdom and Africa, where he too has travelled.
Of note is that during the entire 3 days, I did not see anyone cry. Not even my grandmother. I had some tears as the grave was being filled with sand as there was a finality about that to me. I think we were all sad in our own way but we all were unanimous in understanding that we were there to celebrate a long and well lived life. One worthy of emulation and want his soul to rest in forever peace looking over the incredible legacy he leaves behind.
As always, thanks for reading