Temple Chima Ubochi with his mother
Continued from Part 1
We therefore commit the body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection (Book Of Common Prayer)
'm going to take some of your time, because, in my pains and sorrow, I will digress a bit.
Since I was born, I have harvested a number of untimely deaths. I lost my biological father, Nelson Nnah Nwokoma, the shinning one, in 1972; and a little more than a year ago, I lost my second father and uncle, Hon. Chief Francis Enyinna Nwokoma, the benevolent one; and almost at the same time in 2012, I lost another uncle, Elder Frank Ubochi, the peacemaker. My other uncle, Alfred Nwokoma, the handsome one, went to war and didn't make it back. I pray that God will grant my two remaining uncles, Elder Jonathan Alozie and Monday Ubochi, and all the elders of this village, long life.
I didn't see my grandfather, Ezeji Emmanuel Ubochi, as he died prematurely before I was born, and I lost my grandmother, Martha Ogbodiya Ubochi, the prophetess and a traditional midwife, in the late 1990s. Before then, in the early 1980s, I lost my Aunt, Comfort Nwanyinna Mkparu, the holy one. In 2009, Udochi Ubochi left us also.
From childhood to adolescent, I grew up with my other kindred brothers: Abraham Njike Nwogu, James Uzoma Nwokoma, Goodluck Chinedu Ubochi and Edwin Nkem Nwokoma. I was the youngest in this group (I had an extra-ordinary relationship with Edwin Nkem Nwokoma as such that he was literally just another part of me. When he died, I felt I lost a part of myself). Abraham Njike Nwogu, James Uzoma Nwokoma, Goodluck Chinedu Ubochi, Edwin Nkem Nwokoma, and I were intimate and inseparable then. We all loved this village; whenever we returned home from our respective schools on holidays, we hanged out together. Generally, we moved together, dreamt together, hoped together, enjoyed together, shared our pains and sorrows together and ate together almost on a regular basis. A visitor might have found it difficult to know that we were from different mothers. Our respective mothers fed us whenever we surfaced at the kitchen of any one of them. Our respective mothers loved each and every one of us the same way they loved their own child in the group. All the above mentioned brothers have all gone prematurely with the exception of my cousin, Goodluck Chinedu Ubochi. I pray that God will grant me, my senior cousin, Goodluck Ubochi, and all the youths of this village, long life.
In the words of the band-group, The Spinners, "in a world like today, it's rare occasion to be able to see young mothers like the ones that were around when I was growing up, but, they live on in memory of quite a few of us". Talking of our respective mothers; after Ezinne Lolo Charity Ubochi, my biological mother, Helen Oyidiya Nwokoma, Vidah Oyidiya Ubochi and Evelyn Egonjiuka Nwandu were my other mothers. They fed me when I was hungry, they helped me when I was in need, they advised me when I was confused, and they chastised me when I transgressed. But, apart from my mother, Ezinne Charity Ubochi, all the mothers mentioned above have all passed away, and their death happened when I wasn't in Nigeria, and didn't have the opportunity to mourn them. So today, I have that opportunity to mourn all of them posthumously. Today, as I mourn and bury my mother, I also mourn the other mothers; today, as I remember my mother, I also remember the other mothers; today, as I thank my mother, Ezinne Charity Ubochi, for all she did for me, I am also thanking the other mothers (Helen, Vida, Evelyn) I mentioned above, for all they did for me and their children too. May their wonderful souls continue to rest in peace!
Some of us here have family members who have been abroad for over 30 or 40 or more years but never set foot in Nigeria; but, I have been abroad for a little more than 20 years and have returned to Umuagbaghi Village for about 10 times due to my love for the village, because, here lived my mother, Ezinne Lolo Charity Ubochi, and my second father, Hon. Chief Francis Nwokoma. It might be hard to believe that I made it home so many times, as I am not a businessman, so my coming home wasn't for business. Rather, my visits were purely for love; even when they were detrimental to my purse, I kept doing it for the love of Charity Ubochi and Francis Nwokoma. As noted earlier, returning now to bury my mother, I found out that our warm and lovely home has turned cold and quiet. It's now that I appreciate the magnitude of the loss the death of my mother has unleashed on my happy home. There is "no home at home" again, because, Mama and Chief Nwokoma are no more there! Now, both of them are dead, what's going to happen? My last daughter, Nwanyinna Ihuoma Victoria, who is 7 years old, who wasn't born when my mother visited us in Germany in 2003, and who wasn't born when I came home with her other siblings about 8 years ago, who has been longing to meet her grandmother for the first time, is here today, but, she will never see her any more, and that breaks my heart the more.
The Bible in Proverbs 31: 10, 25-31 says: "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth no the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates". Paraphrasing Jasper Oforma, what kind of woman does God approve of and what kind of woman will enjoy the blessings of the Lord? In Proverbs 31, the bible pointed out 10 virtues of a woman that make her outstanding before God, her husband and the world. They are: Faith, Marriage, Mothering, Health, Service, Finances, Industry, Homemaking, Time and Beauty.
Let me try to pigeon-hole my mother's life into the 10 virtues in order to prove that she was virtuous till the end.
1. Faith - A Virtuous Woman serves God with all of her heart, mind, and soul. She seeks His will for her life and follows His ways. (Proverbs 31: 26, Proverbs 31: 29 - 31, Matthew 22: 37, John 14: 15, Psalm 119: 15)
Many women today have become very powerful. Why? This is because many have forgotten their foundations, many are financially powerful, many are the bread winners, many are bosses of the house, champions, many skip worship, skip prayers, skip marriages, skip God, skip spirituality, skip respect, skip parents, etc, but, my mother was a different woman. She was humble and served God all her life. Ezinne Lolo Charity Ubochi lived her name as noted in 1 Corinthians 13:4 (King James Version (KJV)) "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up".
As I said last year during the burial of my uncle and father- Hon. Chief Francis Nwokoma-, immediately after the civil war, Ndiigbo who survived, returned to their respective villages and were like sheep without Shepard, as there were no clergies to man the local churches and then attend to their spiritual needs. In order to fill the vacuum, my father, Nelson Nnah Nwokoma, and my mother, Charity Ubochi, decided to take over the running of this church, St. Peter's Anglican Church, Umuagbaghi, as Church Teachers, pending the arrival of a church Agent sent by the Diocese. We lived at the parsonage and my father, with the help of my mother, this woman we are burying today, took charge of this church for many months until, Agent Ejere from Mbaise was sent by the Diocese. Also, my father and my mother were the first wedded couple of this church after the war. The other couple who wedded with them were Mr and Mrs. Abel Uzoaru.
Ezinne Lolo Charity Ocheze Ubochi was a pioneer member of the Monday Prayer Meeting; she was once a member of Parochial Church Committee during the time of Late Rev. T. Epelle at St. Peter's Church Umuagbaghi Aba. Ezinne Lolo Charity Ocheze Ubochi was ordained "Ezinne" by the then Bishop of Aba Diocese, Right Rev. A.O. Iwuagwu, during the years of Ven. Nnadede at St. Peter's Church Umuagbaghi Aba. My mother was a staunch member of the Women Christian Association (WCA), Women's Guild, and the Mothers Union.
One last thing that I wish to share of this wonderful lady was her simple faith in God. She prayed regularly to God for the well beings of her loved ones. I believe that God answers prayers and I also believe that my mother's unceasing prayers had made a difference in the smooth sailings of her loved ones in the stormy sea of daily living. Thank you Mother for your faithfulness in your prayers to God who brings calm and comfort to our lives!
2. Marriage - A Virtuous Woman respects her husband. She does him good all the days of her life. She is trustworthy and a helpmeet (helpmate). (Proverbs 31: 11- 12, Proverbs 31: 23, Proverbs 31: 28, 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Genesis2: 18)
During the war, in order to help sustain the family, which later became her "trademark" throughout her life, Mama became a garri trader. She used to buy cassava tubers at Omoba market in Isiala Ngwa. She will then peel, grind, dry and fry them. Then she will put the bag of garri on her head, join other women, who were also traders, to trek from Omoba to Omuma in Rivers State to sell it, and from the proceed of the sale, she will then buy foodstuffs for the family, and through that means none of us got kwashiorkor during the war. Think of the distance between Omoba and Omuma and imagine what she was trekking, and she went and returned the same day while braving the bullets and bombs of that war which was flying from every corner. Later, my family advised her not to take the risk of going back and forth to Omuma as she might be killed along the way. Then she started selling yam porridge at Omoba Market. She was at the market one fateful afternoon and then a Nigerian Airforce jet suddenly appeared and bombed the market, killing so many people there that day. Luckily, Mama escaped unhurt, but, her pot of porridge yam was filled up with bomb remnants. We, her children and our father, Nelson Nwokoma, were at a place we called our home then, waiting for mama to come back as usual; then came the news that the market had been bombed and that so many people were killed. My father, Nelson Nwokoma, was visibly disturbed, I didn't see my father so disturbed in his life again till his death, as he was, the day the news came that Omoba market had been bombed and the fate of mama, who went to the market, was unknown. As we were grieving, Mama returned from the market unhurt. My father nearly fainted from pure joy, as he asked what he could have done had anything bad happened to Mama; how could he have coped with raising the children without Mama?
Mama's relationship with Late Hon. Chief Francis Nwokoma also falls under this point:
My mother suffered hugely before she died, and you'd think that would make it easier, knowing that her pain has ended. But it doesn't. Instead, the thought of how she spent the last two years, with her illness - stroke - dominating utterly, robbing her gradually of every pleasure, every activity, every independence, before it stopped toying with her and allowed her to go, is torture. Now, I see that she must already have been feeling much more ill than anyone realised.
Worse, she'd never in the least been able to come to terms with the death of my second father and uncle, Hon. Chief Francis Nwokoma. So, although she was very sick, she never stopped missing him, yearning for him, really. That mother struggled on for a year, carrying that huge emotional burden, only to be dealt the blow of having to face a lingering death without him beside her, is wretched beyond belief. One very cruel aspect of things was that my mother's death was in too many ways a protracted replay of my father's. She was devastated when Hon. Chief Nwokoma died despite that her own health was failing.
Anyway, she'd never liked travelling so as not to be very far away from Hon. Chief Nwokoma, because, she knew his health condition and had so many times nursed him back to life after we thought that he has passed on. She felt that Hon. Chief Nwokoma must be going through rough times any time she was away and wanted to dash back home to the man she loved just the way she loved the man who really married her, Nelson Nwokoma. I managed to convince Mama to visit me in Germany in 2003, and she wanted to return after about a month back to Nigeria as I sensed she was missing home, her other children at home, her farm, village and church meetings and most of all, Hon. Chief Nwokoma. Life abroad is very boring especially to older people who have spent all their lives in the warm embrace of friends and loved ones, and also in the warm temperature obtainable in africa vis-à-vis the lonely and cold life of Europe or North America. We "forced" Mama to stay with us for seven months in Germany, because, I told her that there's no way she can leave us and go back to Nigeria until after the birth of my son, Nelson Nnah Nwokoma, as my wife was pregnant then, so we wanted Mama to witness the birth so as to have more good news to share with those at home upon her return to Nigeria. To make life easier for Mama, we did take her from time to time to Holland to visit my younger brother, Eze, and she did spend some quality time over there too.
Some of you don't know or understand how the relationship between Mama and Hon. Chief Francis Nwokoma started. Many know that Igbo culture permits a man to take over his dead elder brother's wife, if the woman is still young, and if the two agree to it. Upon the death of my biological father, Nelson Nwokoma, the shinning one, Mama, in order to secure the future of her children, decided to start a relationship with Hon. Chief Nwokoma. She gave or did everything for us in order for us to live and have a future. Mama was the person we leaned on. With that decision she made, Hon. Chief Nwokoma filled the vacuum created by the death of our father, and he played that role excellently.
3. Mothering - A Virtuous Woman teaches her children the ways of her Father in heaven. She nurtures her children with the love of Christ, disciplines them with care and wisdom, and trains them in the way they should go. (Proverbs 31: 28, Proverbs 31: 26, Proverbs 22: 6, Deuteronomy 6, Luke 18: 16)
Mama raised us in the way of God; as children, she always made sure that we attended the Sunday Schools and Church Services. As grown-ups, she always implored us to go to church. Even as I was in Germany, if I called her on a Sunday morning, she always asked whether I will go to church, and if I called her on a Sunday evening, she also asked whether I attended church service that day. As school children, Mama would wake up early, get us all organized and set for school, telling us to study hard, because we were going to make something of ourselves. Mama had the greatest love for God, but after Him, her children and grandchildren occupied centre stage for her. She took pride in their achievements, worried about their wellbeing, even excessively at times, and defended them vigorously.
When things seemed hopeless for us, Mama said words which gave us whole peace. Mama always slaked our anxieties. When Hon. Chief Francis Enyinna Nwokoma died in 2012, we were devastated, but, the presence of our mother, although she was way down with stroke then, made us strong and to believe then that no matter all we have been through in life and all those we have lost untimely, that something beautiful still remained. Now that she is gone, we are orphans, like sheep without a Shepard, like chicks without the mother hen, with nobody there for us to look up to, to make us strong, to advice us or to give us hope. May God guide and guard us against the "Tigers and hawks and other deadly animals and birds of prey in human clothing". In the words of "Sound of Blackness", Mama tried to help us succeed. She gave us warmth and supplied all our needs. Each day she prayed for us to be OK in every way and be all we can be. At her side was one place we were sure of being safe. No matter where we went, it was never too far, even if we went astray, all we had to do was to come back home, because, we knew, we had a place in our Mama's heart. Even when we failed, Mama used to tell us that's alright, that we were never alone, that we should come on home as we always had a place in her heart. Even now as Mama has gone and we are on our own, we still don't feel like we are all alone. No matter what we were going through, our mother's love will still comfort us always.
Mama was selfless and that made her our hero, just as Debi Mazar (1964), who is an American actress, rightly noted that "A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares". Mama showed us real love and as noted by Sylvester Stallone (1946), who is an American actor, screenwriter and film director, "real love is when you become selfless and you are more concerned about your mate's or children's egos than your own. You're now a giver instead of a taker". Buddha was right: "To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance", and that was what Mama did.
Mama was our rock and one lady who will be missed by not only her children, but everyone.
When we were younger, we didn't understand that, but she was just that type of giving person. As we grew up, we began to realize that Mama was one of the good ones. She always said you had to be nice to everyone even if they weren't nice to you, because you didn't know what might be going on in their lives. I could never understand how she could be so compassionate to people who were not nice to her. That was just the way Mama was. She cared more for everyone else than she did for herself.
You can never get as much time with the ones you love; we didn't know mama's time with us was short, but we still enjoyed every second with her. She was just as sweet, supportive, and full of joy as always right up to the end. Mama was a light in our lives as I am sure she was a light in some other people's lives. She would give anyone the shirt off her back and go out of her way to help a friend in need. There are so many memories with my mom that come to mind so it would be next to impossible for me to pick a favourite.
Mama is with us today in our hearts. Words can't express how much she meant to me and my family. I know she is watching us and is with us in spirit. Let us remember Mama as the carefree and loving person she was and celebrate the life of a great woman as we honour her memory today.
To be Continued!
THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!
(THIS WAS AN EUOLOGY WRITTEN, A SMALL PART OF WHICH WAS READ OUT, BY TEMPLE CHIMA UBOCHI DURING THE BURIAL CEREMONY OF HIS MOTHER, LATE EZINNE LOLO CHARITY OCHEZE UBOCHI, ON THURSDAY 10TH JULY 2014 IN ABA NIGERIA)
Continued from Part 1