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Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaSunday, April 17, 2016
amobipchuks@yahoo.com


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RETIREMENT: A BLESSING OR A CAUSE?

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fter work comes rest. As darkness begins to descend, the fowl goes home to roost. After work comes retirement. Retirement is a period of rest from active work. It is not a period of inactivity as some think. The retiree can still be engaged in one activity or the other to make the ends meet, if he or she is still capable. But the crux of the matter is that some persons dread retirement.

The reminiscent of an employment interview I conducted some years ago as the Manager of a Nursery/Primary School at Nibo in Awka South of Anambra State is still fresh in my memory. It was amusing. A retired primary school Headmaster who applied to head the school came into my office for the interview. In his letter of Application he underlined this fact: "I am retired but not tired." As soon as he appeared before me, I couldn't help laughing until tears ran down my cheeks like flood. He was confused and was looking at me suspiciously. Eventually he managed to sit down. Courageously he asked me, "Father, what is amusing you? Am I a laughing stock? I am here for the interview and I am serious because the bad economy is telling on me and my family." He looked at himself all over and then asked me, "Father, is my attire not good? Or am wearing my shirt wrongly?" To be sure, he looked at himself again from head to toe. By so doing he plunged me into another round of laughter. After this we sat down for academic business of the day.

Having put a stop to my laughter, I said, "Sir, there is no cause for alarm." I brought out his Application Letter and Credentials. To fulfill all righteousness I went through them. Then I looked at the man direct in the face and asked him, "Sir, you stated in your application that you are retired but not tired. What do you mean?" He smiled, cleared his throat and replied, "Yes Father, I am indeed retired having attained the age of 60, which is the compulsory retirement age. But as you can see, I am not yet tired." To buttress his point, he jumped up sharply and blew the muscles of his two arms like a boxer. He asserted, "Father, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. As you can see I am still bubbling with vitality. Last week I uprooted an iroko tree behind my house alone. If you doubt, I can carry you, your table and seat up at the same time." Immediately I interrupted him and remarked, "Sir, it is enough. I can see the energy in you. I hope I am safe. Do not worry. You can now go. Give me time to consider your application."

At last he was employed as Headmaster of the school. By then he was 63 years old. After working for five years, he voluntarily retired for the second time. In the course of time, he fell seriously sick and is now bedridden. When I visited him recently and saw him in a pitiful condition, I asked him, "How are you?" He turned with pains and replied, "Father, I am now retired and tired." Despite his sorrowful condition, the two of us burst out laughing.

Some years ago in the Catholic Diocese of Awka, during the Episcopal Pontificate of late Bishop Simon A. Okafor, it was decided to build a befitting Retirement Home for old and ailing priests. Everyone welcomed the nice idea. The hospice was then built in a hospital environment in order to care for the ailing ones. But without bad intention the retirement home was situated near the mortuary in that hospital. When the edifice was completed, inmates were sought to go and occupy it. Do you know what? All old priests and ailing ones approached rebuffed the proposal. They complained that the Retirement Home was so close to the mortuary. Hence anyone who goes into that home has no hope of coming back. The journey would be from retirement home to the mortuary. I laughed and soliloquized, "So, we priests are also afraid of retirement and death." This reminds me of the day I went into a religious bookshop. I saw two books displayed side by side with titles "Preparation for Death" and "Preparation for life." I looked away from the former and picked up the latter. Indeed I want to go to Heaven but I am not in a haste to die, or are you?

Few days ago I came across a boy quarreling with an octogenarian. The boy shouted on top of his voice, "Old man, go and die! Your age mates have all gone." The old man retorted, "Idiot, if you reach home call your father an old man. I will not die. Rather you will die before me." The old man went angrily away while urinating along as a protest. Instantly I intervened by calling the two old and new parties together. I blamed the boy for insulting an old man. On the other hand, I blamed the old man for placing a cause on the boy. I preached to them saying, "It is a boy who grows into an old man, if he is lucky to live to an old age. On the other hand, an old man should be grateful to God for the gift of long life and should die happily." The boy apologized to the old man. The octogenarian withdrew his cause on the boy. I sprinkled holy water on them prayerfully. Then both embraced themselves and went away happily.

The Europeans look forward happily to retirement and they voluntarily retire when the time comes. But here in Africa especially in Nigeria, the opposite is the case. Many civil servants falsify their natural age just to remain in office, when millions of jobless youths are roaming the streets seeking for non-existent jobs. Many have official age and unofficial age. The official age are written in their baptismal certificate while unofficial age is found in their employment files. Thus, such civil servants have the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. I have seen a man of 70 years who swore an affidavit in court that he was 50 years old in order to immortalize himself in office. Unfortunately, when he went to his village for sharing of ancestral land, which was done according to seniority, he regretted falsifying his age. He tried to convince his people that he was really 75 years old. His people made jest of him and said, "What is written is written. You have sworn to be 50 years. Therefore, take the least portion of land." The man took that small portion of land and regretted as he walked home saying, "Had I known." Likewise many women falsify their age and mutilate their baptismal certificates. Women like to remain young always. Can they cheat nature?

Of recent, the incumbent Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev. P.C. Ezeokafor, budgeted for old and ailing priests and built a home for them at G.R.A Awka. A question arose as to the nomenclature of the Home. If it is called Retirement Home, some priests may not be willing to go in there. After a thoughtful deliberation, it was agreed to name it "Priests Welfare Home." Many welcomed this nomenclature. However, a few were of the view that the nomenclature does not matter. For them Retirement Home and Welfare Home are the same. They opine that Welfare home is a nickname.

The Book of Ecclesiastes chapter 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything." Similarly there is a time for active life and there is a time retirement, which should be accepted with joy. What of those who died at their youthful age? Is it better to retire at old age or to die young to avoid retirement? What is your opinion? If I am fortunate to live to retirement age, I would celebrate it because life is too short to be sad. I would march triumphantly into the Retirement Home or Welfare Home. Two factors may call for retirement: old age or sickness. I pray that the first may be my portion. But if the second comes, I would surrender to fate and accept the cross. When my father was ageing at Jos, I approached him and suggested that he should consider retiring home. He smiled and replied, "My son, I have heard you. I am happy that I am ageing. However, nature will retire me." After few years he was caught by a terminal illness. Then he made a will for us his children and voluntarily retired home and later died at the age of 79. May he rest in perfect peace, Amen!

Whether we like it or not the final retirement which is death awaits each and every one of us. It can come at any time, sooner or later. Shakespeare says that death is an inevitable end which must come when it will come. How far are we prepared to die? If you accept your suffering, then you are half cured. If not, you will die in agony. Do not say, "Suffering is not my portion." A certain man died sighing. After he was clinically confirmed dead he continued to sigh. As his corpse was being lowered into the grave, he continued to sigh inside the coffin. Can you guess his fate? As we prepare for life, we should also prepare for death. Have you made your will? If not, why not? A stitch in time saves nine. My pen retires here for today.

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