The joy last Tuesday evening was of overflowing measure as we finally laid the final remains of our father, Chief Palmer Macaulay Udi, to rest in the very spot he instructed us to bury him long before he passed away.
It was a moment of great relief and mixed emotions. Tears broke through many eyes despite the dancing and jubilation. Those contracted to fire the canons in honour of the great man added their boom, boom bit to the mesmerizing cacophony. With many ears tingling without end.
Someone who sat beside me kept whispering, ‘Four years and eight months!’ while looking at the sky intermittently. I joined him. It was fitting and just the right response after the torture, tension, disappointment, frustration suspense, depression, pain and sadness that characterised the long wait. Each of these words are tiny capsules containing the variegated experience of my family.
Unfortunately, it will be unfair to relay a singular incident to the exclusion of the others. The court case, which ensured that my father’s remains stayed in the morgue for that long was an equal opportunity distributor of those capsules to my family.
When my father passed away, the children ‘inherited’ a court case that was connected to his final resting place. He told us to bury him inside the last house he built in my home town. We were not given the latitude to bury him anywhere else. We told him it was no longer fashionable to bury corpses inside buildings, like was done in olden days but he would have none of our ‘fashionable’ ideas. We told him the practice would be outlawed someday across the country. ‘When that day comes, do as you like but I have told you where you must bury me.’ And that was the end of the matter.
One of my siblings who championed our compliance with my father’s final instructions told me his Sunday School Teacher said it was the will of God for children to obey their parents. He said God is highly pleased when children obey their parents. And that there is no describing the kind of blessings God gives to those who please him. It was a compelling argument. So when suggestions were made by some well-wishers that we should bury my dad in any decent place, considering the long delay and all that morgue business (someone actually remarked that it was like feeding a dead child!), we knew what we had to do.
Some of the well-wishers returned with their suggestion after the first Judge handling the case passed away, exactly one week to when he was to give final judgment on the case. It was a heart- rending moment.
So when the new Judge took over, some of my siblings told themselves affliction would not arise a second time. They decided to fast and pray, pleading the mercies of God when after series of sittings and adjournments, the Judge set December 17 as Judgment Day!
Expectedly, the court room was jammed on the day, with our emotions dancing left and right as if following the movement of my late Grandfather’s clock.
Eventually, the Judge gave judgment. Summarizing that based on all the evidence before him, my late father is the owner of the land in contention. He dismissed the requests of the plaintiff. And added a little icing on our cake: they are to pay the sum of N50,000 to our family.
The family left the courtroom in a jubilant procession straight to the morgue where the remains of my late father were collected and driven to the burial location. It was all over at last. Thank God.