It’s exactly 15 years ago today that my friend and brother, Tony Ekuma entered the long tomorrow and joined the holiday by the sea. We have missed him in ways we cannot explain but we continue to be thankful for the condition of his wife, Lydia and their children Joseph and Peniel with the lingering assurance that we are nearer to our eventual reunion than we were since he breathe his last on this side on that fateful night inside the male medical ward of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idiaraba, Lagos.
Below are five things I remember about his passing
- The Uncooperative Tears. I was waiting for my turn to be served breakfast in one of the restaurants inside LUTH on the morning of 16th April, 2007 when my phone rang and I answered the ca On the other side of the line was beloved Brother Patrick Eta. After exchanging pleasantries, he dropped the bombshell, “We lost Tony!” “You’re joking,” I countered. “No kidding,” was the next thing he said. That was the end of the call and the signal to the tears to break forth. Initially, I put up some breakers, urging the flowing tears to add some dignity to the display but it was futile. Tony had too much tears in me to consider any attempt to be reasonable. The tears were ready to lend their participation to Tony’s coronation and my appeals to reasonableness would not stand in their way. The unreasonable tears that didn’t bother with how I looked before the many faces that saw me as I wept over the passing of my friend, really wished for me to know the intensity of what Tony and I shared. And wanted to begin the process of releasing measured doses of comfort to me in the process. It is definitely a proof of God’s genius that he designed a system that automatically goes into effect in the moment of grief that as the tears begin to flow, measured doses of comfort and healing are released and appropriated almost unconsciously by the grieving soul.
- The dance promised by Lydia, his wife. She and others had kept vigil over him for many days with prayers backed by fasting while waiting for when Tony would begin to recognize faces and show other evidence that he had recovered fully from the coma. The founder of Glory Christian Ministries and Tony’s Pastor, Pastor I. S. James had led the spiritual charge and urged everyone to believe God for a miracle. The mood was positive and the expectation was high, regardless of the fact that there was some industrial action at LUTH at the time. There were skeletal services because a section of the doctors and nurses were on strike. That evening Tony opened his eyes for the first time and those who got the news were overjoyed. When Lydia shared the good news with me, I told her the worst was over. She believed me and promised to employ some new dance steps we have never seen before to celebrate the full restoration of her beloved husband to his feet during the special thanksgiving that would be held for that purpose. She gave one or two moves to show me she had moved into the mood. If what we had seen of her before then during praise and worship in church, when she usually danced like King David danced, then there was definitely a treat in the offing for the pleasure of her King, and those who like to be motivated by the view. Unfortunately, Tony passed on that night and the planned thanksgiving did not take the form we had anticipated when it eventually came. Notwithstanding, she has found a way to keep her dance. Her best dance is for her King and no one can fully tell how much therapeutic value she has derived from the exercise all these years without her beloved husband. The fact that she dances like David danced, unashamedly before her King must count for something significant in her journey of healing and management of the moments of despair.
- The bird that missed its target. Tony’s funeral was held in his hometown, Effiom in Ebonyi State. A large contingent of people including family, friends, colleagues, church members, neighbours and other well-wishers had taken his corpse from the mortuary at the LUTH and headed for Effiom. The Ambulance carrying his remains was a Volvo Hearse that stopped suddenly just before Oluku Junction at the Lagos-Benin Expressway. It was a mechanical fault, something to do with the shock-absorber. Naturally, some persons were heavily disturbed by the development and attributed it to the action of enemy forces. Many lips moved intermittently but quietly as the driver and some people tried to fix the matter. You could tell that spiritual warfare mode was activated by the development. Eventually, the matter was fixed and we were on our way. A short while later, we turned at the Bypass and began to get closer and closer to the destination. Eventually we arrived at Effiom and had the usual meet and greet before the service of songs that evening. After the service of songs, those of us inside Ayo Soremi’s Toyota Sienna were driving around Effiom. It was late and the evening cool had settled over the town. I sat in the passenger seat beside Ayo Soremi who was at the wheels. The window beside me was down. Suddenly, I felt an urge to roll up the window. I didn’t hesitate. Almost as soon as the window closed up a big bird hit the glass. But for the window the bird would have hit me straight in the face! As I processed what happened, I let out a wave of thanks to God
- The amazing company that bid Tony goodbye. Almost everybody that had one thing or the other to do with Tony was there because I cannot say everybody that had one thing or the other to do with Tony was there to wish him goodbye. Almost everyone who participated was high on the energy that was shared. The love for Tony. The strong sense of brotherhood among the mourners was incredible. Some comedians have been known to tell this joke about death: “The funeral ceremony was such that ‘death go dey hungry you,” they usually conclude in pidgin. Meaning that the funeral ceremony was organized in such a way that you almost wished to die.” Tony would not have wished it for any of the many persons that came to honour him at his passing but there is little doubt that the crazy thought would have entered one or two minds.
- His children, Joseph and Peniel. Joseph was approximately 2years while Peniel was approximately 6months when their beloved father, Tony passed. What were their chief duties when their father passed? Comfort their mother and cooperate with her. Which they have done remarkably in the last 15 years. As they go further in life bearing the incredible properties embedded in the DNA of their dad and mum, the endless prayers, which he made on their behalf while he was still on this side, transcending their generations, and which their mother faithfully affirmed, will be sure to abide with them always. The ever-dependable Source to which Tony faithfully took up matters concerning them, will see to it.