“Great people don't really die--they live on in our memories”

A tribute to my grandfather

Chief Leo Uwasoanya Emeakaroha

Igwe bu ike agu 1 of Amakohia.

Recently, I lost a person that meant a lot to me. And in losing him, it closed a chapter of my life that I was not really ready to close. And so this is a tribute to my grandfather, a man that will be missed very much by his 5 surviving children, numerous grandchildren, and a new crop of great-grandchildren, who all have aspects of your features in their faces. Grandpa’s passing ends our living four generation.

“If I die now, I will die happily because I have lived to experience and celebrate your priestly Ordination”. These were the words of my grandfather as far back as 1998 when he attended my priestly ordination in Austria; these were the words of a hero who understands Death to be a part of life which each and every one of us must have to face. Just like the Christian Philosopher and Theologian Turtullian would say, it is for my grandfather “a poor thing for anyone to fear that which is inevitable”. Through his strong Christian faith, my grandfather lived with the consciousness that death, although inevitable is not the end of human life. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that: “... we have no lasting city here on earth, but we seek the city which is to come [Hebrew 13:14].  Following the Bible, the great Bishop and Doctor of the Church, St Ambrose, said: “The foolish fear death as the greatest of evils, the wise desire it as a rest after labours and the end of ills”. According to Tagore, an Indian philosopher, "Death is putting out the lamp because the down has come". When day breaks, people do not leave their lamps burning. They put them out. Death is like that. When the day of eternity dawns at death, the lamp of this present life is put out.  Leonardo da Vinci brings it to the point when he wrote “As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death”. My Grandfather leaved happily and died happily. To God be the Glory.

Chief Leo Uwasoanya Emeakaroha was one of those hard working men that always got his way. His words were the law in Emeakaroha’s compound. He was very strict as a grandfather but that’s only because he cared for us. As a little child, I used to fear my grandfather but I never thought he was already teaching me some of the most valuable lessons in life: being fearful, obedient, respectful and humble. As I grew older, I slowly understood why he treated us like that. And I also discovered that he was a kind and generous man. He loved all of us with such joy and pride that it lit up his face every time we were together. There was never a time that I could not talk to him or that he would not offer advice (asked for or not). Every year, when I spend sometime at home with my Austrian Friends, he would always like to know our daily programme. I learned with time, that the most important thing that he had was us: his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Though he may never have said it out loud I know that he was really proud of what we have become. We are who we are now because we had a grandfather like him.

Although my grandfather had no formal education, he was very intelligent & creative. In fact we are all going to miss his humorous Engli – Igbo, that would just make you break out in a big smile. You just can’t help it. He had personality flaws like all of us but his unquestioned honesty was respected by all who knew him. My grandfather enjoyed talking with his visitors.  He would always halt what he was doing to talk at length with those who have come to visit him. He cherished very much the many visits of our Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Patrick Obereagu. Thank You!.  

For us Christians, death is victory. This is the main reason why Christians celebrate death - with the word of God, prayers, songs, etc. The death of Jesus on the cross was not a curse; it was a solution to a case of injustice; it was a solution to misery and loss. Jesus went through the gate of death so that those enclosed within that gate may experience the blessing of freedom and victory. Jesus did not just die. He accepted the experience of death so that those liable to death might have everlasting life. I believe so much that my Grandfather is already enjoying the everlasting life by God.

In the evening of our lives, we shall cross over to the mountainous spot where Jesus obtains victory for us (cf. Mk 4,35ff). We shall cross over to the other side not when we are ready but when the Lord decides; not when we are tired, retired or desirous, but when we are liberated; not when we are young or old but when we are ripe and qualified to be the Lord's passengers. Candidates for crossing over to the other side, the spot of victory are chosen according to God's plans. No one can enter the boat crossing to the other side unless the Lord permits him. My beloved grandfather, Chief Leo Uwasoanya Emeakaroha-Nwachukwuike, Igwe bu ike agu 1 of Amakohia, gaga ala okwu, anu kporo nku na eju onu, Otuonye ana si unu abiala, you have joined the boot crossing to the other side. It is now time for us to say Goodbye and Thank you.

Papa, thank you for teaching us hard work, thank you for teaching us how to be painstaking in doing things. Thank you for your kindness and love to all of us. You always seemed interested in what we were making of ourselves. We greatly appreciated this. We will miss you and I promise that I will continue what my grandfather has always encouraged me to do: being kind and generous especially to less privileged in our community.

We pray God in his infinite mercy to grant him eternal and peaceful rest.
May the gentle Soul of my grandfather rest in perfect peace. AMEN.  

Rev. Fr. Dr. Emeka Emeakaroha