When death is lovely

Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photos

By Ikenna Ugwu

A house is a simple construct. The builders die, but it goes on…~Roo Borson

Its early Sunday morning of March 4, 2018, a buzz from a friend wakes me. I check the time. It is 4:13 a.m. After a reluctant effort, I press the answer button and hold the phone precariously to my ear and in a tired voice I muttered:

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“Hello!”

“Iyke, have you seen something on the whatsapp group?” a cold voice moan into my ear. There is an uneasy calm in his voice, something sinister. Nothing prepares you for the worst. I sit up and sweep my palm against my sleepy face.

“No, no…nothing”. “My android phone has been off…,” I manage to gabble.

“I think Elvis is gone!” He drops the bomb, and it thunders through my frantic heart. I want to say something, to ask questions, to argue and say it is not possible. But I feel a clog in my throat. My hand is cold and weak. I let the phone drop to the bed and bury my face in my palms. In a swift moment, tears ripped through the openings between my fingers unto the floor. The tears dropping on the carpet was the sound of glass smashing against a wall. It shatters me, everything. I mourn.

Elvis Chidinma Onyesi until this moment was a Direct Entry (DE) final-year student in the department of mass communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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The morning came in a staggering pace. It was Sunday, an opportunity to go to church and pray for the repose soul of my friend. I didn’t miss it. I waited to hear from someone, anyone to tell me something different, to disprove what I heard. It was a feeling I nursed deep inside my heart, the wish for someone to call and say it was all a joke. But nothing of this sort happened. Elvis is dead, a cruel reality. There is nothing anyone can do about it. I sort to imitate Job’s faith: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away…” (Job 1:21).

The news of Elvis’ death cast a blanket of darkness over the atmosphere in mass communication department. Normally, the department wear a uniform of sky-blue shirt on black trouser/skirt on Mondays. But this Monday was different. It was a black, mournful Monday, and every student appeared in all-black, to show respect and solidarity even in death to one of her own. Till today, some of Elvis’ close friends still mourn privately.

By all measures, Elvis’ death at this moment is the most unlikely. Now I regret missing an opportunity to speak with him the last time he came to school. He said he was going to see a certain professor and would come out soon so we could talk. Elvis looked quit sick. But nothing prepared me for the impending shock. I didn’t see it coming.

Elvis was an interesting person to be with, popular and charming in a way that endeared people to him despite his challenge. Until his passing, he was visually impaired – a condition weighty enough to distract him from pursuing his life dreams. But he was incredibly unyielding to the threats of the devil. He didn’t for once allow his impairment cloud his perception about his capacity and ability.

“I’m not blind Iyke,” he would tell me, “it’s just a condition.” In that voice I saw the height of faith, poise and a towering confidence. Elvis was a steady source of courage for most of us, his course mates and friends. If the blind could cope, we too can! It was this incredible attribute, his intimidating confidence (perhaps) the devil saw and pressed him with heavier and lingering illness. It is believed that there was no definite illness or disease diagnosed by any doctor that treated Elvis. Whatever it was, they have all passed away, gone with my young man to the grave. In a sense, Elvis has been set free; free from all troubles, struggles, impairments and controversies of this imperfect world of ours.  He has been transferred to a better world!

But where has Elvis gone to? The knowledge and understanding of this would serve the living some good.

Most Christians today are aware – and no longer argue about life after death – that man transcends to another “world” when he dies. We believe in the reality and existence of heaven and hell. But man’s perpetual illusion has been, and continues to be, which side of the divide he goes to after death.

I believe Elvis has gone to heaven!

Friday March 9, 2018, Elvis was committed to mother earth. The mass communication department proved her friendship and concern and sent over thirty students and a lecturer to Ogwashi-uku, Aniocha South, Delta state, the deceased home town, to bid him goodbye.

It is said that men do not cry, and when they do, they cry in their hearts. The sight of Elvis’ lifeless body in the coffin, going down the grave disproved every word of this trite and terrible stereotype. I saw the weakness of men, vulnerable creatures crying their souls away. But who wouldn’t weep for Elvis?

We arrive the compound. The atmosphere is somber and subdued, with people in sagging faces, wiping tears momentarily. We join the “farewell service”. At the center of the compound, a white coffin lay on a long white table. A pastor moved back and forth in the front, sharing a consoling message to mourning family and friends. My eyes stray again to the white long box on the table. It is Elvis’ lifeless body in it, ready for men to complete final ritual of “from dust you came and unto dust you return – for his soul has since gone to his maker. I look at the coffin again, I see friend with whom I dinned and shared one bed; I see a man cut at his prime. Pendant tears dot the corner of my eyes. I can’t help myself. I let the tears flow. Elvis is gone. I submit.  Ya dibalu chukwu!

Christians have a singular consolation in the hope of life after death, albeit for a good man. When someone dies, usually people say things about him; the kind of person he was and how he lived his life. In a sense, men pass judgment on the dead even before he faces God’s. It is said, though still a subject of argument, that the voice of men is the voice of God. My presence at Elvis’ funeral is a huge challenge, an opportunity to retreat and amend any crooked part in my life. People said nice things about Elvis, beautiful testimonies. I am moved.

Beside other testimonies, the pastor said something touching, something that literarily dried my tears and consoled me. I imagine the same for the rest.

“Before Dinma died, he said to the pastor around, ‘I’m flying’. And this is our assurance that Dinma will see the Father.” It was a great moment of emotional respite.

“Dinma had a strong will, he didn’t give up easily. He never believed he would die now. But the will God’s prevailed. Now, we know that Dinma is with his maker, a happy place to be,” the pastor continued.

We cry about all that Elvis wanted to become, for himself, family and the world. But it appears God needs him most. Our understanding is that Elvis went away on angel’s wings, a lovely death! And that is all that matters now, the rest is history and activities to keep the living busy. I hope to see you again when our journey here ends too.

Goodbye my friend!

 

 

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