Charles I. Anekwe
In the immortal words of a favorite poet ‘John Donne, “Every man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind, There said not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tells for thee”Even as literature, theology and philosophy could be a veritable means of assuaging grief, not until death strikes a particularly close and loved one most unexpectedly and suddenly, does one appreciate the thin divide between life and death. Although it is evident that death is a necessary end, it is indeed very difficult to comprehend nature and by extension life, and conjecture that death would snuff out Uncle JERRY CHUDI PEDRO UGWU, 77, when it did.
Uncle, born of Pa James and Mrs Appolonia Ugwu of Ohulor Obollo- Afor was an accomplished man with many attributes in life. He was a sports Icon in his secondary school days at the famous St Teresa’s College, Nsukka (STC), where he obtained his WASCE in flying colours. He had STC Nsukka in his blood, heart and soul, and would settle for nothing else. BONUM ELIGERE! He bagged his Cambridge upper Divison before foraying into the world of work, first in teaching and then others where he worked, mentored and guided younger ones from all over before he meritoriously retired and returned to Obollo- Afor in grand style. He indeed stood in loco parentis, as it were, not only to his siblings but also to others. Uncle fostered a united, peaceful and God loving Ugwu families where there is no distinction between one and the other- making the large family a poster family to behold and cherish. He was also a quiet gentleman yet sometimes stubborn and uncompromising, on matters of principle, and he will go at length to prove and convince you with facts and instances. A brilliant mind and a large memory bank, he was deeply religious and was uncompromising about his catholic faith. I am sure he would be delighted to be given final honours in a solemn catholic ceremony. Uncle was never a priest, yet all the sacramentals and sacraments of the church he identified himself constantly with. He was not a priest yet he chose a life of celibacy, and remained single, a bachelor of ecclesiastical order. His bachelorhood was a chosen one, a self imposed singleness, a personal cross, more like a destiny.
It is still very difficult to reflect on Uncle in the past tense. Some of us have all along wished that the information reaching us these past weeks that uncle is dead were not true. And except that instead of moving around in his hospital manner, pumping hands in between nods of acknowledgment of greetings, he laid still somewhere, unmoved by the motley crowd at Pa James Ugwu’s Compound and untouched by the emotions of the moment that week- end as the committee of friends and sympathizers arrived, it would just have been thought a bad dream or a pantomime.
Only recently, Uncle was at 69 Ogurugu Rd Odenigbo Nsukka for the prayer opening of the Pharmacare Place by his younger brother. Attractively tall, robust health, handsome, and in good cheer with the trademark infectious smiles and affability of the pa James Ugwu,s family. Though the agility of youth had slowed down in his strides but the swag remained as he waved some people and gave thumbs- up to other attendees.
And just when our hope was hitting the roof on his clean bill of health did it spiral to a halt on September 12th, 2022, creating various degrees of vacuums and reminding us every now and then that we live in space and time, and that our earthly lives are wrapped in finitude. Even as the earth has yawned to receive the remains of uncle’s mortality, our consolation as Christians is that the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. In his honour , the family has arranged to accord Uncle a fitting burial at Pa James Ugwu’s compound, after a requiem mass at St. Patricks Catholic Church Eha- amufu Road, Obollo- Afor on 14th October 2022 and Vigil Mass on 13th October 2022.
It was Dr. Horatius Bonar of Edinburgh who wrote the famous hymn, “ONLY REMEMBERED” which took its root from psalm 45:17. Here, God promised, “ I will make thy name remembered”. In its last stanza, the hymn states: “Fading away like stars of the morning, losing their light in the glorious sun, thus would we pass from earth and its toiling, only remembered by what we have done”.
Uncle Jerry, now that you are home with our father who art in heaven , our togetherness chain is broken and only God knows why, but as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again. Yesterday it was late Emeka Joe Ugwu, my soul mate and your younger brother through whom I made your acquaintance and got the Anekwe and Ugwu’s families involved in a web of a wide family relationship. Today it is you. Tomorrow no one knows for whom the bell tolls.
I join the hymnist to wish you well. May the works of your hands never be opaque. And may the good Lord who created you and knows your destiny sustain the successes of all you have done. May He give you rest… And those you left behind, life.Requiescat – In – Pace, Uncle.
Mr. Anekwe wrote from Odenigbo Nsukka