Monday 4th November 2019 marks another addition to my age. It symbolizes the day I came into this world, what in popular parlance is called birthday. Giving the significance of birth, every creature looks forward to marking his/her birth date once every year.
And so it was with me until that fateful Friday 4th November 2009 when the news of the death of my dear mother, Ezinne Jessie Nwabaraku Nwachukwu (nee Ukabiala) shattered all my birthday celebration plans. Although death is inevitable, that my mother died on the day she gave birth to me, still baffles me. Could it too much love? Mere coincidence, or divine?
Fondly called mama Obinna; she was not born with the proverbial silver spoons, but through dint of hard work rose from obscurity to celebrity. This was a woman whose life was hallmark of sterling qualities, excellent record of service, credibility and patriotism to both God and humanity. Given her parents low background, she literally pulled herself up by her own boot straps in the grueling struggle of life; overcoming and surviving the sordid experiences of poverty, child mortality and civil war which called forth all the survival instincts of every human being and challenged her to play those sterling qualities which distinguish excellence from mediocrity, solid achievement from feeble performance, imaginative insight from visionless bungling, and creativity from idealism. That was my dear mother. Given her large heart and humanitarian posture, my mother can be described as Mother Theresa of modern times. She never discriminated against any one irrespective of tribe, religion or belief. Her large heart made it possible for many families to find shelter in her house.
Born in 1926 to Late Mr.& Mrs Ukabiala Anosike of Eziala Obizi in Ezinihitte Mbaise Local government of Imo state, Lolo Jessie Nwachukwu was the first among five children. Her birth came after a long delay which made her parents to give her the Ibo name Nwabaraku (meaning a child that cost money to get). She was dearly loved by every body in her maiden home particularly her father who had the habit of carrying her about on his shoulders even to social functions. She later got married my father late Nze Israel Ekeleme Nwachukwu, a pioneer Councilor in the old Mbaise County council (1966-1979). The marriage was blessed with ten children with only four living.
Following the creation of Udo autonomous community n 1977, Mama was among the few illustrious women of Udo Community crowned Lolo Nze by the traditional ruler His Royal Majesty Eze Mathew .C.Ukeje (Udo Abia IV). Throughout the long period of her rein spanning 32 years she never betrayed the confidence reposed in her by the people of Udo community. In the Anglican Communion her Christian denomination, she was a leading light.
She held various key posts both in the church and the community women groups. As a Christian mother, Mama had the reputation of molding her children in the Christian way of life. She abhorred wickedness, inhuman treatment, fetish sacrifices, ostentatious lifestyle and criminality in all ramifications.
The journey to her death began in 2002 when she had a sudden attack of stroke at the family land where she went to dispose refuse. At that time, the said land was in dispute between her husband and the brother-in law. For seven years the family fought relentlessly to make her come back to normal life but to no avail.
At times when it was thought she had recovered she relapsed, that continued to happen again and again. Although the land dispute was later resolved in court in favour of her husband, the debilitating effects of the paralysis eventually led to her death on 4th November 2009, ending 83 years of dedicated, upright and humanitarian service. If the saying that those who do well do not last long on earth is true, then one could found good reason for her demise. But as the scripture says, ‘the righteous has a reward in the bosom of the Lord’.
While alive, mama was a supportive wife to her ever busy husband. She encouraged her children to imbibe the tenets of Christian living, and never supported immorality, corruption and indecent dressing. She treated everybody equally including the daughters-in-law. The often told story of in-fighting between Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law was strange in our family. She never bore grudges and never paid evil for evil.
Indeed, in good and difficult times, in youth and age, Ezinne Jessie remained quintessential. Her life was a source of inspiration to many people including the women and youths many of whom benefited from her humane disposition in several ways. Given her immense contributions to mankind, I am optimistic that the good LORD that took her away would continue to keep and protect her as well as give her a rightful place in the abode of the Saints. As I mark another birthday this 4th November 2019, the memories of the pain she bore on my behalf reverberates, just as each birthday reminds me of her skeleton lying six feet below the surface level.
As William Shakespeare once wrote : life is but a poor player that frets and struts his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. Indeed, so it was for my dear mother, and so it would be, one day, for every one of us.
*Dr. Obinna F. Nwachukwu, an Abuja based journalist and Public Relations Practitioner, can be reached on [email protected].