Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Federal University, Lokoja, Nigeria. February 2016
Member, Court of Governors, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, October 2015 for four years.
A Mother of Peace
A TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER LADY ESTHER VICTOR TELEMA YOUNGMAN HARRY (1924-2009)
Timelessness and Eternity: the Present becomes the Past
And so as time, that vacuous imagination of man that sequences our universe, akin to the drudgery of the voyage of sand in an hour glass, now labours to stampede and confine the present into the past; as your stunning, yet speechless, and complete, yet immobilized remains, shorn of all life, and devoid of your quintessential soul, now lays encased in this contraption that limits all physical freedom, barred even from me, my mother, has the present become the past?
Fresh as the morning dews that nectar the tenderest offshoot of a lily with all its tenuous claim to life, remains my knowledge of you, my mother, for 65 incomparable years. Born of royalty by the generous and kind-hearted fourth biological son of the indomitable warrior and defender of this great city of Abonnema, and a woman of great distinction and virtue from the royal houses of Bille, Buguma and Ifoko, you abhorred the glitter and soft life but rather chose the wholesome and purest ingredients of nobility, austere as they are, at which you pitched your life – love that is divine, patience that is long suffering, industry that is justly rewarded, fairness that manifests relentlessly, concern that extends to others as well as a recognition of the centrality of the Almighty God in the affairs of men. In the process you considered and acted with reference to the true ends of existence. You saw this world as a porch of an immortal life in which every action of yours touched on some chord that will vibrate in eternity. You lived in accordance with the understanding that Nothing is eternal but that which is done for God and others. That which is done for self dies.
Understandably therefore, many here today are not invitees of your immediate and extended families. They are here for you, in your own bona fide right – magnetised by your outstanding personality, captivated by your superlative commitment to goodness, enthralled by your tenacity and resilience when the vicissitudes of life came knocking and so drawn by a common accord, to bid farewell to a truly remarkable woman. Together, we all salute you, A Mother of Peace and together we re-affirm the words of William Channing (1780-1842), a writer and orator who said: What a sublime doctrine it is, that goodness cherished now is eternal life already entered on!
As your first son, nay first child, your benevolence and sacrifices for me were utter and disproportionate and over the years, did not wane even by a fraction. Is it in tendering for my sickly childhood frame, or in your assertion, without prejudice to your scant schooling, the value of a sound education as the basis of a meaningful contribution to society, or even in your forgiving of my adolescent idiosyncrasies? What of your contributions to my establishing a thriving and respectable family and your nurture when the grandchildren arrived? From then to my navigation of a vibrant and successful career leading to a magnificent conclusion which you personally witnessed on the 22nd of February this year, less than four months to your demise, where, at your instance, the events were duly annotated with several photographs. In all these, you were the irreplaceable mother, the trusted adviser and the secure compass used by the Almighty God to direct my path. But above all, two qualities still stand out and tower beyond all others – a character that takes its core from your own mold and an ardent anchor in God with a surrender to His will at all times.
Not a single life time will be sufficient to recompense this awesome burden of debt; several will be needed. No amount of material replacement as appreciation would have sufficed either; they are ephemeral and would be despoiled by time. Rather, my gratitude is rooted in love which is the emblem of eternity that confounds all notion of time, effaces all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end. That I was not personally present by you as you took your last breath on that glorious morning of Monday 15 June, 2009, to express this love and profound gratitude constitutes my greatest anguish which can only be assuaged were the assignment that kept me away from you, able, eventually, to bring peace and harmony to the environment where I was.
But the good Lord has assured us, as stated in the Holy Scriptures, in the Book of Ecclesiastes that He has made everything beautiful in its time. And so as I, this day, inter your remains, earth’s choicest seed, my mother, I affirm that the primordial bond between us exits with such force that it cannot be extinguished. As you and I depart, albeit temporarily from one another, I do so in the conviction that the time will come when every change shall cease. Nothing shall be to come, and nothing past but an eternity now shall ever last. Then I shall be with you again. You shall be my mother and I shall be your son.
Nimisoere Dimkpa Tobin Briggs
August 15, 2009