On the 10th of June, 2016, my second son, Jeremy Chikasi Chinedum, went to be with the Lord after a rather brief illness. He was only 19 months old. I stood there and watched his transition. Never have I felt so helpless, so unable to do anything, so… As he struggled to breathe in those final moments, especially in the face of the gross inadequacies in our healthcare system, God knows I would have done anything to keep him here.
Pain!!! Soul-searing, heart-wrenching, mind-curdling pain!!! The tears flowed freely. It was not just my eyes crying, it was every part of me – spirit, soul, and body! So difficult to comprehend…
I said to myself in that moment, that this is not an experience that anybody should ever have.
Jay, as we fondly called you. You are sorely missed! It has been a month now but it all still seems like yesterday.
I was saying to your mum a few days ago that it was though you knew you were not long for this world and so your zeal and zest was to explore as much of it as you could in the time you were given.
You climbed everything. As long as it could be climbed, it had to be, and possibly sat on.
All our barricades, even the ones that worked for your elder brother, did not work for you. You somehow found a way to get around them. For you, the television was one giant iPad, and I used to look on in amusement at the confusion on your face, when the screen did not respond to your little touches. The bookshelf was a wonder maze for you. You had learned quite early the art of moving side-stools to whatever was out of reach in order to reach them.
Here are the things I so miss…
The scream of ‘Daddyyyyyyy…’, when I get back from anywhere
The successive world wars that were each episode of trying to feed you cooked food, especially when you knew mum and dad were in the house.
The ‘Jay’ Dance. Ah, your feet were meant to dance, and dance you did. With little provocation and at the slightest opportunity, you were off in all sorts of jiggles, twists and turns, as far your little legs could carry you. You danced with glee and with the cutest giggles.
All your expressions: kikar (when you wanted water); caryi (when you wanted to be carried), yight (when PHCN decided to grace us with it), AC (the generic term for all switches), tanku (thank you), iPar (to indicate when you wanted the iPad) and then there is your favorite song, ‘I love you, you love me…’.
You were the quintessential ‘gum body’. For you, body contact was everything; whether it was me, your mum, and especially your brother, once you were with any of us, you just had to sit on, lie on, or sit by the person. You also did not care whether your brother complained or not, as far as you were concerned, that was the way to stay.
The AC switch will definitely miss you. It was like a magnet for you, and the best of toys. Off on, off on, off on … you went with it at the slightest opportunity.
Like your elder brother when he was the same age, putting off the TV while we were all watching it, was a favorite sport. Picking up the remote control was essentially to change whatever channel anyone was watching. It was as though your little mind felt that staying on one channel for prolonged periods was bad for health.
Your brother is still trying to get to grips with it and misses you sorely. Sometimes, he inadvertently makes it difficult for us when he starts asking about you and wanting to see you. He and I were going out once, and it was about to rain. He said, ‘Daddy, it’s about to rain’. When I asked why, he said, ‘I do not want the rain to fall on Jesus’ head when he is bringing Jeremy back’.
You were everyone’s darling. Jerry Okoye was a popular appellation in Church. I still see you running around the whole place and being carried by everyone.
Jay, we miss you so. The last five words are a pitiful expression of the current reality.
I have never had to pray for your brother as much as I have had to pray about you. Some of the revelations concerning you were quite scary. There was just something about you that made the enemy so afraid, and he had tried to hurt you several times. It would appear that he has succeeded, but as usual, he cannot comprehend the big picture. Just like it was said concerning our Lord, if the princes of this world had known (fully understood God’s plan), they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. If only he knew… for I know there is always a plan. God does not do arbitrary things.
God has helped us tremendously through this time. He has surrounded us with love and people, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. It has not been easy. My heart still bleeds, the occasional tear still escapes, but I know it is gradually mending. More times now than in the past few weeks, I remember you and a smile comes to my face instead of tears to my eyes. I choose to focus on God’s grace to us this period, rather than focus on the pain.
I draw comfort from sensing that the Lord Himself personally supervised your passing. Your brother said a few hours after you had passed that he was happy that you are happy (how on earth he knew and sensed that, beats me). Jesus is taking care of you now. I sometimes imagine you playing with the angels and having fun exploring the reaches of heaven, frolicking on the streets of gold, having the time of your life and eternity.
A part of me is in heaven. I have one more reason to make sure I get there. A part of me wonders what you would look like when I eventually see you, if you would still be a little boy or a man fully grown, if you would still call me Daddy or (do not know what else), if…
You have joined the cloud of witnesses cheering us from the grandstands of heaven. Seeing you once again is a great impetus to run this race even better.
This is my tribute to the 19 months we had you. Left to us, we would not have let you go but this is the reality we now have to live with. If we did not have you, we would not have such pleasant memories.
Jehovah…, You are God and Father. I bow to you now and always. Though my heart and emotions feel like they are in shreds, yet I submit to You. Everything that You do is good (may be painful in the interim) and always works out for good. My trust is in this and that You are constantly with us.
For all who have stood with us during this period (family, friends (close and distant), colleagues, and church members), may God be with you and I pray you never experience such pain. Your love and care is most appreciated. The title of this piece was taken from the title of the poem written by the Junior Church of The Stone Church, Abuja (which I must confess, I have not had the courage to read).
At the graveside, I said I will see you again… We may have buried you, but God has not buried you. How that will work out, only time and eternity will tell.
Adieu son. Sleep well. Have fun with Jesus and I am sure He is as excited to have you as we were when we had you.