I'll give an arm and a leg to replicate as often as I can, what happened last weekend when colleagues from our undergraduate days at Ife gathered to celebrate life. Over the years, many leaves have dropped from the tree of life, some green as summer, some greenish-yellow like autumn and only a few yellow and drying as in harmattan.
As with any such human gathering, each edition is unique because it may not be possible to gather exactly the same people together ever again. By next year, the roll call will change. Some may not be able to show up on account of social commitments while one or two may have embarked on what Okot P'Bitek called the last safari to Pagak.
Where did all the years go? Apart from the acquisition of more girth and the greying beyond the temples, some guys and gals haven't changed much. The surprise is in the small talks.
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"Hey, remember the night we went partying with Bee? Fantastic night it was!"
"I remember... God rest his soul."
"No! Don't tell me we lost him."
"I was at his funeral four months ago."
"Jeez! What happened?"
"He slept and didn't wake up. Death surprised him in his sleep."
"I'm so sorry... "
We mourned those whose sun had set. Tejumola Olaniyan and many others were fondly remembered. Teju was preparing to go to Europe from his US base when the grim reaper showed up. Great academic. Incredible human being. He exited too early. And then my sister, Bisi, announced the sad news from Ife: another don bit the dust as Nick Igbokwe was found dead in his office. Apparently he had some work to do in the office over the weekend. That was where death surprised him. When death harvests your friend, it is sending you a loaded proverb.
The focus shifted to Destiny. Are we truly helpless in the hands of Fate. Has everything been decided before we were born? There is a sense in which it can be said that the more Christmases or Sallahs you have seen, the more you start paying attention to apocalyptic talks. Now that everyone in the gathering had reached the summit of their professions with only a few yet to retire, was that all there was to life? Isn't there a higher purpose to our earthly sojourn?
When you call somebody your classmate, you know in your heart that that doesn't go beyond the class because in life, you are not classmates. He is in his own class in life and you are in yours. It is a distinctly individual race. We breast the tape of life at separate appointed times.
Somebody whipped out a phone from her handbag as if it was a weapon. "Yes, I want you all to hear this quote from an article a friend whatsapped to me this morning: "Both Lion and Shark are professional hunters, but the Lion cannot hunt in the Ocean and the Shark cannot hunt in the jungle. The fact that a Lion cannot hunt in the ocean doesn't make him useless, and the fact that a Shark cannot hunt in the jungle doesn't make him useless also. Both have their territory where they thrive and even excel.
We took time out to celebrate those who had made very visible contributions to society. Among them were Leke Mamora and Abike Dabiri-Erewa. Great fruits of a great tree. And those living their dreams too. One US-based old gal recently fulfilled her dream of helicopter charter to have a bird's eye-view of Nashville. She flew in for the event, just to be able to relive the 70s with colleagues.
The organising committee had hashtagged the event as 'Omaloudgan' (It will be very loud). And loud it was, in a sophisticated kind of way. No politics, no reference to religion, no talk of money or status (thank God, everyone seemed to have done pretty well for themselves), just plain, honest-to-God fun without filters or frills -- just like in those years that Time has eaten.
Bob Marley led the crew of superstars summoned from the 70s to shake elderly bones. Dance. A toast to life. A celebration of the graciousness of Providence.
Whatever we do, it's never too early or too late to try to live for something, to cast a backward glance and see where we can make a difference. As long as we live, we matter. There are no friends like old friends. There's no experience like experience shared. And the best use for all the talents and riches God has given us is to share them with others. So, as the organising committee gave a report of the CSR project undertaken at our alma mater in 2019, we resolved to take on another even more daunting project in the next year.
Yes, dancing was the metaphoric celebration of our desired legacy of Ubuntu -- I am because we are -- the spirit of willing participation, unquestioning cooperation, warmth, openness, personal dignity and unbridled generosity.
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