“The die is cast, Lord, I can no longer forget you. In a moment you seized me; in a moment you conquered me. My doubts were cast away; my fears dispelled. For I recognize you without seeing you. I felt you without touching you. I understood you without hearing you” – Michael Quest.
The news hit me like a bomb. And, like a bomb, the effects were devastating. For what appeared like eternity I was in a state of suspended animation. “This can’t be true!” I muttered again and again. Erina? Gone? Just like that? Like a candle in the wind? Here one moment, gone in the blink of an eye? Unbelievable!
Granted, this isn’t the first time my family and I have had the misfortune of losing one of our dear members to the Grim Reaper. As recently as year 2011 my elder sister, Eliza, died in Lagos after being hit by a God-forsaken driver. Our mother, Mrs. Ogbaidu Abbah, followed in 2013 after a brief illness. Each of those deaths came with its own peculiar pain and heartache. The types of pain and heartache words are too insufficient to describe.
Then came that fateful moment last week… Did Erina have an accident? No. Was she sick? No! So, what happened? She had gone out that day without any premonition of disaster. Shortly after returning to her residence at Mararaba, near Abuja, she felt some pain. She couldn’t breathe well. She called for help. By the time two or three persons rushed there, it was too late. The unusual woman had died.
Did I say unusual? Yes o! Erina was unusual in so many positive ways. Right from childhood. Consider, for example, that time when she and I would rush home from L.G.E.A Primary School, Odoba Otukpa to sell mangoes. I would climb some mango trees and pluck the fruits while she would gather them. Whenever we quarreled, however, Erina would look for any small mango tree she can climb. Trust her; even as small as she was then (about six years old) she would climb a tree right before our very eyes.
Another awesome example is embedded in the way and manner Eri became a journalist. I had challenged her that if Sonde could be come a self-trained journalist shortly after graduation from college why can’t she too toe the same path? She took up the challenge. So much so that she went on to serve as the Benue State Correspondent of TREASURE magazine, Lagos for many years. Among the prominent personalities on whom she wrote exclusive reports were the then national chairman of PDP, Audu Ogbeh (the current minister of Agriculture) and the then Governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume.
One can go on and on narrating the legion of things which make Eri positively unusual. But space constraint and my heavy heart don’t permit. Suffice it to point out three of the everlasting virtues and qualities which, in my view, mark Eri out as one in a million:
- She never gave up whatever she was involved in, irrespective of the odds or challenges ranged against her. Full of the kind of faith and confidence that moves mountains.
- Eri rarely ever kept malice or nursed grudges for long. No matter how many times you offended her or fought with her, she would forgive and forget almost immediately, almost like an innocent baby. After all, she would say, “There’s nothing in this world”; and
- Her heart of gold was such that she rarely hesitated to share her last kobo with the needy. Except you saw her doing so, it would be difficult to believe this but, of course, it’s true.
As I write this, I find it difficult to believe that my immediate younger sister, Erina Abbah (a.k.a Hajia Jamila Mohammed) has joined our ancestors. As my old colleague at LEADERSHIP newspaper, Mrs. Comfort Onche put it poignantly yesterday: “How can someone as good and gracious as Erina die so soon? Why did God let this happen?”
Well, only Jehovah can answer that. Our consolation is that Eri lived a remarkable life. To paraphrase the statement at the onset of this article, the die is cast, beloved sister. We can never forget you. You conquered our hearts with your wonderful life, thoughts and virtues. We recognize you without seeing you. We feel you without touching you. We understand you without seeing you. Rest in perfect peace till we meet to part no more. Amen.
- Abbah, a Journalist based in Abuja, wrote in through email@example.com