Ezinne Onwuemegbulem: A woman of peace

In the pantheon of centenarians, not many in that privileged class can stand shoulder to shoulder with Ezinne Maria Nwaego Onwuemegbulem, my mother who transited to higher glory recently at the age of 101.
Onwuemegbulem
Onwuemegbulem

In the pantheon of centenarians, not many in that privileged class can stand shoulder to shoulder with Ezinne Maria Nwaego Onwuemegbulem, my mother who transited to higher glory recently at the age of 101.

At an age when most people are either bent or are on wheelchair, demobilised by debilitating arthritis, Mama Onwuemegbulem was ramrod refusing to bow to old age. She was agile and never suffered any physical incapacitation or memory loss. She held very useful conversations and meetings with her family, community and the women league in the local Catholic church where she worshipped for years until her last days on earth.

I don’t know if The Guinness World Record has a category for a woman with the most surviving number of children, otherwise Mama Onwuemegbulem would have been a strong contender. She was survived by seven children (it would have been nine but two are late), 26 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren. Two of the grandchildren are Catholic priests. It is the level of grace of God in her that Mama was able to live this long in good health and to be able to see the third generation of her children.  Mama was a woman of peace whose service to God and humanity will be remembered long after she was gone.
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In his tribute during the funeral oration, Rev. Fr. Kingsley Amadi, Parish Priest of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Rumuodumaya, Port Harcourt, said: “In the old days she was called Nwamaria because she was one of the few dedicated mothers who were very hospitable to the early missionaries sent to Umuaturu-Etche”.

Born in 1922, Ezinne Onwuemegbulem, was the last of the only two daughters of late Chief Nwaogu Anokwuru from Umudela, Ndashi-Etche of Rivers State. At age 17, she migrated to Umuaturu Etche to join her only sister, the late Mrs Nwada Ejimozor who was married to the late Chief Ejimozor. Chief Ejimozor was the first influential paramount ruler from Umuaturu, whose reign in office was felt throughout Mba-Asa and beyond.  It was during our mother’s stay at Chief Ejimozor’s place that she met and got married to my father, late Chief Alfred Onwuemegbulem Amaefule Odum. Our father also came from a long ancestral history of chief priests and king makers.

Growing up, my siblings and I have always seen our mother to be everything. And, yes, Mama was everything to us. She was our pillar and our strength, our prayer warrior. She always wanted the best for her children and any other person, and could easily give her last kobo and remain hungry so another family could eat. She was also a social crusader who detested injustices of any kind.

Mama came from a position of lack and rose to an enviable height of incredible strength, influence and affluence through God’s benevolence. Mama never stopped trusting God. She prayed her rosary every day asking God for strength, guidance, and protection over her household and others. Mama, until her death, was the pillar of all pillars in all our families. She was the glue that held everyone together in love and unity. Mama ran a good race, fought the good fight and obtained her crown of glory.
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Even in times of adversity, Mama was kind and generous. She was the type of woman who would refuse to stay behind. She strongly pushed herself to the front to achieve her set goals. No task was too difficult or impossible for Mama. Everything she did to raise her children and step-children was by sheer strength, determination, dedication, sacrifice and unwavering personal conviction that God answers prayers. She found solace in the word of God in Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.”

Though my mother died at a very ripe age, I could not hold back the tears when I remembered all the things she went through after our father’s death to ensure we did not suffer. She was humble and industrious. Mama served God with zest and vigour. No wonder God rewarded her with longevity. In the evergreen melody of the late musical legend, Prince Nico Mbaga, I say to mama, “sweet mother, I no go forget you for this surfer wey you suffer for us.”

• Onwuemegbulem is a former staff of The Guardian.
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