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Loving poem for Justina Iguehi Ehimuan (Nee Otoide)

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“If I no sleep, my mother no go sleep, If I no chop, my mother no go chop
She no dey tire ha, sweet mother
I no go forget the suffer wey you suffer for me yeah yeah
Sweet mother aha, sweet mother oh eh oh…” – Prince Nico Mbarga

One person that I know has loved me unconditionally
My dear sweet mother is gone, and I am left here
You were the channel through which God gave me life
And you cherished that life, even more than your own

x

When tears rolled down my cheeks,
Your heart bled and cried, and yearned to take my place
When as a teenager internal conflict and sadness loomed,
Your heart was heavy and your eyes pleaded, please be happy my child
You were by our beds at night a paper fan in your hand
Driving away mosquitoes and keeping the heat at bay
Giving up your sleep, so that we could have our rest

Orphaned as a child, you faced the world with courage
The big wide world offered no protection for the little orphan
Hawking bread for pennies each morning before you could go to school
Offering to stay up to watch the dough rise while your siblings slept
Your kindness and consideration, evident even as a child

Brilliant you were, topping your class in school
Billed for greatness, you could have become anything
One after the other, you let go of your dreams
In favour of the one dream that mattered most to you
To be a great wife and a great mother
In a society that offered little regard for women

x

Your heart was broken so many times in life
When as a little girl you watched your mother die
When injury or pain came to any of your seven children
When your husband lay almost lifeless in an emergency ward
When both your life savings for a better life beyond borders
Was squandered by a trusted relative, with no apologies, no remorse
Hopes dashed and left to start again with nothing

It seemed there was no resting place, nowhere to lay your head
The tidal waves approaching at every turn.
But Justina my mother, you rode out every wave
You outlived all the challenges and the pains
Your enemies confounded, your star shining bright
The Lord was your armour and shield for the fight

“It is not the life that matters, but the courage you put into it”

x

This is something you always said and taught me well
And I watched you everyday put on a cloak of courage
Courage that kept you going … against all odds
In financially troubled times picking up the hoe to plant cassava
I watched you fry garri so your children would not go hungry

What got you up every morning, how did you not give up?
I asked you this question so many times
The answer you gave was the same each time
The joy of the Lord was your strength, you said
And seeing your children healthy and doing well gave you joy

Indeed you created a bigger dream …
In service of the Lord and community
A Christian women leader, a Knight of St. Paul, a mother to all
Your impact was felt in communities where you lived
By families to whom you gave food every Christmas morn
By parents who sent their children to your door unannounced at festivities
Knowing you would not turn them away but welcome and feed them
Iwogban women still enjoying the market you helped to build

x

Indeed you created a bigger dream …
Raised seven healthy children, all strong in society
A nun, a pastor, leaders in various walks of life
Impacting communities and changing lives at scale
Grandmother to fifteen grandchildren at home and abroad
What is the mark of greatness if not this?
A life lived in love, contribution, and service

I would weep but for the knowing in my heart
That you are at peace now dear sweet mother
Your life’s work is done, and what a great work it’s been
It’s now time to rest, in the bosom of our Lord
The Lord you called upon every single day and night
Praying unceasingly for your children, as you called each by name
Your compassion pouring out to everyone you knew in need
You held God close in life, I know He will hold you close in death

I’m grateful for the quality time we spent in the last few years
When I had the honour and privilege of caring for you in my home
Your children gave you all we could to gladden your days
You struggled and held on primarily for our sake
We could give the best medical care, but only God gives life

x

And when God says it is time, … it is time.

I would grieve that my dear mother is gone
But for the knowing in my heart that your spirit lives on.
Everything you taught me still remains with me
I hope I can face the world with the courage that you did
I hope my faith and conviction can be as strong as yours
I hope I can live the life I was born to live
Be a great mother myself, and the person I was destined to be

We celebrate you dear sweet mother, forever blessed!
Once a child orphan, now mother of generations
A pillar of the community, role model to women
A woman of courage, of strength, of love
Rest in peace our dear mother – Justina Iguehi Otoide Ehimuan
Rest in peace in the bosom of our Lord.

It was Friday October 26 2018. Our dear mother at 78 departed to join the saints triumphant.
She lives on. And forever will.


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