By Iwara U. Iwara
We can never be flattered by the paced turbulence of death or by the ever lingering confusion that trails the lose of a loved one. When the grotesque fusion in harmonious dirges become loud or even echo in whispers, we are prickled into fearfully remembering that we are visitors here, blown to bloat, before we go. Who we are, now functions only in the past, in the memories of those who love us and also in the memories of those with senses alert enough to even remember us.
It is with a deep sense of loss that I write this, fighting back the tears that constantly well up in my eyes.
At birth, he was MMA-NTONGHAI to his late beloved mother and ANTHONY to his late exuberant father. As he grew up and found friendships, he endearingly became TONY, TEG, BABA-T, OBELISK or whatever name we cannot now remember. But to us all, who had the exceptional opportunity of knowing him, he simply was TONY EBRI ETENG.
The Tony I know was a thoroughbred gentleman who carried himself simply and had a face that masked nothing. He was warm, friendly, humane, respectful and respected. He made friends with relative ease because he had a personality that took people in without a second thought.
If you were looking for someone who could effortlessly ginger or give you a shoulder to lean on, it had to be BABA-T. Visibly, it was exceedingly difficult for OBELISK to bear grudges, instead he will be the pivot of peaceful settlements in all undertakings or disagreements he ever found himself in. Where people shut people out, TEG gave first, second, third and excessive opportunities for a turn around and never felt exploited.
If he called you on the phone, he often will laugh dexterously, luxuriantly, helping to numb whatever was your pain with words that flatter you into fabulous bouts of happiness. Take a trip to Port Harcourt and tell Tony that you are around and watch him endure the traffic stress to locate you, give you an impressionable good time, not to impress you, but to elevate the friendship you people share.
This is what and who death, coldly snatched away from us all.
His immediate family, still distraught and shell shocked by Tony’s difficult to believe untimely death, have become encased in deep agony. In their quiet and not too quiet moments, they are reluctantly asking questions that will never run out, knowing too well that no answers will ever be adequate enough to explain this passage to the great beyond – this one is clearly beyond their comprehension. The family will appear strong now because Tony’s mourners are all over them, offering soothing words of sympathy, comfort and encouragement. When these mourners leave, the pain of this death will be barefaced, lonesome, gritty and utterly unbearable for his family.
His brothers in De Norsemen, where his status will ever remain iconic, say they will meet him in Valhalla. Yes, Valhalla, that “splendid palace, roofed with shields, where the warriors feast on the flesh of a boar slaughtered daily and made whole again each evening.” They say so with a tepid finality that transiently soothes them. Their words express an outward show of some inward desire for a meeting in the celestial with Tony, to further fraternal friendship with their very own FIREWORKS – D’Godfather.
With distinct possibility, the Rotary International family that he embraced with so much gusto, will miss him at every turn. Their disbelief at Tony’s demise can never be metered, because he was so full of life the last time they saw him alive. One female Rotarian, meticulously captured in words, a clear picture of who Tony has come to represent…before he passed on. “You were a good man, unbothered, peaceful, very humble, ever ready to serve no matter the capacity and always had a smile for everyone. You didn’t deserve to die but you did and I am thankful that our paths crossed”, she wrote. Is there someone alive to falter these lettered words about Tony?
We have been stung by this death, at 55. I mean at age 55, aren’t we told it is a time for transformation, change and personal growth? Where are the divine elements associated with the number 55? Was Tony exempted from growing old and turning exuberantly grey like his late father did? T O N Y, where have you hurried off to, why the haste?
I am pained and sorrow filled at this particular death. Try as we all will, there are never nice words to be found and expressed for a painful goodbye. My own words are limp now.
Dear Godfather, goodnight D’Godfather … as you lie in still waters.
Tony Eteng will be laid to rest today, Saturday, October 28, 2023.
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