By Francis Ewherido
My birthdays are always times to reflect on my life and life generally. No birthday is complete without that. But I also like to make my birthdays public. The avalanche of prayers and well wishes I get mean the world to me. But making it public and using it to reflect are inversely related and does create challenges. Last Tuesday, I almost could not do my birthday reflections. First, I decided to sleep like it was a weekend. By the time I woke up, it was almost 9am and I had many messages and missed calls to return already. From when I woke up till after midnight, when I slept, there was not much time for reflection. After responding to calls and messages, I went to church with my wife. With the number of deaths in this country, it has become a miracle how people live into their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and on. Life is cheap here and when you still have yours, you cannot take it for granted. It is purely the mercy of God at work and I felt an obligation to thank Him.
Once I stepped out of the church, my mother called to wish me a happy birthday; she also sang a birthday song and prayed for me. Hers was followed by a call from my mother-in-law, who also prayed and sang a birthday song for me. All my brothers called to wish me happy birthday. My sisters-in-law also called or/and sent messages. Many friends also called. Emma Esinnah, my friend (he is now a brother) of 37 years was at the house waiting when I got home. All the social and professional bodies I belong to (Urhobo Social Club, Lagos; old students of mass communication, UNN; Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, etc) celebrated my birthday with me on their WhatsApp pages. Even the Marriage and Family Life Unit of my parish, where we placed a ban on posting of birthdays, broke the rule to wish me a happy birthday. Even when I reminded them, one stubborn sister disobeyed me, their coordinator. On Facebook, there were even more goodwill messages, prayers and well wishes. I just love the prayers and well wishes that come with birthdays. I have never pretended about that. The prayers of the righteous availeth much, how much more many righteous people and children of God praying for you?
In the evening, I was pleasantly surprised to see my eldest brother, Fr. Tony, who had called earlier to wish me happy birthday. He came all the way from Ibadan, in spite of his busy schedule, just to be with me on a normal birthday. That was touching. My youngest brother and eldest nephew also came around. My older cousin (I call her my Lagos Mummy), Mrs. Joyce Tuedor, was there too. It was apparent my wife was at one of her best past times, birthday coup plotting. Where military coups to still be in vogue in Nigeria, the plotters would made her their consultant by now. She had managed to get the phone number of one of my tailors for my Lagos mummy. As I was getting out of the bathroom, I saw a new dress on the bed. That was what I wore to church and it did not leave my body until I went to bed.
My wife also organised a few friends and relatives who live nearby – the Ojeros, Onuorahs, Sargins, Amadis, Oludemis and Adekeyes – to celebrate with me what I had initially planned to be a quiet birthday. I had my initial inkling last Saturday that I was not going to have things my way. My Lagos mummy called that she was coming on Tuesday. Looking fiftyish, but hovering around 70, I have advised her to go out only when it is absolutely important because of the worsening Lagos traffic. When I told my wife that she was coming, she was not surprised. That was when I knew she was plotting again. Luckily, all my children were home and joined in the celebration.
Every year, my little baby gives me a hand-made card on my birthday. The message in this year’s card melted my heart: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Thank you for always being there to lend a helping hand. I hope today brings you lots of love, happiness and smiles, dad! I hope the year ahead brings your most exciting adventure yet. To my amazing dad before you blow out the candles take a moment to remember what a wonderful father you are.” She also wrote a birthday “poem” which blew me away:
Ever since my life began,
I realized that ‘‘You da man”
I saw your wisdom, your courage too
And I learned I could rely on you
Your tolerant nature is really great
Nevertheless, you’d not hesitate
To let me know when I’d been bad
It must have been hard, but that’s being a dad
You are strong, smart and filled with love
A gift to me from up above
So here’s a greeting from your biggest fan
Happy Birthday, dad, cause ‘‘you da man.’’
As I read her birthday messages, I saw maturity that was beyond 11 years. Her command of English was far better than mine at age 11. Yet we argue that the standard of education is falling. But that is discussion for another day. What gladdened my heart most in her “poem” was her realization that those times I was very hard on her, it was harder on me. We do have our battles when she wastes food or eats and does not wash her plate; when her room looks like a mad house and when she is rude to her seniors. I also felt good that she realizes I scold and discipline her out of love.
After, the last guests left, I went to bed to reflect a little before I slept off. What truly is life? In part, life is about meaning the world to your spouse, life is about having siblings who love, respect and treasure you, love is about having friends who genuinely wish you well, life is about having friends who are better described as brothers and sisters, life is about being loved and appreciated, life is about having friends who publicly affirm you, life is about having Facebook friends you have never met yet celebrate you on their Facebook and other social media pages. Life is about being acknowledged and celebrated by your elders. Life is about being showered with so much love that traducers and those who deliberately diminish you fade into oblivion. Life is about being saturated with so much love you just want to live on and on. Thank you, family; thank you, friends; thank you every one who was part of this celebration of love. God bless you all.
Francis Ewherido is a seasoned relationship, financial and insurance coach. He’s also an author. He can be reached on: email@example.com.