Mercy, my friend, my devoted companion. Adieu

By Agbonsuremi Augustine

I was privileged that I had her as my wife for 32 years and for an additional five years earlier as a schoolmate and friend in courtship.

Our friendship and companionship were designed like no other. Ours was carved in rare blocks from whichever angle you look at it.

We met in the course of an unusual circumstance and built up from scratch.

On our wedding day, we set out on a bus ride to the marriage registry.

We had no new dresses.

No Photograper.

No guests.

No wedding reception. We could not afford them all.

We had faith in God.

We were full of determination.

The defunct Ogwashi-Uku Polytechnic gave me admission in 1983 to Study Mass Communications.

The same year, she gained admission into Ozoro Polytechnic to study Banking and Finance.

It is not difficult to conclude that unless something extraordinary happened, our paths could never have crossed.

Midway into our programmes, both schools were shut down by the General Jeremiah Useni military administration in the then Bendel State.

Late Mercy
Late Mercy

The forced closure of the two tertiary institutions brought excruciating anxieties for students of both institutions who had their hope hanged in the balance.

Just right inside this anxiety and uncertainty was the story of our lives, our future, and our family.

Following the shutdown of the two polytechnics, Students of both schools were asked to report to Auchi Polytechnic for absorption.

But Auchi Polytechnic, for administrative and academic reasons, could not accommodate all the students.

About half of the students were provided space in Benin City at the Institute for Continuing Education (ICE) to study for the Auchi Polytechnic Diploma.

All the affected students of both Ozoro and Ogwashi-Uki Polytechnics, including Mercy and I, resumed classes at ICE premises in Benin.

The closure of the two schools had a silver lining for us.

So, there was this beautiful girl, ebony black and well-shaped, Mercy Ogie, one of the students studying Banking and Finance from Ozoro Polytechnic.

We both entered this school arrangement without knowing that this was the most significant event to influence our lives. And it was carefully embedded by providence, destiny and fate inside this seemingly intractable crisis of the closure of our different institutions.

About three months before concluding the program at ICE, I was at the departmental block when I saw this pretty girl again.

Recently my eyes were on her, but we had never spoken to each other, except during our passive meetings at students’ brief meetings, where, as one of the students’ leaders, I explained the efforts to be sure we completed our program in one piece.

It was always like a general meeting where those of us in the forefront addressed the students. So I can say, and she confirmed that she knew me from those public meetings.

This morning I saw her again, smart, beautiful and exuding all the seriousness you can possibly infer from a physical demeanour.

My heart pounded, and my head went turning again. I couldn’t resist it this time.

And was it a voice I heard? It was loud inside of me, and it was clear. “That’s your wife.”

“Wife ke?”, (wife?), I queried, but without thinking, I ran after her to her class, Banking and Finance, about three class halls away from the Mass Comm hall.

I stood at the door and beckoned on her to be excused outside to the car park, a few steps away.

She obliged.

The message was straightforward.

It was respectfully delivered.

No introductions.

Just salutations and I dropped my message:

“I don’t expect you to respond to what I want to tell you. I am not looking for a girlfriend. I am convinced that you will be my wife.“

Classical.

She didn’t disappoint.

“Is that all” she responded.

I replied, “Yes.”

“Can I go now?” she asked, and I responded, “Yes,” again.

I was not expecting anything more.

The encounter was not more than 3 minutes.

I watched her step off and away from my sight.

She didn’t look back, against my expectations, that she would, at least, look back.

I was greatly relieved, and I didn’t see her again until three weeks later when I went to her class to invite her for a drink at the kiosk.

That was when we introduced ourselves, and we got to say a little about our backgrounds.

“I am Mercy,” she told me.

She told me she had been trying to process the message I had dropped with her. According to her, she couldn’t understand. I told her that I hardly understood too.

She wasn’t considering marriage, as the current academic challenge was big enough.

I wasn’t thinking of marriage either.

We became friends, got along, and we soon graduated.

I moved to Lagos to join The Guardian on an internship.

She got a job with the defunct New Nigeria Bank, and she picked the offer to resume in the bank’s branch in Lagos.

Five years later, we got married at the City Hall Registry, Lagos.

The entire marriage ceremony at City Hall couldn’t have lasted more than 30 minutes.

We were not quite ready financially, but we avoided unnecessary expenses.

We were packed with determination.

We had a budget of N14,000, about my annual salary on The Guardian Newspapers as a Staff Reporter, for both the traditional ceremonies and the registry.

A week earlier, on May 11, 1991, we were in Benin City for the traditional ceremonies.

It was attended by only our close friends and family members.

She had confided in her parents that our budget was nothing to write home about.

So in one of those pre-wedding visits, my father-in-law, Pa Gabriel Ogie, of blessed memory, a school Principal, took me into the inner recess of the house for a discussion.

“I know you don’t have all the means for an elaborate marriage ceremony. Just bring in your parents and immediate family members. I will bless you and my daughter in marriage. You don’t need to bother yourself with anything”, he said.

We had a wonderful ceremony: my parents, siblings and a few cousins. A few friends – David Ogah and Edetean Ojo, both of whom were my colleagues at The Guardian Newspapers, Frank Alabi of blessed memory from Daily Times, Gloria Oyerior, my course mate and a couple of my other friends and Mercy’s colleagues from New Nigeria Bank – it was a small group of family and close friends.

From the lean budget, we decided we could only buy new clothes for the traditional ceremony.

She didn’t insist on “standards.”

We couldn’t afford to buy any new dresses for the ceremony at the registry.

In the office, I told Edetean Ojo and David Ogah that we have decided to have them as witnesses to our marriage.

They obliged us.

On Saturday, May 18, 1991, very early morning, my Mercy and I headed to the bus stop.

We had no budget for a taxi.

Edetean and David found their way to City Hall at 8 a.m.

None of us had personal cars.

We took our first bus from Iyana-Ipaja to the Ikeja bus stop.

From Ikeja, we took another bus heading to CMS.

But something happened.

In Maryland, just before the bus stop, there was a slight traffic build-up on both sides of the road.

I sat near the window in the yellow-painted small FEDECO bus on the side of the inner lane, and right from the other side of the road, I heard a call.

I saw a senior colleague in The Guardian newsroom, Emeka Okoroayanwu. He sighted me on the bus.

He wasn’t aware of our marriage ceremony. He was one of the three reporters proudly owning a car, a Peugeot 504, in the entire newsroom of The Guardian.

“Austine, where are you headed,” he asked.

“Just get down from the bus and wait for me at the bus stop,” was his quick response when I told him we were going to City Hall for our marriage.

He turned around and took us to City Hall, to our delight.

Edetean Ojo and David Ogah were already waiting when we got to City Hall.

It was a few minutes past eight, and the Registrar was already waiting.

There were usually dozens of marriage ceremonies in City Hall on Saturdays.

I had pleaded with the registry that we desired that our ceremony be the first in the morning, and they obliged and fixed 8 am.

I wore my regular shirt and trouser while she dressed in her typical office attire.

No new dress.

No crowd.

No photographer and no reception party.

After clearing the doubts, which the Registrar very clearly expressed, he joined us together in matrimony.

The only spectator was my senior colleague,  Emaka Okoroayanwu.

The other two, Edetean and David, took turns to sign and witness our marriage.

Both of them were bachelors.

From City Hall, we all, except David Ogah, proceeded to Blue Cross Hospital, Ogba, driven by Oga Emeka, to see a mutual friend, Emmanuel Okoyomo, who was hospitalised.

Okoroayanwu discarded his weekend engagements, drove us all around and took us home to Iyana-Ipaja.

None of the other tenants in the face-me-I-face-you room and parlour setting of our house knew it was our wedding day.

No family members were involved.

The man whose rooms were opposite our rooms was furious a week later when I told him the story.

He said he would have driven us down in his car if I had told him.

We didn’t know him much as we had just moved into the apartment from a single room where I lived.

I apologised and explained that we didn’t want to bother anyone.

Ours was a firm reliance on God for everything and avoiding unnecessary expenses.

Our experience in school was partly responsible for our desire and decision not to send our children to any university or polytechnic in Nigeria if we could afford it.

This desire was a family prayer point. For this reason, we didn’t have more than two children. We feared more children could hamper our desire to have our children attend some of the best institutions in the world.

The prayer was answered.

We moved our children, one after the other, midway through their secondary school in Nigeria to Southern Ontario College, a high school in Canada.

They ended up at the University of Toronto and York University, to our delight.

They are our story, our success, our perseverance, hope and commitment.

Our joy remains that despite her battle with cancer, which lasted ten years, she saw Bright and Clifford grow into very responsible young adults. They crowned it up with their marriage to the most beautiful, well-groomed and equally well-educated girls who have now filled the space for daughters in our home.

For over thirty-five years, I sojourned with an angel, a woman of class and ideas.

Her respectful disposition, intelligence, discipline, her sincerity and love have enabled our success, my success.

I derived my energy, my inspiration and courage from this woman.

She made more sacrifices to keep us going.

She wrapped up her job in the bank in Lagos to join me in Abuja.

She dropped her thriving telecoms business in Nigeria to join and live with our kids in Canada.

I valued and enjoyed her trust and unimaginable confidence and tolerance.

I saw the efficacy of her prayers over the children and me.

On average, she lived with and managed the children for at least 70 percent of our joint parenting, while I probably did not go up to 30 percent, most times, remotely.

She sets the rules and requests my endorsement.

For instance, at the ages of 14 and 16, when the children were alone in high school in Canada, it was compulsory, according to her rules, for us to stay awake till around midnight because of the time difference to be able to Skype with them before we sleep, every day.

Time-in for the children, even as adult university students, was set by her for 7 pm unless they had evening or night classes. Her love, submissiveness, good home management, sound financial management and loyalty combined to cover my inadequacies and shortcomings.

My huge success as a journalist is largely because she supported me. She gave me peace of mind, and God gave us a peaceful home.

For thirty-two years of our marriage, a third party was never invited to settle any quarrel.

She bridged the gaps at home and allowed me to be away, travelling around the country and the world while maintaining an unusual calmness, efficient control and trust.

I have not been able to stop the tears. It is difficult for me to process. We prayed, and we believed, but God made the final decision.

Her battle with cancer was a battle for the family. Our boys gave it everything they had. I was mostly in Nigeria during this period, but I relocated in 2020 to be with them. I had the opportunity to nurse her, gist with her, eat with her and pray with her.

I was by her bedside in the hospital night and day in her last two months. I took a few hours during the day to dash home, and during that time, my son came in to be with her and to read out Bible verses to her.

As she is laid to rest on Saturday, April 29, I bless the day I met her. I salute her courage, tolerance, trust, commitment and love.

Above all, we give all the glory to God, who formed us and who, from the beginning, permitted us to walk according to his plans.






     

     

    We thank our friends and family members who believed in and supported our dreams.

    Adieu, my friend, my companion and my unconditional lover.

    I will meet you again on the day of the resurrection.

    Agbonsuremi Augustine In Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, April 2023 [email protected]

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    58 COMMENTS

    1. Such a beautiful story of love ❤️😭
      My condolences sir.May her beautiful soul rest in peace 🙏

    2. I can’t hold my tear reading all this but I pray that the great comforter will comfort you and the family she left behind in Jesus name. May her soul rest in peace .

    3. The Holy Spirit will always comfort you and the family and be with you every step of the way. It was such a beautiful life story to read.

    4. I couldn’t hold back my tears while reading this love story. Such a woman is difficult to come back today. She truly made you and your family. I know you appreciated her much as well by joining and staying with her in last days. I am happy to state here that I have similar marital experience of about 30yrs now and still counting. You had a good marriage.
      May God grant her peaceful eternal rest and give you the grace to mourn her and bear this burden of loss. Amen.

    5. Very beautiful story unlike the news and stories of this world. Please may Jehovah comfort you and may you have faith in his loving provision of the resurrection of the dead into a Paradise earth in which Death will be no more. (2Cor1:3,4, Rev21:3-5)

    6. It is well…my eyes are filled with tears. May God console you and your family and grant her peace and loving soul eternal rest, Amen.

    7. My heartfelt condolences. May her good soul rest in perfect peace as the Lord grants you & the boys the fortitude to bear the loss in Jesus Name 🙏

    8. We thank God for a life well spent and good legacies she has left behind. May God grant you and the children the peace of God which passes all understanding.

    9. So so sorry for the loss of your lovely wife sir!
      May God comfort you and all the grieving family and friends.

      What an inspiring story of faith in tomorrow

    10. May the Lord comfort you and the young men and their spouses and grant your dear wife eternal rest. Praise God for the promise and hope of the resurrection.

    11. I am really short of words!…& Emotional,right now! In a country & World where MEN hardly speak good of their Wives,I have just read an overwhelmingly touching TRUE LOVE STORY! In most cases,& as I read through,I was actually touched by your truthfulness & the uncommon FEAR OF GOD,in you, that your write- up portrayed! YOU HAVE REALLY DISPLAYED THAT YOU ARE A TRUE CHILD OF GOD!..& from HIM , alone, will your COMFORT,CONSOLATION & SUPPORT COME! And your LATE WIFE??…REJOICE!..cos you have a REAL ANGEL watching over you!! YOU ARE SO LUCKY,to be YOU!..& to have experienced HER!! To me,you are a GEM!! May her sweet soul continue to rest a n PERFECT PEACE!..AMEN!!
      Remember,all she would want you to continue to be!..& to do,even at her burial!..& even after! PLEASE,BE STRONG FOR HER!…YES, MOURN HER!..BUT BE STRONG!! CONGRATULATIONS,SIR!!

    12. I am really touched by this story. Please accept my sympathy. May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace and may God comfort you.

    13. Thank God for a life well spent with the love of your life. Please be strong and courageous. Take solace in the exceptional life you both had. We all have seasons in our lives which God is in charge of.

    14. I don’t know you but this touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
      You sir, are a beautiful man who got blessed by God through a beautiful wife.
      I am sharing your story with my husband sir. Your wife has gone home but she is still teaching many. I took note of her virtues and intend to honor my husband even more.
      I pray that the Lord would hold you right in the center of His Palm as you walk this pathway in Jesus’ name.
      And may He strengthen you and your children and every loved one of yours in Jesus name.
      I thank God death is not final.
      God bless you sir.

    15. May the good Lord comfort you and the family. You had a life with her that most people never have. God bless and keep you.

    16. May God comfort you, Bright ,Clifford and the entire family n Jesus name.
      Mummy B was a rare gem, a lover of humanity, she took care of me and my children while in Abuja. We miss her

    17. May the good Lord rest her soul and grant you all the fortitude to bear the loss.

      Not easy to lose a loved one but the Lord will console you all as only him knows how to. It gets easier to bear with each day.

    18. Hmmm! This is quite emotional. May soul rest in eternal peace. May the Almighty God comfort you and those she left behind.

    19. Wooooooooow Beautiful.
      God bless you Sir and comfort the entire family.
      May her Beautiful soul find rest.

    20. OMG! What a pleasant and inspiring love narrative!
      My heart goes to you, Mr. Augustine, and your well-nurtured sons. May our good Lord, Jesus Christ, uphold you all with His mighty right hand of protection, preservation, and divine healing in Jesus’ name.
      May the loving soul of your beloved caring wife rest in God’s bosom.
      It is well, in Jesus’ name.

    21. I thank God for her life and for the examplary life she lived , may God accept her soul and comfort you and the entire family.

    22. This is touching and very emotional. I pray the Almighty God comfort you and the children, grant you the repose to bear the irreplaceable loss and heal your grieving hearts in Jesus name Amen

    23. This is very touching and highly emotional. I pray the Almighty God will comfort you and the children, give you the repose to bear the irreplaceable loss

    24. Can you find a woman of such a wonderful virtue today?
      May her soul rest in perfect peace.
      My sincere condolences to the family, pray that God will grant you the grace and strength to fill the vacuum her death created in your life.

    25. What a beautiful story of love and devotion. It got be sobbing from the beginning. Accept my condolences. You will meet your love again never to part in Jesus name.

    26. My condolences to you, sir. You are a great man with a heart of gold, thank you for sharing your love story with the world. Our sister is lucky to have someone to love her and appreciate her beauty, her decisions, and everything she was able to accomplish during her life time. May her soul rest in peace, until we meet again in God’s glory. With tears dropping down my cheeks, I there say, brother, do take good care of yourself and the family.
      Name: P.F.B.√

    27. She will be greatly missed by you all. She was your soul mate and more going by this beautiful story. May God grant her eternal rest.

      I could not stop reading, it was a good early morning read.

    28. I read this with tears. May the Almighty God continue to guide and comfort you and may her soul rest in peace.

    29. Reading it was so touching.
      May her soul rest in peace.
      Please be comforted that you leaved with an angel who only took time to go and rest.

    30. I was happy reading through this master piece. It was a story of love, a love that knew no bounds. You followed your heart from the very beginning, thank God you found your soul mate and together you navigated through the rough waters of this journey called life.A beautiful story, may God grant you and your family the fortitude to bear this loss of a great woman,amen.Sleep on beautiful one, may your gentle soul rest in peace, amen.

    31. To God be the glory for all things. She’s only gone home to rest. May the good Lord comfort the entire family. For you my brother, God bless; and may you never be alone 🙏

    32. The Best Help for Those Who Grieve: THE PAIN OF LOSING A LOVED ONE IN DEATH HAS BEEN THE SUBJECT OF MUCH RESEARCH IN RECENT TIMES. Yet, as demonstrated previously, the best expert advice often harmonizes with the ancient wisdom found in the Bible. This speaks well of the timelessness of the Bible’s guidance. The Bible, however, contains more than dependable advice. It provides information found nowhere else, which can bring immeasurable comfort to those who grieve.A strong belief in a loving God brings comfort

      The Bible says at Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of Jehovah * are on the righteous, and his ears listen to their cry for help.” Expressing our feelings in prayer to God is more than good therapy or a means of organizing our thoughts. It actually helps us to establish a personal relationship with our Creator, who can use his power to comfort us.A better future to look forward to

      Imagine a time in the future when those in the grave will be brought back to life here on earth! The Bible repeatedly speaks of such a time. Describing what conditions on earth will then be like, the Bible states that God “will wipe out every tear from [our] eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”​—Revelation 21:3, 4.Hope for the Dead​—Soon a Reality

      Bible prophecy indicates that we are near the time when God will take action to restore peace and everlasting life to obedient mankind. God promises: “I will change their mourning into exultation, and I will comfort them and make them rejoice away from their grief.” “‘Hold back your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there exists a reward for your activity,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and they will certainly return from the land of the enemy [death].’”​—Jeremiah 31:13-17.At that time Jehovah will progressively restore to life through the resurrection those who have died throughout man’s history. Under the heavenly government of God’s new system, they will have the opportunity of choosing everlasting life by obedience to God’s commands for life at that time. Thus, if we turn to the Bible, we will find that there is a true hope for the dead and consolation for the living.​—Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:12-14; 21:1-4.

    33. I bumped into this write up, I patiently read each word and line calmly to digest the piece… As I read, tears welled up in my eyes… You deeply loved and cherished your wife till death. May Jehovah show you same Love… May the Resurrection hope strengthen you. May the God of all comfort, comfort you and all the Love ones she left behind. This kind of Loss can never be Replaced.. May the Strong Love you had for her, keep you going..

    34. Tears in my eyes after reading this beautiful story. It’s a huge loss, may the good Lord comfort you immensely and may her beautiful soul RIP.

    35. You had such a wonderful companion, I picked a few things nd I have learned a thing or two. May her soul rest on.God bless your home

    36. Written from the heart of gratitude.
      Mercy’s husband is a Good appreciative fellow. God bless him and the children Mercy left behind. Amen

    37. Beautiful expression of Love. May the Lord’s peace be with you and your family and May her sweet soul rest in peace.

    38. I’m sure this is Mr Okhiria who anchored political platform on ray power FM some years back. Even if it’s not, my heart goes out to you. God comfort you and the family. Yours is an inspiring love story

    39. My heart goes to my professional colleague and brother, Austin and the boys. The testimonial of her that you shared is very touching. Without any doubt, madam lived a life of positive impact, and I am persuaded, like millions of people would, that her good legacies will continue to live after her. May the good LORD strengthen you, and grant rest to her beautiful soul. It’s well Bro. Augustine

    40. This captures the kind of personality madam mercy was and how you and the family will miss her. I pray that the Lord will give you and the family the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss. May her soul rest in perfect peace, Amen

    41. What an eloquent communication of love personified in your beautiful half! The story was very solemn and interesting. Always longing and drawing one to land of ecstasy. I’ve learnt a lot from the narrative.
      May God continue to console you on this painful demise of your hearthrob. May God rest her soul.

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