By Toyin Falola
Be still, dear wind, be still
Open your palms and show me what you stole
Be still, dear man, be still
I can see the pain in your heart
Be still, dear river, be still
Let me bare my soul to you
Maybe you will take pity and wash away my pain
Maybe I’ll have a reason to smile again
All and sundry, be still, please
I am not at peace
I am not at ease
Let me bare my pain, listen, please
The wind said it did not steal from me
Yet, I cannot find my loved ones
The wind claims innocence
Even after they disappeared into thin air
To grow old is to see evil
Where do I go from here?
There is nothing left on the left
There is nothing right on the right
Let a hush fall on all and sundry
Give respect to the lost ones
Those dear ones we would not see again
For except in dreams and illusions
I used to have a clear sky
I used to bask in the sun
I used to revel under the moon
Sun fell out of my sky
Moon disappeared into the clouds
I am left with a twinkling star
Shining in my dark skies.
A few days ago, my brother, my friend, Professor Gabriel Olatunde Babawale, lost his wife, Chief Doris Adetola Babawale. Your grief is ours, Tunde Babawale. A man of your reputation and standing deserves all life’s joys. In the intellectual space, you have conquered your motherland and overseas. Your works have brought light to ignorant eyes and truth to unenlightened ears. But unfortunately, your intellect could not sway the cold hands of death from snatching away your precious wife. You never wished it to be so; we never wished this for you, but every man would only tread the path of life according to destiny. Yours is a harsh one, but who do we question? We would have fought, but who do we fight? If Olodumare, the Almighty and All-knowing, has wished it so, we have no choice but to accept our fate. Sadly, I cannot accept this fate on your behalf. No one can. It is a big burden that only your head can carry. But you will not carry it alone, as your faith has prewarned:
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” – Psalms 34:17-19 NIVUK
Your spirit has been crushed. I cannot restore it; only God can.
The angel of death is an uninvited and unruly guest who enters and exits a household at will, leaving behind wailing and everlasting sorrow. That is the responsibility the Omniscient has saddled us with. Everyone will taste the sour pill of death. When the time is right, we all will have to die to give more meaning to our lives; we only pray that we live long enough to fulfill our destinies and realize all our dreams.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted….
It is common for men to die before their wives. For centuries, men have taken pride in that concept and worn it proudly as a mark of masculinity. I even once told you in Brazil, where I am writing from, that I want to die before my wife. I am sure you said the same to me, but as we did not write our own path of life, the Unquestionable God did not grant you that wish: to die before your beloved wife. If the angel of death had given you the option of choosing who should be taken, I know your choice, which is the same decision that practically all honorable men would make. None of us wants to see death plunder our homes. No man wants to witness the loss of a child or wife, for that would look like he has failed in his primary task of protecting his family. I know the death of your wife will trouble you for a long time, but I preach steadfastness to you, my friend. I wish you steadfastness, but I am nothing but clay, like you. The source of your strength will not come from me; it will come from your faith in the word of your Creator and Maker.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all
Tola was a beautiful bride. Strong, young, elegant, and vibrant. God delicately created her. Her overwhelming sense of hope was revealed in the glint in her eyes and the smile on her face. She personified the joy of existence. I imagine how hard she must have fought to stay back with us, to remain by your side and journey this world with you, but the Giver of life said her time in this realm was up. He called her, and, left with no choice, she had to heed. Her death saddens us, but we are grateful for all the impact, laughter, and memories we shared with her.
Your cry was loud when I called you a few hours after her death. I pictured your tears flowing down like water from a hill. You cried out as the righteous would do. I did not ask you to stop crying. As you did, we also cried, though our grief is incomparable to the pain you feel in the core of your soul. Our sorrows pale compared to how much you weep and grieve in the privacy of your room, where no one will see you. Tunde, your cherished wife was sweet and dear to your heart, I know. You may cry uncontrollably and feel your sorrow will never end because of the grief and the pain, but I know God will console you. The combined lamentations of sympathizers, home and abroad, cannot give you an elixir for the pain: you have to turn to God because no one else can give you the consolation that works.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them…
Many would crumble under the weight of grief, but I implore you to be strong. Draw from the little strength of those around you so you do not sink into a permanent state of depression. Our words cannot take away the pain of your loss; we only want you to know you are loved and supported during this very difficult period of your life. This sorrow is real. This pain is real. This hurt is real. All the “You will be fine” and “God will strengthen you” do not imply that it will not be difficult or painful, nor do they mean the memories will not linger in your mind. The Lord is what you need.
Life and things cannot be controlled; only God controls the circle of life. My friend, the journey ahead of you is challenging. I cannot assure you that this darkness will pass quickly, but I can only pray that light will shine on your path again. No words from me can diminish the sorrow of your loss. I only pray that God gives you the strength to carry through and that your family safely rides this storm. Have hope, as the Holy Book gives you its assurance:
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore, I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:19-23 NIVUK