Saturday, May 25, 2013

Father's Day

"To be is to be perceived." - Bishop George Berkeley

Memories are intangible yet powerful. A lot of our actions in the present which shape the future are based on memories of the past. Some of the most valuable things we leave behind in life are the memories we create from our interactions and impact on others. Although memories may seem to fade away, they are part of the continuum of time and existence. What is the present without memories of the past? 

Memories create more memories and therefore never really die. A lot of what we term as instinct may probably be memories somehow hardwired and passed on to us in form of genes. The Scottish philosopher David Hume even goes further to propose that what we actually consider "self" is just a bundle of perceptions and accumulated memories.

The last time I met my father, I remember a statement he made; He told me that "the journey to his destination had become shorter than the distance from the origin". I did not think much of that statement until today. Life is a journey of discovery and the most enjoyable journeys are usually the memorable ones. The journey can be full of pits tops or detours but we all have the same origin and the same final destination.  As fellow passengers on this journey, the best way to make it memorable is to fill each day with moments that will not fade quickly with time. We share this process of discovery with others either by experiencing it with them or recreating them in stories. The best stories are the ones we always remember.

Sometimes the memories we create are sad ones as a result of mistakes. If we are lucky, we live long enough to correct them and replace them with more wonderful ones. If we are luckier, we take from wonderful memories created for us by our parents and recreate even better ones for our children. My father was a lucky one and we are even luckier to have had him in our lives. His memories will continue to live on in us as we try to create even better ones for those God has given to us as gifts.

Maybe David Hume was right in some way and immortality really has to do with sustaining memories of our existence to continue to alter the perception of future generations. As long as perceptions created by us continue to exist, we also live on with them. "May 25th" will always be father's day for me as I remember my duty to keep recreating those memories. Happy Father's Day Dad.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lessons From Mama

Lessons From Mama

"When a great person dies, for years the light they leave behind them, lies on the paths of men" - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) 

I did not realize how hard this was to write until I tried remembering as much as I could about a mother I had known only for a very short time that seemed like ages. The only other two people in the family whom have not known her longer than I have are infants. I wish they also got to know her the way I did. She was already preparing for her youngest nephew's birthday on the 31st of December but passed away on the 27th. 

Prior experience had made me almost give up on the true meaning of family until she came into my life shortly after I met my wife. She was not just a mother to her biological children and those related to her genetically, she was a mother of all who came to her and others whom she met in the course of her work. Her work was taking care of people and she did it excellently well. She was one of the very few I have met who not only took the Hippocratic oath very seriously but Christianity in the true sense even more seriously by being a keeper of humanity.  From individuals to entire villages, she took care of everyone and did not seek publicity or fortune in the process.

She once told her brother Philip Gaisie that if all we do in life is to provide for ourselves and take care of our own children only then we have not done better than animals as they do exactly the same thing. She also told her sister Helena that she choose to locate her hospital in the midst of the less privileged because they also deserve good doctors and great healthcare.
The only time she actually asked me to help her do something was to find employment for a Nigerian man who had walked into her hospital looking for a job. I did not understand why she personally took it upon herself to help this man she had never met until I learned later that there were many more like him that she had devoted her time to helping out. There are those she paid school fees for when their parents could not afford it and others she gave employment to who eventually stole from her but she never pursued them or set the law after them. 

I had thought her generosity to be extreme sometimes especially as she deprived herself to help others. I remember a conversation we had in Lome about my impulsive buying and how I tried to rationalize that the possessions I bought made me feel better. Now I would give everything I have away just to have her around to continue to share her wisdom and kindness. 

There are very few human beings that try to be like she was but ideally we should all strive to be that way. She was born into wealth but did not give in to greed. Her greatness was not in the possessions she acquired and left behind but in the legacies and the path she blazed for us to follow. 

Grief is a terrible thing, It comes to you at unexpected momentsI had previously written a long windy and emotional tribute out of grief but changed my mind to keep it simple as I learned from mama. Writing a tribute that will cause more grief to others as they remember our loss is not what Mama would have wanted. She lived her life that others may learn and make the world a better place.  Her lessons will continue to be passed on to her family for generations to come. 

 "A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous" - Proverbs 13:22

Mama's lessons are the  greatest heirloom a parent can ever leave for a child and she left many for her children. I am grateful for all the time we spent together especially her last days.  I am most grateful that she gave me the most important person in my life - my wife Konaa Aseredua. Thank you Mama.

Dr Mrs Irene Naana  Fosua Arkhurst (March 1950 - Dec 2012) - Mama

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Picture With My Father

If there is one thing I really regret about losing my Dad last year, it is the fact that we never had any group photographs we all took together as a family. The closest thing to a group photograph was the one my parents took on their wedding day while my mother was already pregnant with me.  I had hoped that one day there would be an occasion that would have made that possible but it never happened. It didn’t happen for many reasons and the main reason was that my parents although still legally married, were separated for over 30 years.

In spite of separation, my parents still spoke regularly and were best friends even still in love with each other. Most of the time they discussed the most important achievements in their lives which were "their children". They discussed their hopes, their plans and their fears. They learned how to leverage on each other’s strengths with each child to pass their messages across. 

The respect and love they had for each other had grown over time as they both realized that they had to continue working together as a team for our sake. We were their most important accomplishment together. Our lives were made better by this team and sometimes I feel that they actually accomplished more for us when separated than when they were together.

I was having a discussion with my wife earlier about what sustains love in the long term and after our discussion I realized that it is not really about what we do for each other but what we do together that matters the most. Fathers cannot be fathers without mothers and vice versa. Husbands can also not become husbands without their wives. Children can also not "be" without parents, siblings also. 

What we do together as a family matters more than anything else we do for each other. They are what memories are made of and memories are the building blocks of love. What a father does "with a child" may be remembered more than what a father did "for a child", same with mothers as well. Blood or marriage is just the beginning; acts of love and kindness together with memories make up the rest of our lives together.

Human memory is a funny thing, sometimes you don't remember much until something triggers your memory. Pictures are snapshots of our memories and they serve as reminders when we have long forgotten why we love those who are dear and close to us. They remind us of what we did together more than what we did for each other. We make memories together daily and some moments are worth remembering forever. 

Do something special today with your loved ones and remember to take a picture of it because long after both of you are gone they will serve as memories for the unborn about what you did together before they existed. To show that they are a continuation of a family bound by love and to remind them to keep that love alive.

Once in a while remember one or two things I did with my father but the only picture I remember that I ever took alone with him was on my graduation day…. 

…..a picture is worth a million memories.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One Year After

This same morning one year ago, I woke up and felt the world was mine to conquer (it still is) but I did not know that my life was going to change forever that evening.

One year ago this morning the last thing on my mind was planning a funeral, all I was thinking of was where to do a wedding.

One year ago my father passed away and things have not been the same.

Michael Nosa Asemota 
2/3/1942 - 25/5/2011

Miss you Dad

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Letter to my father on his 70th birthday

Friday 2nd march 2012
Paris, France.

Letter to my father on his 70th birthday.

Domo Sir,

I had planned to write this to you today and deliver it to you in person but on the morning of 26th May last year my mother told me that you had left us all behind the night before on a journey. A journey you told me (3 years before) was closer to you than the journey you had already made.

I remember 20 years ago on this same day when you turned 50 and I was overjoyed. I shared the news with the wife of a relative with whom I was living with in Lagos at that time. Her response changed my life because she asked what you had achieved at 50? Broken home, no grandchildren … She asked what was there to celebrate?

I decided on that day never to have a broken home and also never to allow any of my children live with relatives and suffer humiliation. I did not realize at that time that she was wrong, that you had achieved much more than anyone at that age and did not have to prove anything to anyone. You were only going through one of the phases in life where God provides a valuable lesson and a better outcome.

You lived life by your own rules and many men we think are great were not half the man you were. There are things I discovered after you passed that made me realize how far ahead you had planned for those you love while depriving yourself of luxury.

You fought for what was right and never wavered even when the benefits of some of those fights were not going to change you and only came after you had passed on. I will always learn from the life you lived never to give up fighting for what is right even when everyone else says “give up”.

You passed away at 69 and lived a full life. You already had everything that those who mocked you did not believe you would have and more but did not believe in making a spectacle for the public. Your life changed and you were blessed beyond measure after you came back to find God and worshipped him like no man I have ever known. You always made me remember that and I also changed my ways and saw the result.

I still remember our conversations and how you would end it always in prayer, deep and fervent prayer of a man who loved his creator deeply and beyond the ordinary. There is no doubt in my mind now that you are at peace with the creator and we will all unite at the appointed time but it still hurts not to have you here today to celebrate the full life you have lived.

In a few months I will follow the steps you encouraged me regularly to and will go on a journey that would have made you proud. As I go on this journey, I will not only learn from the mistakes you made but will always have God as my partner and counsel as you had instructed.

It was fitting that today was a Friday and we had planned to have a big party for you. Same party we planned when you turned 60 but you were in hospital at that time and now at 70 you have left us for the bigger party in heaven.

I will always remember our last conversation and how it ended on a happy note and will forever remember you happy. I will continue to live everyday as a celebration of your life.

I miss you Sir.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Memories of My Father


Apple sent me a message earlier: A reminder to buy a gift from the Apple Store for my Dad on Father’s Day.  They probably didn’t get the memo that my father died at 7:50pm on May 25th 2011.

It however is still  Father’s Day and I decided that instead of moping and getting depressed by thinking of all I would have done for my Dad today (had he still been alive) I would rather remember him and write a tribute.

I have a last name that some associate with rich people mainly because I have some relatives who have done well for themselves.  Usually when people ask me “which Asemota?” I usually reply “the poor one”. After my father’s passing I don’t think I will give that answer anymore.

My father left me with riches. Not material riches but a rich memory and heritage. There is also progress I have made materially (and will still make) in life as a result of his prayers and blessings.
According to Charles H Spurgeon’s version of “The Prayer of Jabez”: “Many a poor man has had no other legacy to leave his children except his blessing, but the blessing of an honest, holy, Christian father is a rich treasure to his son.”

My father lived a full life. He had sons, daughters, grandchildren and also several women. He was flawed in many ways in his youth but he found God late in life and loved God like no man I have ever seen.
Even in our last conversation he still told me to “take the Blessed Sacrament very seriously because it was the most powerful thing on earth”  He was born Catholic, left the church but came back late in life to recognize the power of “The blessed Sacrament” I am a living testimony to that power and I never doubted him.

The last time I saw him I was gripped with fear that he was growing older and I realized that I needed to spend more time with him and tell him a lot of things I had wanted to tell him. I also wanted to borrow from the first chapter of James Wilkinson’s devotional in the prayer of Jabez and ask him to bless me. Bless me like he had never done before.
In “The Prayer of Jabez Devotional”, Bruce Wilkinson told the story of his own son asking for his blessing. An excerpt is below:

I remember the evening my son David asked me for a blessing.…“Dad, I want to ask you a question. Will you bless me?” His mom and sister stared at him. I stared at him as well, as his request appeared to drop out of the blue. “David, you know I do bless you,” I said.  “No, Dad. I want you to really bless me.” Then he stood up, walked to the armchair where I was seated, and knelt in front of me. Then he waited, head bowed, without even looking up. Do you know what flooded through my heart at that moment? I felt a tremendous desire to bestow on him every possible good thing. Here was my own child waiting at my feet, telling me by word and action what he wanted most was what only I, his father, could give him.…In Jesus’ name, I poured blessing after blessing upon him. And I didn’t stop until I was certain that he not only was blessed, but that he also felt blessed!”

It may sound selfish but it is the best gift you can ever give a father. So this Father’s day, instead of thinking of what to buy for your father just simply ask him to bless you. Children’s blessings are also a father’s blessings.

This was one regret I will have but I know one day that I too will learn to bless my children until they are blessed and feel blessed. Even when they don’t ask for it.

There are many things I remember about my father. His perfect handwriting, his unique voice which grows dimmer in my mind…..but will remain fresh thanks to video technology and my youngest sister’s wedding. I will keep remembering him everyday.

The memories of my father will not only be with me till I breathe my last, I will also ensure that they are passed on to my unborn children. My father will live forever both in our genes and in our minds.

Michael Nosa Asemota. March 1942 – May 2011