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