I first met Funmi when we were members of the RCCG, Florishing Parish when we used the auditorium at IBB way, Calabar. But we were not close. She was just a Christian sister I said ‘hi’ to at the close of service.
When we joined our pastor to form his new ministry, Hermon City Church, it narrowed down our membership and I got a bit closer to the women through the women fellowship and the families through the couple fellowship. Yet I wasn’t close to Funmi. I’m not even sure I knew her name. I just knew her as the lady whose husband kissed her a lot during couple fellowship.
It’s funny how I relate with people. I joke, laugh and play with everyone, yet I build walls to keep them out. So I can’t really say I have a lot of friends. In my opinion I feel it keeps me out of trouble; you know the gossipy, dem-say-dem-say kind of trouble.
Back in 2005, I was the church women’s leader. I was forced to break some of those walls in order to relate better with my sisters. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted because I formed a bond and a sisterhood with many women who are still a special part of my life today. We shared our problems and prayed together but I couldn’t share mine with them because I felt if they had to lean on me for that help they desperately needed, I had to look the part. I needed to be a rock.
I too was having my fair share of marital problems that year. It got so bad that my marriage crumbled and I had to leave Calabar for Warri to stay with my parents. Only my pastor and his wife knew. I couldn’t tell my sisters. I couldn’t bear to tell them that their dear Sister Peace had separated from her husband. I sojourned in Warri with my three children for four years. Somehow, God patched things up for me and I returned.
Four years had changed a lot. I felt strange around the sisters and they with me. Some managed to hug me and said ‘Welcome back.’ Others just sat in their seats, giving me a strange look and a smile. Some who were closer to me at the time just outright ignored me because they felt I had fashied them. The new ones who had joined church after I left just stared. It was a very uncomfortable and confusing situation for me. I wasn’t ready to talk or answer questions. I just wanted to settle down.
Funmi was the only woman who called to ask how I was settling in. She asked if I had found a school for the kids and even went on to go school-hunting for me. Not that the other women didn’t care, but I guess they didn’t want to “pry.” But Funmi was a woman who had mastered the art of lovingly prying into her sisters private lives and with very good intentions.
You may not understand the extent of her gesture unless I explain something to you. Funmi had an accident during her youth service year at NYSC camp. She fell while doing those rigorous climbing exercises those soldiers put us through and she broke her right leg. Ever since then she had done several corrective surgeries to mend the leg but to no avail. She was recovering from one of those surgeries as she did the school hunting for me. She was using crutches at the time.
I tried to build my defensive barriers with her. I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone. But she broke those barriers and befriended me. She called me up one day and said, “Sis, I ‘ve been able to secure three spaces at St. Anne’s for you. How soon can you come over with the kids?” I couldn’t afford St. Anne’s at the time but I never forgot her gesture.
Over the years, I got to know her as a woman who never knew how to say ‘kpele’ or ‘it is well’ without doing something about your problem. She was witty, she was wise and she just had that thing which made you open up your deepest thoughts and secrets to her. For a loner like me, she had achieved a feat. She always gave wise counsel without judging. Funmi and I later relocated from Calabar to Abuja at different times, and the bond grew even stronger.
We have two Blackberry group chatrooms: Hermon Wives and Apples of Gold where we ladies just chilled…chatting about anything and everything. From the word of God to our kids to every sex question one could find on the face of the earth. She was one of the women who was the life and soul of the group. I still laugh when I remember the day we chatted about how a Christian woman could maintain a healthy, intimate long-distance relationship with her husband. Most of the ladies had husbands living abroad and wanted to know if it was godly to have Skype sex or phone sex with their husbands; or even masturbate with sex toys. She always had a no-nonsense and very realistic approach to such cringe-worthy topics which most Christian women felt was a no-go discussion area. In the end, we all laughed so hard and felt very comfortable talking together and sharing experiences.
She also had a way of inventing the craziest chat slangs like ‘sharpily’, ‘it’s a gaseous gas’, ‘splufic’ and many more. We hardly called her by name. Most of us called her ‘Maami’ (my mother) because of the mother hen figure she constantly assumed. Others called her ‘Sis mi’ (my sister) and ‘Hermon big girl.’
During the brokest times of my life when I needed financial assistance so bad, if I couldn’t get help from my siblings, Funmi was the next person to ask. And she never knew how to say ‘No.’ She also loved giving surprise gifts. After service, she’d call me to her car, open the booth and give me something. A bag of rice, a dress, she even visited me at home once and pressed into my hand, a fat envelope with money in it.
On Saturday, March 29, my darling Funmi went to be with the Lord and left my world and indeed the worlds of many, empty. My husband was shooting a movie scene at her house when they discovered all wasn’t well with her. She hadn’t woken up that morning and by lunch time she was still sleeping. She was recovering after treatment from malaria and typhoid, so her husband didn’t want to bother her. Even though she was breathing, she was not responsive. The doctor was called in and tried pumping her heart while she was being rushed to the hospital. She gave up at the hospital.
My husband packed up his equipment and came home meaning to tell me. One look at me and his courage failed him. He left and went somewhere nearby to drink.
Our friend Chineze called from Calabar. That was how I heard that my Maami had left without saying goodbye. I almost lost my mind. I still don’t know how I got myself into the car; drove from Karu to Gwarinpa to see for myself if this nightmare was real. Thanks to Sinmi, my Pastor’s wife, I remained sane enough to process the fact that our dear Funmi was gone.
I haven’t been able to blog ever since. I couldn’t celebrate Mother’s Day, the next day. I needed to blog about this to find some closure for the pain I feel.
Not only that, I wanted to celebrate Olufunmilayo Rotimi-Omitogun on Peace Ben Williams Blog because she was one of those people who encouraged me to start this blog and told me I was born for it. She was one of the earliest and constant commenters on my blog. (Check September, 2012 Deevanalysis).
What’s not to celebrate about Funmi? She fits all my criteria of being a Deeva as described on my blog. She wasn’t the vain woman whose only concern was acquiring clothes, makeup, Brazilian hair, contact lenses and bringing people down. She had the shiniest ebony skin I ever saw and oh, her hair was a delight to behold…long, dark and silky in texture with the loveliest streaks of silver. Her beauty outshone even the most attractive of beauty queens because it shone from within and gave satisfaction to all who saw and knew her. Her voice was one of the most soothing I ever heard. You can’t meet Funmi and deny that value wasn’t added to your life. She cared for her children, Tolu, Ade and Mary-Annie and her husband like they were (and of course they are) royalty.
Our friend Tina said to me:
“Peace, she never let anyone plait Mary-Ann’s hair. She did it herself. She’ll oil and braid it with such love.”
And she was a career woman who worked nine to five and some weekends too. Now that’s a true Deeva! She came, she loved and she conquered. She did what most women could never do even with forty extra years added to their lives.
I visited her kids on Sunday. When I was about to leave, I hugged her only daughter, Mary-Ann. I kissed her forehead and whispered in her ear: “If you ever need anything, princess you let me know and I’ll be there for you.” The nine-year old girl’s eyes twinkled in delight and she said to me:
“You mean if I want anything, you’ll buy it for me?”
My eyes widened as it suddenly occurred to me that little Annie hadn’t yet understood what hit her. I quickly pulled myself together and said “yes.” She hugged me and giggled. I walked away from her as fast as I could. I didn’t want her to see the tears rolling.
“Oh, Maami nor try at all!”
The words Chineze said as she broke the sad news to me, echoed in my ears.
Maami, you read my blog everyday, especially my deevanalysis, so I know you’re reading this as well. I’ve been talking to God since you left, trying to understand why you had to leave. It doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I am angry. I am so angry. I can’t even tell you ‘Adieu.’ Neither can I say ‘Rest in Peace.’ Those were not the the words I thought I’d be saying to you now.
Remember that note I slipped into your hand the last Sunday we saw? I wrote there, that you were my angel on earth. Little did I know God would soon promote you to being my angel in heaven. The lyrics of this Boyz II Men‘s song, ‘It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye’ best explains how I’m feeling right now…
How do I say goodbye to what we had?
The good time that made us laugh, outweigh the bad…
I thought we’d get to see ‘forever’, but forever’s gone away,
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…
I don’t know where this road is going to lead,
All I know is where we’ve been and what we’ve been through…
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…
And I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain…
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday…
(I edited the lyrics to suit my faith. I know we shall meet again. That I’m so sure of like I know my name.)
I know I’ll eventually have to say goodbye to you. I pray for the strength to accept God’s will with absolute thanksgiving. Please Pweebers, she was one of us. Pray for her loved ones whom she left behind. Her husband was rushed to the hospital last night. It’s a hard blow. They need our prayers now, even more than ever.
For her sisters who enjoyed her friendship, Tina Canice, Chineze Agweye, Sinmisola Ogunyinka, Eka Archibong, Lynne Ukpai Oti, Eno Odey, Margaret Ekpeyong, Uyai, Rita Hermon, Mrs Dibia and countless others; may God strengthen you all. It’s a wake-up call for me to celebrate you distinguished ladies while you all are still alive. I love you to pieces, you are my stars.
To her god-children, Chima Ogbonanya and family; Joy Izik and the rest, may God give you strength. To all the Hermonites, we know the quality of woman we lost but she is heaven’s gain. She added value to our lives and we must continue her legacy of selfless love.
I honour you today, Olufunmilayo Rotimi-Omitogun…deeva of deevas, Maami of life, the splufic Hermon big girl, my prayer partner, my sister and my friend.
Rest my angel. I celebrate your heavenly crown, your change of garment and your translation to glory. I shall miss you always, but I hold on to the memories. They shall be my my sunshine when this storm is over.
This is my deevanalysis. Happy new month.