In her landmark eulogy for her father, Ella Wheeler Wilcox immortalised these words:
“He never made a fortune, or a noise
In the world where men are seeking after fame;
But he had a healthy brood of girls and boys
Who loved the very ground on which he trod.
They thought him just little short of God;
Oh you should have heard the way they said his name – ‘Father.’
He gave them neither eminence nor wealth,
But he gave them blood untainted with a vice,
And opulence of undiluted health.
He was honest, and unpurchable and kind;
He was clean in heart, and body, and in mind.
So he made them heirs to riches without price – This father.”
I borrow Ella’s words today because she captures succinctly the key themes in the tribute book for my Father. Anyone who reads the book will see the following words: Present, Caring, Selfless, Devoted and Intelligent.
These words taken together describe what I call Christian and they sum up my father’s legacy. My father was a Christian in every sense of the word. So, today, I will not speak of his physical contributions to the world. His achievements were neither begetting children nor owning a home in Magodo. His primary attainment was embodying the virtues of his saviour, Jesus Christ.
When you leave here today, I want you to pause for a moment to ask yourself:
Am I PRESENT in the moment when someone is in trouble or in need? Do I set aside my competing urgencies and personal issues to really listen and be there?
Am I CARING? Will I leave the safety of my home at midnight to drive a sick friend to the hospital in an emergency? Does the possibility even cross my mind?
In the town of Lagos where we have all be subjected to the curse of stress, am I SELFLESS? Do I take the opportunity to shunt the fuel queue when I can or will I wait at a four-way junction instead, to allow others go before me even if it makes me look like a “mugu”?
Am I DEVOTED to family or a cause? What comes first – the desire to “hammer” or the passion to make an impact?
Finally, as a Christian, am I INTELLIGENT? Do I speak for God with clarity; rightly dividing the word of truth in wisdom? Or, do I promote obfuscating doctrines that condemn and divide?
If in some small way, my father’s life inspires you to any of these virtues and more, then his legacy is complete.
Right now, my Dad is standing in the hallowed halls of Heaven and this is the scene being played out. I invite you to imagine it:
“Then the King said to him ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Then Dr. Plumptre will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did I see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did I see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did I see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, Dr. Plumptre inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ”
Rest well, dad.