A Tribute to the Memory of
Oghenerukevwe Oritsetsegbemi Scott-Emuakpor
By Ajovi Scott-Emuakpor, MD, Ph.D.
“……when we truly love, it is never lost. It is only
after death that the depth of the bond is truly felt,
and our loved one becomes more a part of us than was possible in life”
Everyday since the passing of my baby brother on May 15, 2013, I have not stopped crying. At first, I felt guilty because that is not what my brother would want me to be doing, but I could not help myself. However, the more I cried, the more I was at peace with myself, and the more I am able to shed all of my anger, all of my pain, all of my frustrations and all of my deep sense of loss. It made me realize, as the English Sage, Henry Irving, said:
“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They speak more eloquently than a thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love”
My brother is the fifth son of my mother’s five sons and he is the seventh son of my father’s seven sons. Our closeness in age, made us almost inseparable as we grew up. We became adolescents together and we became adults together. We had similar likes and the same dislikes. Strangely enough, we had the same spiritual yearnings, but chose to explore our yearnings in very separate ways: his was unique and mine traditional. We both faced challenges in exactly the same way, with calm philosophical resignation. When he was struck with Prostate Cancer that had spread everywhere in his body, he never cried foul; and when he was told of the incurable state of his disease, all he was most concerned about was how to spare his loved ones from knowing that he was fighting his last battle. The secrecy surrounding my brother’s terminal illness has hunted me since his death.
I had traveled from the United States of America to see my brother in Aberdeen. As my sister -- the last child of our parents -- and I walked into his hospital room and he saw us, he greeted us with a very happy smile and he proceeded to dismantling our anxieties. In answer to my sister’s question as to how he is doing, he said, “I’m where God wants me to be at this time.” While I was still digesting that answer, he began his characteristic story-telling, all of them hilarious, and launching us into one episode of uncontrolled laughter after another. He was a master joker who could joke about almost anything, including the illness which, at that time, had confined him to bed for 3 months. All of the painful events in our lives had an aspect to it that he could joke endlessly about. Such was my brother’s courage -- joking and playing in the face of an impending death. Indeed, any coward can fight a battle he is sure of winning, but a man of courage chooses his battles, sometimes fighting when he is not sure of winning. My brother knew he was losing this battle but he was stoic.
People have often said that when someone dies, their “SPIRIT” lives on in loved ones. Really? Does my brother’s spirit live on in me? I can’t hug him or look into his eyes. I can not sleep on the same bed with him again. How do I really know that his spirit lives in me? Over the past 4 weeks, I can feel him. I can hear his jokes and the sound of his voice. I can hear him make fun of our elder brother’s old Volvo car. For no reason at all, I think about him. The most trivial things will trigger profound and fulfilling memories of him. That brings comfort to me that I can still feel him in my heart.
My brother attended school at St. Patrick’s College, Asaba, Delta State of Nigeria. He then attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he studied Physics. He was in his second year when the Nigerian Civil war disrupted his studies. A year later, he ended up at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), in Ile-Ife, where he graduated with an honors degree in Physics. In High School, he was a great soccer player who represented his school elegantly until he sustained a serious left knee injury that left him unable to walk for several months. Even in excruciating pain, he never complained one day; rather he found his twisted face of agony as a situation to joke about, making everyone forget about his pain and the circumstances of his injury.
After his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, he took a job with the Ministry of Education of our home state (Midwest, then later Bendel) where he developed his passion for Secondary School education. He was an Education Officer who taught Physics at almost every level of secondary education in the State, inspiring generation after generation of students, all of whom are very proud to call him an extraordinary teacher.
He participated in a Temple University program for High School Science Teachers in Nigeria, at the end of which, he was awarded a Temple University Master of Arts degree. He rose through the ranks, becoming a Chief Education Officer, and later, an Adviser to the Commissioner of Education in our newly created Delta State. His talents and passion as an educationist were profound, creating in him an insatiable desire to make every young man and woman fall in love with Science. He and his close associate, Mr. Robert Shokare, conceived of a project to write high school science textbooks. Their first volume was a chemistry monograph published with borrowed money. As our late brother-in-law, Mr. Edward Akaraiwe of blessed memory (himself an outstanding refined secondary education administrator as High School Principal), put it, “the book was so well written, the yearning by students to possess a copy so over-reaching that he enthusiastically gave them all away on credit”. This project halted when there was no more money to publish new volumes. He never stopped telling hilarious stories about his unsuccessful efforts to collect money from the high school teachers to whom he entrusted the sale of the books. I wish my brother wrote down his stories.
My brother was very loyal to the Civil service where he served. He despised laziness and was very impatient with mediocrity. He would be the first to criticize the inadequacies of the civil service, but will also be the first to defend it to those who sought to exploit its weaknesses. He was modest to a fault. He lived in the most modest of homes, used the most modest of furniture, drove the most modest of cars, and dwelled in the most modest of neighborhoods. There was once I told him that he was too modest and his answer to me was, “modesty is inverted pride and pride can never be too inverted”. I am still searching, even now, for the meaning of that response.
I have lost my charmingly modest younger brother who always made me laugh. I have lost a great conversationist, and a story-teller. Somehow, I believe that he designed his death to tell us a story. I am still searching for that story and, I believe when I find it, it will make me laugh uncontrollably. I have lost my younger brother who taught me humility, laughter and family. The value of laughter remains his lesson for all ages. Every time I laugh, I will remember him and be laughing with him. Every time I remember him, I will laugh, hopefully with him also. We, all the generations of Scott-Emuakpors, will take great joy in standing shoulder to shoulder as one, to grieve my departed brother.