A Tribute to My Deceased Neighbor
I didn’t know you had died. I just assumed your uncharacteristic absence meant you had traveled. It was the turn of a new year so it seemed like a reasonable explanation.
Daily, I’d pass by your favorite hang-out spot, trusting I’ll see you again. And who knew? Maybe you’d gotten a big opportunity somewhere else and moved.
Then Friday as I went to work, I saw a poster I never imagined I’d see. It was so jarring my reflexes dawdled. I wasn’t sure if I should acknowledge the news or just keep going. I chose the former, shocked at what was staring right at me.
“In loving memory of…” How? When? Why? I mean… I mean… the last time I saw you, you looked okay. But you’d died. And you’d been gone for two long months without the possibility once occurring to me.
January 16; a regular Thursday without the foreboding of anything out of the ordinary, much less your death.
As I stood there looking at your obituary, I didn’t know what to think. Do I cry in grief at the acquaintance we never quite built beyond hello? How do I grief the loss of your presence? How do I feel this loss that’s not personal but is in some way personal?
While at work, I started to dig up memories of you. Yes, we’d not known each other too well, but it seemed you knew me way more than I had cared to know you. I’m sorry!
And I fondly remember the mornings you’d call out in that characteristic Igbo accent of yours, engeh. You were so kind to have called I and my sisters angels, never once missing the chance to tell me to greet the other angels for you.
But what I’ll most remember, what I’ll most cherish about my memory of you is your smile. You always greeted me with enthusiasm, always. Every morning as I approached your hang-out spot, you always waited for me with a huge smile across your face, so it didn’t occur to me to ask the pain it hid.
You would light up with that grin of yours, instinctively awakening my joy from whatever depth I’d buried it.
I’m sorry I wasn’t more present in my, admittedly, short conversations with you. I’m sorry I didn’t ask about you and how you were doing, even after it was clear you’d fractured your leg. I thought it would be crossing the firm hello boundary we’d implicitly agreed to. I’m sorry. And I’m thankful for the life you lived.
I’m thankful because even in your pain, you never failed to brighten up my day.
Thank you for the enthusiasm you brought with you every day. For sure, you left your mark in this crazy-crazy world. I think about the idea of legacy and how we often expect it to be grand. But what if legacies are the simple statements we make with our lives daily? Like yours.
You made a statement with your life. You taught me the value of moments, and if I could go back in time I would greet you with great enthusiasm every morning without fail. Sir, I’ll always remember you fondly, for who you were and what you have now taught me about valuing every hello.
Now I know to cherish every hello because it just might be the last. Rest well sir.
For: Chukwuma Francis Agbugba (a.k.a Mr. Engeh).