The following is my Eulogy to day read yesterday at my Dad’s Funeral, marking the most significant loss in my life thus far:
“It’s a wonderful thing to have so many people here to celebrate the life of my dad. Whoever said that Nigerians and Jamaicans couldn’t get on!! It’s a lie I tell you…a lie. My dad’s Jamaican in-laws loved him as much as his own Nigerian family, and you’ve already heard from my mum’s sister Rose and cousin Angie who is also married to a Nigerian. Don’t listen to rumour. I am proud to be half Nigerian and Jamaican and born here. This service represents all three: an Anglo-Nigerian Funeral with a hint of Jamaican as you’ll see from the food later….
My friends, my brother’s friends, mum’s friends, dad’s friends and the church friends as well. It’s actually been the biggest comfort out of the last four weeks, realising just how much love was being sent in our direction. Personally, I’ve received so many calls, texts, emails from friends, acquaintances and friend’s parents and shopkeepers especially in this area we’re in in Streatham Park. I’m very thankful and appreciative.
He’d want his funeral service to be here because we all first stepped into this building, what was a newly built church back in 1989 and this is a Church that dad had been linked with ever since, so that’s nearly 30 years. Up until November 2014, the Akintade family home was at Number 28 Eardley Road, just round the corner where my dad had lived for 55 years and so he knows, sorry knew, this area better than most. He never found out that the MP he met only a few years ago, a certain, Saddiq Khan, whose home is just over the road, is the London Mayor. But Dad, I’m sure you’re listening to me now, so now you know.
One thing Dad passed onto me was a strong sense of direction, physical direction, especially when driving, all those short cuts I know driving through Streatham, Tooting and South West London are because of him. Our personalities were quite matched and complimentary, in fact, I’m reminded of a time when Mum was driving last year and I was the passenger and I was getting frustrated at her driving which sometimes happens…and like some disgruntled driving instructor I knocked the glass to indicate for her to look in her right hand-side mirror. She just looked at me and laughed saying, “you know who would do that!” And I thought, “God, I’m becoming my dad!!” I see now as I did then that that isn’t a bad thing. I am just an extension of him. He was renowned for being a stickler for being on time, his impatience, his generosity, his wit and being a very Proud man. Indeed I’m very proud to have him as my father, I like to think that individually me and my brother display his various traits in little subconscious ways.
For most of the eighties, nineties and noughties, my dad was as fit as a fiddle, so rarely ill, so the last few years when things started to not work as well as they should and ailments started to become present, it took some adjusting. His only great complaint was his long standing chronic back pain, so it serves as a nice reminder for me sometimes to think that his spirit is moving around free from back pain, cancer or any other illnesses.
One of my mates, Seb Volney who’s here today has, unwittingly, made this whole process a lot easier for me. In April last year, both our dad’s were in St George’s Hospital at the time, he came to visit my parents and I went to visit his dad. Although our dad’s weren’t well they fought on and it was something that definitely brought us closer, knowing that in past times, we thought they’d be around forever, this is obviously not the case when the man you know as fit and strong is lying there before you in a hospital bed, it forces you to realise the truth that the strong man you hold so dear is human afterall. Unfortunately, Seb lost his dad last December and I got to say my goodbyes to his dad and travel to Lydney on the English-Welsh border to go to the funeral. I thought to myself if I ever get put in this position and lose my dad, I need to be as strong as Seb, so I’ve learned how to handle today through Seb, so thanks to him. Poignantly, dad died on Seb’s big birthday, 8th May.
After dad died, I thought that I’d be sat in a room at home with the curtains closed for days and weeks on end but this was not case at all. If you love somebody set them free as the saying goes. He’d had a life filled with challenges, racism, disappointments, setbacks and difficulties but in spite of this he remained generous to a fault, big-hearted and underlined by love. A love he reflected personally to me. I’m blessed. I’m lucky. He and I had a lovely bond because we’re quite similar in thoughts and humour and music…..boy he loved his music…he loved to dance even up to the last time we walked together in mid-April and we had music playing into the garden and he walked from our back door to the back of the garden and walked round twice, it was the most he’d walked all year and he was so happy, he still managed to stand and just shake his bum, with the flowers out and the sun out, it was a perfect. It was captured in a photo which is somewhere in the slideshow that’s currently playing. I don’t feel so sad, of course I miss him, not being able to call him anymore or hear is voice is still something I’m getting my head round, but in terms of regrets, I have none with him; I said everything I needed to say and did everything we needed to do in the months and years running up to 8th May 2016, from silly things like reliving the school run, driving from Streatham to Dulwich via Tulse Hill, driving up to town to show him Nine Elms Lane and the major new building developments for the future within this great city that he chose to come to and raise a family in. He of course had the right and privilege to call himself an honorary Londoner and see how the city had developed and how it would be developing after him. It’s not like I knew he’d be going this year but it was done on the off-chance, oh yeah, we should drive to Big Ben and Parliament Square, open the windows and smell the air and appreciate the surroundings. There’s something very complete and satisfying having that feeling like I had a full and resolved relationship with Dad. It’s all been quite gradual and natural. I don’t know how people cope with losing a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly, I didn’t have to do that, we didn’t have to go through that. Like I said, it was all a gradual process culminating, where I got to hear him say “I love my baby Ebsy” one of the last things he’d say to me to my face, three days before he died.
In the days that followed, I thought I’d felt robbed of my father, but I now realise that I was quite fortunate to have the opportunity to say goodbye over a number of days and accept the situation whilst it was happening. I might have accepted it easier than I thought but that didn’t make it any easier and I didn’t like it. But it was a wonderful chance that not many people get; to smooth and conclude a wonderful father-son relationship. He was after-all, the cornerstone of my life, my compass, my anchor, my best friend, my biggest fan, my sounding board, my sing-a-long buddy, the voice of reason, my life-guard and my dance partner. Watching Eurovision or Strictly Come Dancing would never be the same!! He’s everything to me but he’s all around and everywhere I look. I can’t ask him for anything more than he gave me over the 34 years, 5 months and three days. Yes, Prostate Cancer may have taken him away in the end, but I see now that it wasn’t before his time. As the youngest of four brothers and two sisters, who have all since sadly departed, he, in true, respectful Nigerian style, waited his turn, and as the youngest, left this life, last.
To Mum, I know he was the love of your life and you’ve spent over four decades with him, he is all around us even now, moving freely. I cannot underline or highlight to the congregation just how hard and relentlessly you’ve have looked after him in these last couple of years. Your indomitable spirit is something to behold. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother is ageless and really looks exactly the same as their wedding day 38 years ago. You don’t need to feel sad, look around us, how can you? How can we? Surrounded by all this love. He gave us the tools to cope in life and these tools are still very much needed and used after his death. We’ve got endless photos and memories and even though we grieve, that is the price we pay for love. I wonder if you can grieve happily, because I now seem to be. That is what he’d want after-all, to be remembered and in a happy way.
I mentioned before that he was such a Proud man, being Proud is a mostly good thing, it means you can step out of the door, hold your head up, put your shoulders back and put one foot in front of the other each day.
Practice makes perfect, time and tide wait for no man, the road to anything worthwhile is always uphill, choose your friends wisely; some of the many wise words you’d always tell me. Full of encouragement when it took me five attempts to pass my driving test and many more challenging issues.
To have a dad like mine is a joy. To be so close to my dad is a joy. To always be telling him I love him and hearing it back from him is a joy. I miss not hearing his voice and I miss him not saying it to me. Such tenacity in the face of adversity, I’m so proud to say he lives on in me and in us Tun.
Finally dad, everyday we will celebrate your life in our hearts. We will remember our time together with happiness. Those memories can never be forgotten and will always make me happy when I think of you.”