Great philosophers, social scientists and all social anthropologists have described death in various ways. One of the greatest definitions of death is that by Hubert Cromwell, a British philosopher, who described death as, “the end of life is the beginning of new life unknown to mankind.”
According to him, “the end of a person’s life is the beginning of a new life unknown to mankind.” Many have believed that once a person dies that person returns to his maker in spiritual being. The debate over life and death is endless.
However, we as lesser mortals will continue to wonder debate and get perplexed over death. What is certain to generality of mankind is to us the lesser mortals to give the dead a satisfactory burial to soothe our desires in other to satisfy our whims and caprices to the effect that we have satisfied our conscience. But to put it more mildly, “we have given our loved one a befitting burial.” Today in our modern time, burials are supposed to be solemn reflections over the dead.
Even at the funeral of a child, relations, friends and well wishers, and other mourners would attend such a burial if only to comfort the bereaved and to show love in times of loss. Indeed, in fact, and definitely given the longevity of one hundred years which Sir Clifford Echebelem attained, his burial ceremony recently at his hometown, Ihitteaforukwu in Ahiazu local government of Imo State is more than a funeral of a kind. It was to say the least a carnival of a kind.
A beehive of personalities that attended the burial reflected the people oriented life led by the deceased.
In a homily, an Anglican priest, Reverend Evarestus Nwaiwu was full of encomium for late Echebelem whom he said led an examplary & sefless christian life. He enjoined Christian faithfuls to fear God and keep His commandments, statutes and ordinance.
The man of God regretted that most people did not fear God but pride themselves in sinful and disrespectful acts capable of robbing them of heavenly bliss.
The Anglican priest stressed that any socio-economic, academic and cultural achievement devoid of God’s endorsement would have been in vain of earthly enthronement. The widow of the deceased Lady Lois Echebelem described the husband as a good, honest, humble and caring man who would not offend in words.
According to her, the husband never allowed open and shouting confrontation with her throughout their married life. She says, “my husband was a teacher to me, because he trained me from standard three to the University of Nsukka.”
During the burial ceremony, the first son, Dr. George Echeblem a United States based business mogul spoke about the father in applauded tone by saying that he would miss his guidance, discipline, positive disposition and gallantry. He says, “my father is my teacher, consultant and energy bank.”
He stressed that though the father died at the right age of hundred, he wished, “he was still there to guide their footsteps.”
Dr. George Echebelem advised young people to accept parental discipline as well as get closer to their fathers to learn the wisdom of life.
One of the nephews, Dr. Valentine Echebelem who regretted the demise of his hero maintained that his uncle was outspoken, bold, kind, straightforward and generous. He eulogised his uncle’s Christian commitment and his passion to build a better church with comfortable clergy, “my uncle took care of deacons in his parish all alone.”
Many dignitaries turned out in their large numbers to commiserate with the family of Echebelem over the loss of their hero, legend and icon of repute. Sir Clifford Akunaka Echebelem was a man to behold whose Christian affiliation meant a lot to the Anglican Church. The Anglican Bishop of Mbaise diocese, Bishop Chamberlain Ogunedo officiated the church service while the former Governor of Imo State, Chief Emeka Ihedioha came with a retinue of supporters to identify with the family.
In his own comment, Dr. Chuks Osuji, OON, one of the relations of the deceased who described himself as the first non biological son of the deceased said, “Sir Clifford was a father to me, a mentor and a guardian. He taught me how to climb trees, how to ride bicycles and how to make mats for roofs. Most of the proverbs and adages i use today were from him.
In fact, i was attached to him to the effect that i was sleeping with him until his wife lady Lois arrived in 1959. Wherever he lived as a teacher or as a student i visited him. He and his wife with my wife were the last to see me off when i was travelling to the United States in 1972.
“Indeed i have lost a formidable and dependable relation.”
What longevity, what a man and what a great son of Mbaise who affected so many lives.