She was not just old. She was actually a centenarian, having been born in early 1912. She died on Monday, December 21, 2020. That means she lived for a whopping 108 years! The Bible tells us in Gen. 6:3: “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years’”. This verse has been interpreted to mean that God decided to place a natural limit of 120 years on mortal existence. It is believed that God did this after the Great Flood, as He could no longer contend with the evils of man. This was after a group known as “the sons of God” took human wives who gave birth to a generation of famous “mighty men” that lived for extraordinarily long lifespan.
It is believed that, after this pronouncement, human lifespan decreased greatly, leading to Moses living for 120 years; Aaron,123; and Joseph, 120 years. Methuselah, the son of Enoch, father of Lamech, and grandfather of Noah (of Noah’s Ark fame), took the diadem as the second oldest human that ever lived, following Cain, Son of Adam, who probably died in the Great Flood. Methuselah lived 969 years old before he died (Gen. 5:21 – 27; 1 Chr. 1:3, Luke 3:23 – 38). But Methuselah still died anyway. Because he was flesh, after all, made of dust, and to dust he returned (Gen. 3:19).
Deaconess Urhoboferere Edamatie-Ikuku’s longevity drew my attention to Zaro Aga, a Kurdish man, who had claimed to have been born in 1774 and died June 29, 1934, in Istanbul, Turkey. He was allegedly aged 160 when he died. However, the Guinness Book of Records regards France’s Jeanne Calment as the oldest documented person in our contemporary world. She died in 1997 at the age of 122. Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura was recorded by the same Guinness Book as the oldest man that ever lived (contemporary world). He lived for 115 years, 253 days.
However, Mama Urhoboferere is not just being remembered today for beating by 100% the average Nigerian woman’s life expectancy, which is 54.33 years, she is the more being celebrated (not mourned) because she lived for God and humanity, having become one of the very first women in Urhoboland who embraced western education by sheer of dint hard work, personal discipline and family guidance. And more!
Born in Ilututun, Okitipupa LGA of Ondo State, to the families of Chief Ukri of Egberuaye of Eruemukohwarien of Ughelli North LGA and Ekroghe of Ekakpramre of Ughelli South LGA, she attended L.A. Primary School, Ilututun, Okitipupa. She thereafter developed herself by acquiring vocational skills through which she became a very successful trader. Because iron sharpeneth iron, she found a ready soulmate in an equally exceptionally hardworking and successful husband, Chief Johu Edamatie-Ikuku, who so excelled in palm oil business that he became a U.A.C. agent. Mama Urhoboferere and Chief Johu Edamatie-Ikuku bore two illustrious sons. The first, Chief (Dr.) Michael Edamatie-Ikuku, the chairman of Michharry & Co. Nig. Ltd, is a very well known philanthropist, acclaimed business mogul and a major player in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. This is a man that has impacted positively on others, using his God-given wealth to fertilize the lives of others with existential manure.
The second son of Mama Urhoboferere is equally accomplished in the Lord’s vineyard, winning souls for Christ and directing humanity in a spiritual way. He is Reverend Isaac Edamatie-Ikuku of the Church of God Mission, Benin City, a scion of the famous Archbishop Benson Idahosa.
Mama was surely driven by the kind of ideals that Martin Luther King Jr. lived for when the legendary Baptist preacher and unforgettable civil rights crusader once famously said, “Life’s persistent and most urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” Mama lived for others. A philanthropist and humanitarian extraordinaire, Nene was passionate about the care for widows and the most vulnerable of society, giving them financial succour and material comfort. She took on orphanage homes and uplifted the unfortunate orphans and the forgotten from the doldrums. Mama trained many indigent students in school, skills acquisition and self-actualisation. The late most elderly woman in Egheruaye kindred family known as “Ekpako Emete” in Urhobo language, did not forget that the hereafter, the kingdom of God, was even more important than this temporary terrestrial world of sin and vanity. In this foray into God’s works in the Body of Christ, Mama glittered and twinkled like a million stars in a dark, cloudy firmament. She helped pioneer Cornerstone Christian Church International, Agbarho. She did not stop here. She worked tirelessly and relentlessly to ensure the planting, nurture, growth and expansion of the same church in Eruemukohwarien town, near Ughelli. So committed was mama in her chosen godly path that she was conferred with the revered title of deaconess, for her selfless and dedicated service to the church.
A woman of impeccable credentials, great virtue, honesty, moral rectitude, kind-heartedness and integrity, Mama Urhoboferere will be remembered for so many good reasons too lengthy to recount here. Significantly, her ripe fruits, Chief Michael Edamatie-Ikuku and Rev. Isaac Edamatie-Ikuku, are carrying aloft the torch and stainless banner of progress and service to humanity; a torch she lit during her eventful years on earth. It is very true, the saying that “when beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes” (Calphurnia, Caesar’s wife, in Act 2 II, scene 2, Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare). Mama herself has slept in the Lord. The heavens themselves are blazing forth her transition from mortality to immortality.
Let me borrow the the words of the orator, Mark Anthony, in Julius Caesar, Act 5 Scene 5: “His life was gentle, and the elements mixed so well in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man.’”
This elegy was for Emperor Julius Caesar of the Roman Empire it squarely befits Deaconess Urhoboferere of Urhoboland. She left golden footprints in the sands of time.
But death itself must die one day. Said John Donne, “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. Why swell’st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally and death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.” Yes, death thou too shall die.
In the words of Buddha, “even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”
Mama has gone to rest with the Lord, free from the daily stress of this vain-glorious world of iniquity, impunity, lawlessness, vanity and futility. Yes, she has.
In the words of David Mazzuchelli, “Life is stressful, dear. That’s why they say, Rest in Peace.”
Mama’s case is one of vini, vidi, vici (She came; she saw; she conquered).
Adieu, Mama. Farewell, Nene. Goodbye, “Mother Theresa.” Rest in the Lord eternally.
Some thoughts for the week on death
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.
– Washington Irving
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.”
– Chuck Palahniuk
“For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”
– Kahlil Gibran
“Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new.”
– Steve Jobs
“Death is nothing else but going home to God, the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity.”
– Mother Teresa
“end? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien
“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
– Helen Keller (remember that Helen Keller was blind)
Fellow compatriots, may God protect us all from sudden death and from the snares of the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic. Amen.