Fr. TI’s Bio Rev. Fr. Dr. Theophilus Itaman (Fr. TI) is a Catholic Priest of…
A memorial is a celebration of the deceased person’s life. It shows that we are here to celebrate the life of Pa Johnson, who died in 1985. More specifically, we gather to pray for the repose of his soul. As 2 Macc. 12:44 says, “It is holy and pious thought to pray for the dead so that their sins may be forgiven.” It is my prayer that our collective intentions and supplications today will bring forgiveness and a happy repose to his soul. One may think, why memorial celebration? Is this not a colossal waste of time and money? You must know this, that finding ways to remember and hold on to the happy memories we had with our loved ones are, in reality, an important part of living after loss, a necessary step on the path towards healing our hearts. Good men and good names are worth keeping alive. Hence, the family of Ikpea decided to celebrate the lives of their father-thereby giving him a place in their hearts.
Concept of Death
The Indians, reasoning with Tagore, believed that death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. When the day of eternity dawns at death, the lamp of the present life is put out. Rossiter Raymond said, “Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.” Put differently, it is just a moment of change. It indicates that the dead only changes the mode of existence.
Death is not an end but a passage. As Heb. 13: 14 says, “we have no lasting city here on earth, but we seek the city which is to come.” Considering death, Tertullian says, “death is the golden chariot that ushers us into the presence of God.” It means it is a necessary end. No wonder William Shakespeare avers that “death is a necessary end; it will come when it will come.” However, Jesus gave a new meaning to death by His resurrection. Hence, we could say, “Dying, you destroyed our death, rising, you restored our life.” Jesus added, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11: 25). Do you believe this? As Wisdom 3: 1 says, “The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God.” You can imagine what happens in the hands of God. Our souls are safer in God’s hand. That should be our desire and our hope. Arabian proverb says, “He who has hope has everything.” Let heaven be our hope. St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15: 19, if our hope in Christ is limited to this world only, we are the most pitiable of people in the world!
Resurrection is our hope – it gives hope. As a writer puts it, it is not the Bible that explains the resurrection; rather, it is the resurrection that explains the Bible. Without the resurrection, the Bible is a literature book. Without it, there is no church. Without the resurrection, we can’t be gathering here today to celebrate life. As Nancy Cobb argues, “Remembering is an act of resurrection.” Remembrance is a golden chain; death tries to break, but all in vain. To have, to love, and to part is the greatest sorrow of one’s heart. The years may wipe out many things, but some, they wipe out never, like memories of those happy times when we were all together. It was Samuel Butter who said, “To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead. This indicates that good persons who are dead live on. The way to live on is to live in the hearts of our beloved ones. As Thomas Campbell says, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” What an assertion! This is so because “what the heart has once known, it shall never forget.” No wonder Albert Einstein says, “our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only floppy leaves on the tree of life.” Pa. Johnson lives on in his children. He lived a life punctuated with good deeds.
Pa. Johnson Ikpea taught his Children how to succeed in life. He believed that if you have the required qualities, you will succeed. That agrees with the view of Oscar Wilde that “success is a science if you have the required conditions, you get the result. Pa. Johnson once told his children, be honest, don’t be jealous, beware of women and land problems, don’t tell lies; Never you steal, work hard instead, and God will bless you. He added, tell your children to do the same. These were his teachings, his gospel message. Though he was not a rich man, he knew the value of hard work. He believed that every man must struggle to succeed as if there is no brother to help. These are words of wisdom that the children cannot forget easily.
Good people live on; their names will forever be remembered. Hence, Socrates says, “Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names.” The scripture in Sirach 3: 9 says, “a father’s blessing gives a family firm roots. But a mother’s curse tears down the child’s foundation.” Pa. Johnson believed this strongly; hence he took time to bless his first son because, for him, this boy has served me faithfully; he must not suffer. That singular act and blessing became a turning point in the life of Chief Leemon Ikpea. Today, we have a lesson to learn. As Bible says, “as you reflect on the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith (Heb. 13: 7). Let parents always bless their children and not curse them since they have power over them. Finally, as a Hebrew Proverb puts it,“Say not in grief: He is no more,” but live in thankfulness that he was.” This is the spirit that prompts and envelops today’s celebration – thanksgiving to God for the life that our father lived. The family decided to thank the Lord because they had not forgotten the deeds of the Lord. As Pss. 103:2 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not the blessings of God.” When Abraham Lincoln was declaring the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving in the United States, he said, “we are often prone to forget the source of our blessings.” We must be grateful to God always. Gratitude is an attitude, a personal quality that modes us and shapes our lives. It speaks volumes of who you are as a person. Hence, a French proverb says, “gratitude is the heart’s memory.” Joseph Addison opines, “There is no more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude.” Therefore, St. Paul says in 1Thess 5: 18, “in everything give thanks.” May God accept our thanksgiving through Christ our Lord. Amen.