I’m not exactly sure how I met you. I wish I could remember, but I can’t. It had to be at TAWG though. The Abiding Word Gathering. Your fellowship in uni back then. A fellowship I visited from time to time, but never actually became a full fledged member of. As much as I wanted to, God wouldn’t let me. Which is weird, because off the top of my head, I can think of six of my closest friends who happened to be TAWG members in school. But I digress…
You were never one of my closest friends. We weren’t strangers by any means, but we didn’t get to see each other that often. Whenever we did though… We’d just talk. We never had to force a conversation. It just flowed easily. I didn’t feel special though. You were that way with every one. People just met you and instantly liked you. It must have been your smile or something. Or maybe it was your honesty. I don’t say this about too many people, but you had a pure soul. Everyone could see that. And I admired it. I loved it.
Eucharia. That was your name. Not like anyone ever called you that though. You were Yu-Kay (I have no idea why you insisted on spelling it that way) to all of us.
Christian girl. You wore Christianity with ease. It looked so good on you. And it wasn’t no surface Christianity either. You immersed yourself in God from your very first year in the university. You were one of those people that didn’t need to preach the word in words. If your life didn’t preach it, your smile did. That smile…
You were about 2 or 3 years older than I was, but you never treated me like a baby brother. Every time we spoke there was this genuine love and respect that is rare. A love & respect that was pure.
Whenever I think of you, I think of three distinct memories..
One of them is me visiting you at your hostel room sometime in early 2007. I was attending your church on & off at the time, and they had recently started cell groups. You were in charge of one of the cell groups, so naturally I wanted to join that one. We called it El Dorado. Some other guy who I think was a member of your church and probably in the cell group too was there at about the same time I was, and you talked to us both. You entertained us both. Drinks, munchies, the works. And then you showed us your photo albums (yes, it was 2007. People still had those lol). And in one of those pictures, I recognize a Nigerian actress, who it turns out is your sister. But that’s not why I have that memory. There was a picture of you and some guy, and when I asked who it was, you said “oh that’s my boyfriend.” Which puzzled me. Because.. you know… I thought Christians were not supposed to have boyfriends. LOL. You smiled at my naivete. It wasn’t a condescending smile either. Just one of your typical sincere smiles. And then you told me the relationship was pure, and built on God, and that was all that was mattered.
Another memory is Valentine’s Day 2009. TAWG, your church on campus, was having a get together for some reason. School wasn’t in session, probably because of a strike or something. But I remember we were all in Lagos. Now me and her weren’t together then, but we were talking. And she was a member of your church. So naturally, she made me come. The get together was to be held at your house, somewhere in Festac. I also remember it being a really rainy day. But it was a fun day. We played games, saw The Matrix (1 & 2), listened to P. Goz (your pastor) for a bit, prayed, the usual. We had a great time, regardless of the fact that a bunch of us had to make our way back home in the rain. But I also remember us taking this picture…
There I am wearing glasses, with no hint of facial hair, standing next to you & your smile. That smile. It’s blurry as hell, probably due to the awful Nokia camera I had back then. But it’s also the only picture we ever took together that didn’t have anyone else in it, and I will always treasure it.
Finally, I think about 2011. I had dropped out of school at this point, but I was still on campus just “chilling.” I’m in my room, with Ari & Kanye. Ari is watching some silly Nigerian movie that a neighbor had promised would be the funniest thing ever, when being his usual silly self he goes “Uche see this ass!!! I’m in love” I turn to look at the screen, and it’s your sister. So I tell him I know the girl in question, I’m friends with her sister (you), and I have actually been to her house before (naturally, I neglect to mention that your sister wasn’t actually home the day I was there). But I keep watching the movie. It’s hilarious, and it’s ridiculous, but after a while, you appear on the screen. And maybe it’s because you were the house help in the movie, but you looked soooooo horrible. I’m howling laughing and I send you a message on Facebook asking for your BBM pin. In a few minutes, we’re chatting on BBM like we were best friends. I’m making fun of you for your movie role, and asking if you wanted to pursue acting full time now. You’re checking on me. The more serious stuff. As usual. But we never lose touch after that. You were always on BBM and we spoke a lot more often from then on.
A couple of weeks later, you hit me up to let me know that you were coming into school for your NYSC (non Nigerians, read up on that here) call up letter. You said you wanted us to see & talk briefly while you were in school. It was a brief conversation. You told me you’d been posted to Yobe, in northern Nigeria. The same northern part of Nigeria where there had been too many terrorist attacks. I was not happy about it, and I made that VERY clear. I asked why you didn’t “work” it. You said you left it to God, and wherever they sent you was where God wanted you to be. I remained uneasy. So uneasy. But you had peace about going to Yobe. I vividly remember you smiling, saying “just watch. I’m gonna to go to Yobe, and I will set that place on fire for God.” I remember that statement like it was yesterday. I said I knew a guy (through my dad) who could “work” it for you if you changed your mind. You smiled and said you wouldn’t, and I had to stop worrying. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last conversation we had face-to-face.
A few months later, my birthday comes and goes, and you don’t say anything to me. Back of my mind, I’m thinking “she probably forgot, and I will make her pay when she remembers and apologizes” but I don’t say anything. The day after is a Sunday, and after church me & a bunch of the guys go to someone’s house to play video games. It’s about 7pm when my phone rings. It’s Ari calling me. I’m holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder, cos I’m playing FIFA. He goes “Uche, you remember *your sister’s name*? what was her sister’s name?” I tell him it’s UK and ask why. He tells me that so many people have your picture up on BBM saying RIP. It doesn’t register. I just let the call drop & finish the game. Then I call Ari’s sister who happened to be one of your church members. She goes “hello…” and I can tell she has been crying, but it still doesn’t register. I start to say “Is UK…” and she starts screaming again before I could even finish my sentence. Now it’s starting to sink in. So I leave. I go home. Make a few more calls, and I get the full story.
Turned out the day before, there had been a terrorist attack by Boko haram in Yobe. The latest in their seemingly unstoppable string of deadly terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria. There was an explosion, and it had killed you. And I wrestled with that for hours. I kept thinking it couldn’t be. God didn’t send you there to die. You were supposed to set that place on fire for God. That’s what you told me (and it turned out you told a bunch of other people that too).
And then more details came in. You had joined a Christ Embassy church, and you were with some of your church members on the road distributing daily devotionals for free to people when the bomb went off. You had literally died serving God.
But that didn’t make me feel better. I don’t think it made anyone feel better. Your entire church was mourning you for weeks.
Every year since then, on my birthday I think about you. This year, I thought I’d finally write my thoughts. I miss you Yu-Kay, and I wish we’d have spent more time together. God must have missed you more though.
For some reason, this seemed to be your favorite picture. I have no idea why, but I like it.
Rest in peace, beautiful…
November 5, 2013.