Nothing can prepare you for the death of a young person. Very few things can truly show you how fleeting life really is. Imagine one moment you’re watching a kid playing soccer, tripping a player over, and the next he’s falling face first to the floor.
I was walking towards the soccer field when I saw a group of adults carrying a student towards the sick bay. The look of apprehension on their faces and those of the people looking on got me worried initially. But by the time I got to the field and I heard an account of what happened from some Year 9s and 10s who he was playing with, and then from some Year 11s who were watching, my fear assuaged. We even joked about it. Some saying he did “a Muamba”. Others saying he was probably just dehydrated because of the heat. Little did we know.
Later that evening when I heard the rumour that he was gone, an unusually deep sadness came upon me. I am not alien to loss, neither of people loved nor mere acquaintances, but I have a problem, in not mourning like most people do. Whenever I get news of someone’s passing it’s like a trip off switch goes off in my head and as such I’m insulated from a larger proportion of the grief and sorrow that accompanies such information. It’s been a bit different this time.
The next day, when the rumour was confirmed and broken to the entire school, all I could do was watch as students, teachers and parents all broke up in tears. I did what I could in consoling those around me. Helped a few of the Year 9s who were trying to put blame on themselves or the school understand there was nothing anybody could have done to change what had happened. The entire school was touched in a way I have never seen before. School closed at 10am that day. The PTA Funathon scheduled to hold the next day was postponed indefinitely.
At the commendation service today the heaviness nearly brought me to tears. I was moved at the turn out of Parents and students, considering it was the first day of the midterm. But my mood began to brighten as I saw his former classmates read out their tributes to him. I’m grateful for the school photo they used in making the roll up banner. He was looking mighty handsome with his trademark smile. Without even trying the memories began to flood in.
Bernard joined Grange the same time I did. As fate would have it, we were in the same house. I remember thinking on my first interaction with him that this was a Bri’ish boy to the core. His accent was as strong as it gets. He clearly loved life. He was outgoing, fun to be around, a VERY active sportsman; soccer, athletics and his strongest table tennis and tennis. Just that day I was thinking it would be great to play a game of table tennis against him and the other Year 9s who were the top of the school team.
Hey Bernard, I hope you can read this, and that where you are you can appreciate it. It’s Mr. Sawyerr here, and this is me saying I miss you. We knew each other for barely 20 months, but you definitely put a mark on my heart. I can’t imagine how your family must feel if I’m feeling this way. All I can do is pray that God succours them and gives them more strength than they can imagine to take them through this period and beyond. You were an awesome table tennis player. Definitely the best kid I had ever seen or played against (Don’t tell Takis, but I feel you were better than he is). I really should have told you more often. I’m sad I’ll never know what it feels like to actually beat you. I’m also sad I’ll never get to hear your voice again or catch cruise with your accent again. You know I thought it was really cool, way cooler than Mariam’s. I bet if I tell her she’ll laugh. I know you know everybody misses you; all the students, the teachers, the hostel folk. We all miss you. A lot. Bet you heard everything they said about you today too. I pray you’re in a better place and that you’re looking at us mourn and hoping that we’ll come see you eventually. I’ll try and always remember you with that trademark smile on your face. Rest assured we’ll live our lives to the fullest. Like you did yours.
Rest in perfect peace Bernard Ejovbokoghene Ogilo (June 23 1996 – May 24 2012)