Not how long but how well (Farewell to Geofrey Elah)

All eyes grew wide with curiosity when, during the funeral service for Geoffrey Mbongale Elah in the Limbe Regional Hospital chapel on Friday, June 1, the Master of Ceremony mentioned a Senator and Member of Parliament among the huge crowd of mourners. It appeared incredible that in his short 33 years of life, this unassuming young man had made all these connections and that in death he was pulling such a widely diverse crowd.
But come the eulogies, you heard stone-melting accounts of how this soft-spoken, ever-smiling son of David Elahnzeh touched all these lives. All week long from midnight on Thursday, May 24, when his death was announced, the chorus was on the lip of every journalist in Limbe. So too was the refusal to believe it was a mere bike accident that took his life, though nobody could articulate an alternative cause of death. And that unspoken suspicion rang through the eulogies, all of which eventually settled for leaving it at the foot of the Cross of Christ.
It was barely mentioned that Geoffrey held a first degree in Law from the University of Dschang. Stealing the show over his academic achievement was a career in journalism which I unwittingly pulled him into. The Sun newspaper was born in my NGO office in Limbe, where Geoffrey was doing a stint as Programme Officer. He had just acquired basic computer skills and I encouraged him to pay attention to how the paper was being laid out. “You never know”, I said. And indeed, when Cyprian the layout person from Buea was no longer available, Geoffrey slid into his shoe, serving not only The Sun but many other newspapers and magazines as well. His creativity was only matched by his curiosity, and that is what predisposed him to making the connection from layout to writing and editing. He was very self-effacing and unobtrusive, yet impossible not to notice by his gentle winning ways. That’s how come, over trained journalists, he got elected Secretary of CAMASEJ Limbe branch. And only at a CAMASEJ elective General Assembly did I last see so many journalists per square meter. You rarely see youth of the fourth estate let themselves go in such crescendos of wailing. How did you do it, Geoffrey?
The lady whose biker son did the damage was inconsolable. Her son had closed and parked his bike for the evening, she said, but a friend came entreating him to accompany him to the Alpha club neighbourhood. By purported eyewitness accounts, the bike was hurtling without headlight when it rammed blindly into Geoffrey who did not notice him approaching.
Such interplays of cause and effect are often wont to fuel metaphysical interpretations, but where does it all lead? An English poet says the child is father of the man, and David Elah, together with the entire Ngale family, is missing a father in a son. That family now has Geoffrey’s two little girls to mother. So do all whose outpouring of love and grief has kindled so much hope in the immortality of his memory.
By Victor Epie’Ngome

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