Loss Of A Loved One: Tribute To My Dad- Prof Michael Obiako

On the 11th of September, 2009 my father; Prof Michael Nwafor Obiako went to be with God the master artist.

A charcoal portrait of my father

A charcoal portrait of my father

He was (is) an accomplished Academic Professor who trained hundreds of doctors in Nigeria, many of whom are scattered around the globe.

He was also a German trained (University of Heidelberg) Consultant Specialist of Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) and was very dedicated at his work.

Those he left behind to continue with the struggle on earth include my mother; his wife of 51 years, 2 sons, 4 daughters and 15 grand-children

When I called home that faithful evening to know how everyone was I had no premonition that the call I would get less than a hour later would change my life in more ways than one. The words my brother uttered to me through the phone that faithful night has continued to reverberate in my ears and seems to get louder as the days go by.

They were words I dreaded the most, words I knew would be spoken to me one day but deep down inside I never wanted to hear. Words that were permanent......too permanent.

It has been a very traumatic time for me as I try to come to terms with the fact that "Death" has come knocking on my door.

I have gone through (still going through) a plethora of feelings. First it was shock and disbelief. Then it was fear. Then anger. Now I feel so overwhelmed with sadness. My consolation lies in what the bible says about the children of God: "We do not mourn like those who have no hope". Dealing with the loss of a loved one is not easy!

It is one thing to hear of death and see people die. It is a totally different ball game when you loose a loved one...someone who has been there all your life.  I have always known that death is a sure end for each and every one of us. Like most people say "Death is the only thing in life that comes with a 100% guarantee". But no matter how much literature you know or how much you tell yourself that one day you would lose someone close to your heart. Nothing ever prepares you for the feeling that instantly overwhelms you when it happens.

No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world.
— St Ignatius of Antioch

My dad's death has opened a whole new chapter in my life and has reinforced all my principles that focus on the brevity of this life and the need to focus not on the things this world calls "important" but on God alone. It is amazing how the desire to cope with grief often makes us much stronger in a lot of ways. The loss of a loved one oft times makes us stop in our tracks and reanalyze our goals and objectives in life.

Not the goods of the world, but God. Not riches, but God. Not honors, but God. Not distinction, but God. Not dignities, but God. Not advancement, but God. God always and in everything.
— ~St. Vincent Pallotti

Many people ask me how I have been able to combine art and medicine. Many have often wondered out loud how I was able to get through the rigorous schedule of Medical school and still maintain an art portfolio. I too wonder the same all the time. But one thing I know is that it was not easy but the load was lighter because my parents were strongly behind me. Always encouraging me every step of the way.

My dad always marveled at how I was able to draw a perfect straight line without the aid of a ruler. He always told me he was very poor in art and that he once sat paralyzed and confused in his pre-med biology class when they were given a cockroach to dissect and draw.

He told me countless number of times how he asked God for a child who could do better at drawing than he could ever dream of. And Lo and Behold he got me.

My Dad listening and watching with awe and pride during my first solo exhibition

My Dad listening and watching with awe and pride during my first solo exhibition

Every painting I created was a masterpiece in his eyes and he would often come into my room, sit and watch me paint. I can never forget the way his face lit up when I showed him the portrait I did of him.

He never missed any event in my life. When I had my first solo exhibition he traveled across 5 states to be there in person. He beamed with so much pride and awe during the exhibition as I took my guests round and explained the inspiration behind each painting. He was just as shocked as they were that his little girl (his youngest child) could paint in a way that would leave everyone awed and have so much stories to tell about each work.  There was no end to the stories he told about all that he saw.

My Father and I with the State Governor during my Exhibition

My Father and I with the State Governor during my Exhibition

With his departure has come a renewed inspiration and sense of purpose. I have sunken myself into my art. Painting with so much fervor and inspiration. Painting is the one sure way I can let out all that is bottling up inside me. It is my one sure way of "Praying without tiring". It is my way of coping with grief and my escape route.

I know and I pray that I will immortalize Paapa (my favorite name for him) through and with my art in a way that material success and academic excellence could not.

We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend on material success; nor on sciences that cloud the intellect. Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, but on Jesus alone.
— St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
With my parents during my Exhibition in 2007

With my parents during my Exhibition in 2007

There is so much to say and so much to remember him for/by. He has ran his race and has completed it. Indeed he ran it very well. It is left to us to do the same. To run a good race, may we lean not on our own understanding but trust solely on God. As for me:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet

Tho' trials should come

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless state

It is well, It is well with my soul

Prof Michael Nwafor Obiako  1929 - 2009

Prof Michael Nwafor Obiako

1929 - 2009

Adieu Paapa, you shall live on forever in my heart. Adieu Daddy...............Adieu.

May your soul through the mercy of GOD rest in perfect peace. AMEN

N:B This would be my last post for a while. I would be away for sometime in order to attend my father's burial and funeral ceremonies. I would put up the pictures of the paintings I have been working on once I return. Please do keep checking back.

Thank you and All the very best.


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