The Roll Call, by Remi Otuneye


The Roll Call, by Remi Otuneye

On the first day of the year, I received a phone call that threw me immediately into a sober moment. It was from a friend living abroad. He called to do what he termed: “a headcount”. And I was counted in his statistics. As funny as it was, when I got home, I ventured into a reflection of the day’s activities. I soliloquized at length in my loneliness. I remembered James Milton Black’s experience.

Black’s encounter inspired his classical hymn: “When the Roll Is Called up Yonder.” Black, a Sunday school teacher, was making the roll call, he did not hear a response from a teenage girl who later died of pneumonia. Each child was supposed to recite a Scripture verse but when her name was called, she was nowhere to be found. It was Bessie, the 14-year girl’s sudden disappearance that made Black realize a lesson and wrote the classical hymn in 1893 based on 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

At the tail end of the year 2020 – The annus horribilis – I was saddled with a lot of responsibilities and needed someone who could help to complete a particular project. I remembered an older friend, whom I haven’t seen for some time. I was happy to find his number on my contact: because I knew he would deliver in my stead. When I called, I went on, as usual, to hail the dust out of the sand. Surprisingly, an unknown voice responded: “This is not him! He died two months ago.” At this point, I was sad. Not because I had no one to help me carry on with my assignment, but my friend’s body has been committed to mother earth, and eternally returned to the dust, moreover without even my knowledge. Who’s next?

Still, in my sober reflection, I remembered the attendant effects that came with the pandemic. The disruption. The loss. The uncertainties. The fear. The deprivation. The strife and the struggle. The several “iro po of men”; where men no longer honor their words. The pain and the sorrow. The weeping and the many infirmities. I remembered falling ill on the eve of Christmas with severe pain on my atlas and axis region together with the discomfort caused by a sore throat. My doctor friend was quick to tell me to take all precautionary Covid 19 protocols. Las las, by His grace, I weathered the storm. Here I am present. I am happy to be a year older today. I thank God I did not fall. I remain strong and still standing tall despite the flaws. If it had not been for the Lord on my side, hmmm…And truly, He has done so much for me. I praise His name!

Who is he that sayeth it plentieth not?

Another banger!

Remi Otuneye writes from Lagos.

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