For Whom the Bell Tolls

My father introduced me to the brilliance of Ernest Hemmingway 20 years ago. Before one of our visits to my ancestral home in Ikole-Ekiti, he went against his trend of buying me African literature by buying me Hemmingway’s The Old Man and The Sea. This book, for which Hemmingway won both the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, became my companion during this trip to Ikole. My relationship with Hemmingway blossomed when I read A Farewell to Arms, Men Without Women and In Our Time but the connection with Hemmingway was incomplete. I had not read what I consider the greatest book ever written by an American, or anyone for that matter.

For Whom The Bell Tolls is one of the most profound books I have ever read. The novel is told through the mind of Robert Jordan, a character inspired by Hemingway’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War. Robert Jordan is an American who travels to Spain to oppose the fascist forces of General Franco. Death is a primary theme of the novel. Almost all of the main characters in the book contemplate their own deaths. A related theme is the camaraderie in the face of death, and the surrendering of one’s self for the common cause and the good of the people. Robert Jordan and others are ready to do “as all good men should” – make the ultimate sacrifice.

When I closed the final page of this novel, I could not help but remember those who visited this earthly realm, made it theirs and departed before we had the opportunity to thank them. So this post is really a thank you note to those who are not here to read this but remain in my heart forever.

It is for Segun Afilaka – A dedicated Liverpool fan who will never walk alone, a wonderful friend who remained in touch even when distance made it difficult, who I will always remember for the time we shared especially in 2000, when with many others we held hands and supported the Super Eagles tirelessly at the National Stadium during the Africa Cup of Nations.

For Okey Mmaiye – A great guy, whose support during the Pub Culture days will never be forgotten, who lit up those Jaja Hall and BQ days, whose journey sadly ended one lonely night on his way home.

For Lanre Balogun – An older brother, whose generousity will always be remembered, whose devotion to his brother remains an example to me of how to treat and protect mine.

For Bolaji Durosinmi-Etti – A classmate in high school who had no airs about him, whose impeccable dress sense stands out till this day, who while on his last visit to Nigeria took out the time to seek his old mates to relive those high school years a few months before he departed this earthly realm.

For Boye Ayodele-Oyefin – My favourite cousin, who taught me how to remain happy and courageous in adversity, whose maturity was way beyond his years, who put a smile on my face till the Lord called him to rest.

For Tunde Lawal, whose ebullient spirit could never be caged, whose PLAY parties became the benchmark of entertainment in University, who appeared at that party to say goodbye to many of us that fateful night.

For Yomi Doherty – My egbon, who introduced me to the wonderful world of Donkey Kong, whose quiet demeanour and gentle smile seemed out of place in this chaotic world, he left us the wonderful gift of Leah, his beautiful daughter.

All these men lived life to the fullest, they touched my life in so many positive ways and most importantly they were all good men. While they are not here to read this, it is my prayer that one day they will all know what they meant to me. Though our ranks our depleted, our memories are enriched with the good deeds of these men and many others who are now on the other side.

I’ll close this post with the words of John Donne who said “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

This quote reminds us of our mortality. For when a funeral bell is heard it is a reminder that we are nearer death each day, it is also saying we are all one and that, when one dies, we all die a little.

On the 13th of October, it will five years my friend and brother Morakinyo Akinkoye joined the saints.

This is especially for him.

Morakinyo Akinkoye Feb 25 1979 – Oct 13 2006