A Space Too Little Explored [1] When I’m Gone

When I'm gone

Every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes.

When I’m Gone

My father was not what my kids refer to as the African dad. By that, I mean he knocked before entering the room I shared with my older brother when we were growing up and he never opened any letters addressed to my siblings or me. He took us out to play football regularly. My father said please before he sent us on errands and thank you when we returned. He called me, young man and all of this made me feel respected.

He was a disciplinarian who stuck to his words. While playing football in the living room one day, I broke a glass frame. He calmly said, “You will not be going with us on the trip tomorrow,” referring to the family trip to Yankari Game Reserve, Bagauda Lake, and Tiga Dam, which I had looked forward to for weeks. Because of his summary judgements, which we could not appeal, we jokingly called him commander-in-chief-with-immediate-effect.

The memories of his many when I’m gone sayings eclipse all others. One time, my mother said, “You keep going on about, when I’m gone, when I’m gone, are you very keen to die?” But so focused was he that he did not relent. He replied, “You all will remember everything I said when I’m gone.” There it was again, another when I’m gone saying! He was right. As I prepared to leave my previous job, a colleague told me, “I will miss you, but I will miss the stories about your dad even more.” I was surprised, as I could not recall saying that much about my dad.

I realize now that my father was not obsessed with death; he cared deeply about his legacy. Like a good leader, he was raising successors to advance what he believed in. At every opportunity, he passed on the baton of leadership.

I do not recall my dad ever calling in sick; he worked hard all the time. I am the same way. Although I have always had jobs I enjoy and never experience Monday morning blues, I wonder if I am just being me or if I inherited his work ethic. Is work my way of saying watch me daddy, I’m being just like you?

I am running my section of the relay race. Sometimes doubts crowd my lane. My father always seemed to know what to do or say in a situation. Am I being a well of wisdom my children can drink from? Am I still holding the baton or have I let it slip as I race through life? I hope my children see me the way I saw my dad. I desire to pass the baton to them too.

Reacting to my pragmatism about life especially material things, my wife once said, “You are just like your dad.” She compared me to a father-in-law she had never met. Like my colleague, she had seen him come alive in the stories I had unconsciously woven into the fabric of my life. It remains the best (unintended) compliment I have ever received.

William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” My father has never left my stage. He has been there all along.

Before he passed on, dad gave us the words he wanted inscribed on his headstone: Here lies M O O, who in his own life, tried to serve humanity and make a part of the world a better place. I pray my family says the same about me, when I’m gone.

Ayo Ogunsanlu makes his home in Essex, UK with his wife and three kids. He enjoys microbiology, running, and housework. On Facebook, he describes himself as a faithful and loyal friend.


©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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41 thoughts on “A Space Too Little Explored [1] When I’m Gone

  1. A beautiful and inspiring story of a wonderful father. His legacy will live on through you and the stories you share. The “when I’m gone” expression to me is more of a reminder and prompt that he has created his piece of immortality. He is always present and remembered lovingly. He continues to live on. How wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Milanka,

      I hear you and yes, the stories I have told continue are out there… I am certain my kids would tell them to theirs…there is almost always a “what would daddy have said” moment when I am in those difficult life situations… so yes, you are right, he is always present ….remembered often when I have achieved something when Id love to hear him say…”well done son”… but I am happy to imagine that he knows…
      thanks… have a great day!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! He was an amazing Dad! Thoroughly deserving….like the old English hymn says….oh for a thousand tongues to sing…..,,can’t sing though !!😄😀

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Every so often….I think maybe….but as you know kids these days are not very generous with their words…or praise. But on one occasion when I went out with my oldest son and he left his phone on the bus, he told me and I gave chase…caught the bus, and retrieved the phone…he was pleased. At that point, even though all he said was thank you….I could see he was “proud” of his dad. Whether it continues ….is anyone’s guess! We can only hope!🙏🏾🙏🏾

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting how the care for a legacy became equated to a obsession with death. I’m not sure I agree with the relay analogy, but I’m still trying to sort through my feelings about that. Thank you, Ayo, for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you ifemmanuel…I think my dad felt we weren’t fully listening but he continued to drop us words of wisdom and great leadership….in the believe that in the future we will benefit from them….sadly though not in his lifetime.
      As for the relay…..the idea is of passing the same “baton of wisdom” to my children..

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jill…..I like Father’s Day because all the awesome work good dads do get swallowed up because mother’s are typically more “present” and influential in the life of kids. Even at work when new births are announced…….it’s always mother and baby are fine….nothing about (hopefully ) an emotionally drained dad who couldn’t do the one thing he promised to do for his wife during labour…take that pain away. So, I’m all for acknowledging good dads….there are several out there. I got to share mine with the world. Glad you feel the same about your father!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Beautiful and inspiring. I too am touched by your father’s legacy. I like the image of the relay race particularly. Thank you for sharing your father and yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Eileen….I’m humbled you appreciate it…..sometimes he looms so large I really wonder what he thinks of my parenting skills…especially because he died 12 days before the birth of my first child….I cried because I soooo desperately wanted to say….I’ve done it daddy, I’m a dad too!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A great piece, I Hope all African fathers will behave this way. It is better for us to learn to be wonderful fathers so that we can start producing Real Men and women who will take care of their own generation in a better way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ayo or I would have responded sooner, but your comment went to spam. I apologize for not noticing sooner.
      Yes, I think we can all take something away from Ayo’s story about his dad.
      Thank you.


  5. This piece is very evocative.
    I can relate with most points about fathers as someone very close to my father too, though he is still with us.
    My dad had so much influence on my formative years… And now that I am out of home, I thrive with his life philosophies.
    Pay your bills promptly, be diligent at work, do your best to be excellent in life, love people, face challenges with foresight, handle happiness with care etc.

    Liked by 3 people

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