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Looking Back, Moving Forward

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OPINION

By Sam Akpe

Sam and Uyai today

It is twenty and five years today. My memory is still fresh with the build-up to April 11, 1998, when we declared to each other, in the presence of many witnesses: I DO.    

     The weight, the complexity and the impact of those two words can still be felt, even now. We are glad we said them. It was an agreement, a promise, a commitment, and a covenant.

     One elderly divorcee told me: I give you only six months, and this will be over. I replied her: if you live long enough, you will attend our 60th anniversary.

     Let’s speedily glance back at how it started—a quick walk through the memory street.

     We had agreed to visit a mutual friend, Engineer Asukwo Uwah, who was in charge of the Federal Government-owned fishing terminal at Ebughu, in Oron, Akwa Ibom State.

     The visit was actually overdue. We had postponed it several times. But, that was because, unknown to her, I had other plans that required a supernatural confirmation.

     On this day, we finally took off, quite early in the day. We were at the massive fishing settlement before breakfast. I had a bottle of wine for our host.

     After a protein-rich breakfast comprising tasty seafood, we were led in a guided walk round the industrial structure.

      About two hours later, we returned to the engineer’s residence. Lunch was special—as though they were expecting a Saudi Prince with a large entourage.

     We ate slowly, and had a short rest. Then it was time for the execution of a personal plan.

     She had no idea what I was up to. I told the engineer that we wanted to take a walk to savour the naturalness of the environment. He agreed, and settled down to work.

     We walked towards the shore, talking like kids as the wind from the sea bathed us in refreshing caresses. Then I spotted something—a tiny old boat, abandoned some safe distance from the water. It was turned upside down.

     I guided her towards it. As if divinely prompted, she sat on it. I stood facing her. I was supposed to also sit. However, what happened next couldn’t be done seated.

     I tried to relax. But my heart was beating a bit faster, and even louder than normal. Thank God for the gusty wind from the Atlantic Ocean.

     I knew this was the moment—the real reason behind my visit to the fishing terminal. She was completely ignorant of my plans.

    Sweet memories of Sam and Uyai 25 years ago

I looked at her straight in the face, as her eyes swept around the environment. Everything worked as planned—by me.

     Then I said those few words. I made my utterance loud enough to be heard: solemn, but sufficiently firm to convey my feelings.

     Even after moments of rehearsal before the mirror, I’m not sure my delivery was perfect. But the message sank in, as noticed in her reaction. One sentence. Few words. Great impact.

     There was nothing symbolic, except those few words straight from my heart. I had no ring. I couldn’t afford one. The words worked.

     Startled, she looked at me straight in the face. Our eyes locked. I smiled. I just did it. Gbam! It was June 1995. I proposed.

      As the words dropped on her like tons of bricks, her face changed. There was this look of: what did you just say? Or something like: did I hear you well? Yes, she heard me well.

     Stunned, she smiled. And then laughed. It was a long laughter—not in scorn. There was something exciting about her voice—beyond ordinary interpretation.

     Then she looked away, still laughing. I smiled in delight, almost satisfied, as I responded, “And Sarah laughed.” I was remembering Genesis 18:12 and 21:6.

     She laughed the more. I kept talking. I explained why I said those words. Then she listened in silence. I guess I saw tears being unsuccessfully forced back, as the sun glittered on a teardrop.

     After what looked like a good back-up delivery from me, I stretched my hands and pulled her from the boat. We hugged hurriedly, as though doing the forbidden.

     Our walk back to the house was in slow steps with our hands locked together. Something unusual had just happened. Within a few minutes, we were on our way back to the city.

     On September 12, a day to my birthday, before she left for a course at the FRCN Training School in Lagos, she knelt facing me, and gave me a yes-answer.

     Fast-forward. After my national service in 1996, the wedding was postponed twice to accommodate that of her senior sister. We didn’t care.

     Then on April 11, 1998, we said those words, individually. That ‘I do’ is still in its infancy, 25 years later. We have crossed rivers and experienced seasons. But our focus has been on God all the way.

     On that day, our Pastor, Dr. Sylvanus Ukafia, reminded us that we were the same height. I said in my heart that I was still growing.

     Today, God has had mercy on me. I’m taller than her. What God cannot do does not exist.

     The children took time in coming. But that did not change anything. It strengthened our bond the more. Eventually, they arrived. Today, we have a joy-filled home. Praise the Lord.

     Marriage is exciting, especially when you are married to your friend, and stay as friends. Marriage is rewarding when you practically have God at the centre of it.  

     It’s been 25 years today. The journey seems to have just started. You will hear more of the stories as we proceed. For now, join us to say: Praise the Lord.

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