uncle died on December 21, 2016, one month today.
Before then my big concern was to see “Collateral Beauty” with my daughter and son-in-law. I thought of the review I was going to write on how I admired the concept of the movie, the originality of it all, and about how all the actors and actresses gave five-star performances.
That was on December 17, 2016.
Then my uncle passed away, and I have been obsessed with the theme of that movie. I want to write letters to Love, Time, and Death. I will write those letters soon. In the meantime, this is my uncle’s obituary.
De Sylve: The Last of the Truth Generation
I had planned to see my uncle, De Sylve, last month, December 2016. I called him in October 2016 to tell him my change of plans, that I will see him in June of 2017. Without mincing words, he told me the truth outright: “That means I will never see you again.” I did not understand his words.
Since December 21, 2016, these thoughts have been prevalent in my head: My uncle, Sylvester Ohanenye, Esquire, was the last of his brothers and sister to leave us. He was the youngest of them and the last one to leave this earth. My uncle is what I call the Truth Generation, people who breathe truth like air, people whose first nature is to tell the truth without thought no matter the situation and regardless of the consequence.
My father, Chief Martin K. Ohanenye, loved his brothers and sister beyond words, but he seemed to have a deeper fondness for his youngest brother whom he sent to Ireland and to England. That fondness and love for my uncle poured into me unconditionally, and he loved me unconditionally. De Sylve had a huge heart and loved deeply and completely. His son, Dr. Desmond Nkemakolam, and my aunt, Dorothy, were the center of his world.
He sent things home from England. That I love polka-dots today was that my uncle sent us polka-dot materials, and my mother made us dresses.
My parents talked about him and worried about him. When he was still in England, I found De Sylve’s high school science notebook and used it to pass my science classes at Girls’ High School, largely because De Sylve took excellent notes and had the most beautiful penmanship. I held on to that science notebook.
When De Sylve came back from England, I followed him around. What gave me the greatest joy was taking care of him before he married my aunt Dorothy, Dora to family and friends. I cooked for De Sylve and ran errands for him. De Sylve gave me my first job as his secretary when he opened his first car dealership. My uncle was strong, tireless, and had the energy of ten people. He was always moving, always doing, and always thinking and planning, and was never tired. My uncle was so many things: entrepreneur of many business ideals, councilman in the local government, mentor, adviser, seer, father, brother, husband, uncle, and many more.
Hanging around De Sylve made me so much wiser and funnier. I loved to hold conversations with my uncle. He had many adages, some of them were funny sayings that made me a funnier, a better, and a smarter person. De Sylve saw things as clearly as they were. He told the truth regardless of the consequences. He was a profound thinker, a prophet, and a realist. He and his wife were my literary audience on whom I practiced my way with words.
When I told him that I wanted to be a secretary, and without mincing words, he said, “You are more intelligent than that.” Some relatives tell their younger ones what they should be. De Sylve and my father told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, and they supported my dreams no matter what I chose to study.
De Sylve inspired me in uncountable ways. He, my brother Eugy, and my father are the reason I went to America. My only consolation in this meteoric death is that they are all together now, the Truth Generation. I thank my uncle for helping my parents to make me into who I am today. I still do not understand this sickness that took him away within five months.
Rest in God’s perfect peace, De Sylve.