In today’s world, people are motivated by a variety of things. Some people are driven by the need to perfect their image, while others are motivated by money and power. And of course, there will always be people who are driven by hate and prejudice in order to get what they want. But in my opinion, there is definitely a stronger life force than all three of those combined. No example of this power was better than my grandfather Godwin Ezeilo. Let me explain.
Whenever I bring up my grandfather to my dad, his eyes light up like he’s won the Nobel Peace Prize. Whether it was a good story or a bad story, the same smile comes over my dad at the end to show the love and appreciation he had for his father. And regardless of what story it was, the message never changed: Godwin “Goodie, Papa, Pops” Ezeilo did the impossible to make sure that his family was protected. Whether it was fighting as a Wing Commander in the Biafran Air Force in Nigeria, to surviving behind enemy lines for weeks, all of it was to make sure his wife and 5 kids (one of them being my dad) had the best possible chance at success and happiness. This came to a climax in the middle of the war, as him and fellow officers were seen as traitors of the Nigerian Government. Thinking quickly, he rounded as many things as he could hold, put his entire family on the first plane to out of Nigeria, and said goodbye to his home country as opposing forces attempted to shoot the plane from below. Others would have given up, but not my grandfather. He had something special on his side.
Things only slowly got better as the Ezeilo’s moved from country to country trying to evade Nigerian officials. Gabon and Portugal were only a few temporary homes for the family, as Godwin constantly looked over his shoulder and made decisions to leave at a moment’s notice. Finally, the Ezeilo’s landed in The United States, and things changed for the better. He landed a position at IBM as an electrical engineer , received many degrees in education, and never failed to show his children right from wrong. All 5 of his kids are happy and successful, and they’re even showing the next generation of Ezeilo’s how to thrive in this world and its obstacles. That wisdom lives in them, and I like to think that it’s growing in me.
I say all that to tell you all that over the last few days I’ve learned something extremely important. Often I wonder why people act the way they act in certain situations, and specifically what is the strongest motivator that can exist within a person. Although I like to think different, too often in this world I see so many people driven by fickle things like power, prejudice, and profit. With all of this around someone, one has to think that the point of life is to be extrinsically motivated towards a big house, a nice car, and maybe some other shiny things. But after battling Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for a period of time, my grandfather showed myself, my family, and the staff at his hospital the biggest strength of power. My grandfather was able to stay alive in a severely weakened state for over 6 days without food and water. I remember my family and I being half comforting and half bewildered on his bedside, as none of us could fathom how this man was defying common knowledge on survival in the condition he was in. But on April 28th at 6:45 when our extended family including my grandmother Beatrice Ezeilo was by his side, Godwin Ezeilo decided it was time to make his way toward the ancestors and pass. It was then that we realized that his willpower to live for his family and the ancestors was keeping him alive for so long. After a multitude of emotions throughout the room, the answer to my question was made clear. The strongest force in one’s life is the strength to love your family. That’s why my grandfather was able to provide for his family in rough times, that’s why he made sure to instill the right morals in all of his kids, and that’s why he was able to hold on for as long as he did. It all comes down to family. Without family we’re nothing in this world, so it only makes sense why people can do the near-impossible to provide for the people they love. If our world can somehow move away from the money/power thirst it has and start looking towards the things that matter such as the people around you, I feel like a lot of problems can be solved at once towards a better society.
But at the end of the day I simply write to honor my late grandfather, who may not have always said much, but always lit up a room with his presence and his infectious joy for the ones he loved. I’ll never forget how warm his hugs were, or how he always made sure to tell everyone “God Bless You” whenever he saw them. But looking back on it, it was always him that was the most blessed, for there is nobody I know and will ever know that was as strong and loving as my Papa Ezeilo. May he rest in peace.