The beauty of dirge or funeral poetry came to my consciousness in my last year at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, when I had to do my B.A thesis on the content and form of Igbo elegiac poetry for a degree in English.
Since after that research attempt, I have come to the conclusion that the elegiac form, otherwise known as dirge offers the mind the most illuminating canvass for the expression of deep feelings.
It is not easy for me to embark on this self- appraisal discourse but my understanding of the large canvass provided by the elegiac form is always there, and therefore makes me feel at home to sing my own dirge having begun this dance of the dead in the last couple of months.
In what started like a child’s play, the physiological change which manifested in my body by the month of April, 2004, in the form of stomach disorder was to assume with passing months a higher proportion of a life threatening ailment.
Early in the month of April, I had noticed an abnormal development in my toilet habit. I had come to observe that for upward of three to four days , I would stay without going to toilet and I became worried knowing that under normal situation that such development was symptomatic of some internal disorder.
Based on this conviction, I immediately went to consult the services of doctors at the Vanguard Newspaper’s clinic; the Golden Cross International Hospital located at 22 Road in the Festac Area of Lagos.
But as bad as it were, nothing curious was discovered.
However, the health situation continued to worsen by the day.
Within weeks, I had lost so much weight that I could no longer wear my cloths. I became tensed. I thought the worst, the dreaded killer diseases, AIDS had come to revenge on the rascality of my youth.
For the first time I felt sorry for myself, for the unprotected sexual habit and adventure I embarked upon in the days of yore, and I felt especially sorry for my young and beautiful wife, Tina, a well brought up conservative catholic, an ex-nun. I thought I had given her the worst shock of her life: the stigma, the disgrace. But to God be the glory, HIV test conducted on me revealed nothing of that.
I thanked God for saving me and for not disgracing his handmaid, Tina.
But the journey was to start in earnest in November 2004, when on further medical probing, scan examination revealed that my two kidneys were bad.
According to doctor’s finding, one of the kidneys was not functioning outright, while the other one had stone impediment. He also found that my PVC or blood level was usually very low fluctuating between 15 and 16 %. Based on this disturbing revelation, a medical suggestion was made that I go for an urological operation, preferably overseas, where the blood building hormone around the kidney would be restored through operation.
In the interim, I was placed under erotroprotein injection, an injection capable of creating the blood building hormone.
But that too is not the end of this sad story: how about the complications? I was also diagnosed to be hypertensive and diabetic as well.
The crucial question became: which one led to the other? It was this situation that led to my being made a guinea pig: moving from the hand of a physician to a nephrologist.
The crises point came when I began to swell: Oedema they call it in medical terms. This time around, my very little frame had become so bloated that I could even feel the heaviness and expansion on my head.
A more disturbing one became an oedemal growth in my scrotum, which its disturbing pain and discomfort affected my walk movement.
But to God be the glory that as I write this personal dirge that I have come to a certain state of stability through God’s infinite mercy and through the medical help of the doctors at Golden Cross and staff of Dialyzer Special Medical Center, Oshodi, where I was going for dialysis.
What is the situation today, you may want to ask? Yes, Mcphilips is stable. Coming to the office to help produce his passionate art pages. But his hope still hangs in the balance. His doctors have estimated that a sum of 5 million naira is needed to fly him overseas, where an operation will be performed on him at the Brigham and Women Hospital, Boston.
This is a whopping sum of money and too much for a poor journalist to provide.
In singing this dirge, I therefore implore the help of fellow Nigerians to come to my aid. Please don’t let me die: Don’t let me die; a cockerel at midlife. Don’t let me die, the first of the sun god burning with dreams of yester- years … Don’t let me die; the burden bearer of fate, who stands at the threshold clearing yesterdays mess of ash.
And as the cry went on, some gentlemen and organization who journeyed with him all long, became members of his chorus, who sing the refrain: We shall not let you die, You shall live to tell the story
… First published in Sunday Vanguard, February 20, 2005, from a dirge written by Late McPhillips Nwachukwu when he was diagnosed of having a malfunctioning kidney and needed the sum of five million to fly abroad for surgery. And eventually some individuals and organisation came to his rescue. But after surviving that in 2008, the same death he cheated finally took him on September 29, 2013, exactly three years today.