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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

For Daddy, at 60

With daddy on the day we moved to the UK

The last time I saw my dad in person, we both cried as I left. Me crying on leaving home was not new. I had cried on leaving most times since I first left for university in December 2006. But tears in my dad’s eyes? That was a first. He had just recovered from an illness that had felt like certain death while it lasted. He had been surprised to wake up, halfway between life and death, to find that Simi and I had flown home to be with him. He was bashfully grateful. But now he had recovered. He had care from family and the church. I needed to return to my own home with Busola.

We prayed together. I hugged and clung to him. Then I hugged my mum. And then I hugged him again. I was crying by then – filled with gratitude for his recovery and sadness that I had to leave again. Simi took pictures of us, capturing those precious moments. At the time, I didn’t realise I had held him alive for the last time.

That was June of 2021. He had just turned 58. His recovery was truly miraculous and brought great rejoicing. We thought we had lots more time together. I started video-calling him more often in addition to our regular audio calls. We would catch up about the past and the present: why he did something he had done when I was younger, the book he was writing, both royal funerals. And then we would talk about the future: a road trip in the UK to see my cousins and explore the royal palaces we had talked about for decades, a limited series recording his oral history of the Ladeles, a celebration of life for his 60th birthday, and so on.

You know where this is going already. None of that happened. After first complaining of some pain early on Friday October 14 2022, my father died that evening at the Oluyoro Catholic Hospital, Ibadan. I went there when I returned home to prepare for his funeral. It turns out he died within a short walk of the wards where he had first welcomed me into the world thirty-one years before.

He would have been sixty today.

Daddy being affectionate at the airport on the day Simi moved to the UK

*****

The last few months have been very rough. You see – my dad was a great father. For that reason, there are several things that remind me of him every day. Picking up a bible? Praying? Checking my teeth in the mirror after brushing? Making a cup of coffee in the morning? Reading a book? Making sure I’ve got both hands on the steering and driving carefully? Standing alone in my opinions or beliefs when required? Mowing the lawn? Double-checking all the doors are locked before I go to bed? Cooking dinner for my family? I could go on and on and on. There is a little of my father (and mother) in almost everything I do.

But it is what it is.

In a strictly physical sense, they say people die twice. The first time when they stop breathing. And the second time when somebody says their name for the last time. My father was a man of deep faith who looked forward to eternity with God. He was also acutely aware of legacy and memory in a way that stood out to me. He displayed pictures of his father and mother prominently at home and in his office. He visited their graves often and kept them clean. He wrote their biographies and orikis. He organised commemoration events. He remembered the people he had loved and lost. And he wanted to be remembered too.

In May of 2016, I messaged him commenting on the fact that he had remembered to make a Facebook post commemorating his father’s hundredth posthumous birthday. He wrote me back: “Thanks dear, and when I am gone too – I WANT YOU TO LET THE WORLD REMEMBER ME. All the revival messages I am documenting should be replayed to the world. Dad.” Emphasis his. In August of 2017, after attending a friend’s funeral, he posted the following to his Facebook:

"...AND THE LAST WORD I HAVE FOR EVERYONE I KNOW IS SIMPLY - "FORGET ME NOT". Emphasis his. My dad was very active on Facebook where he posted a stream of his thoughts. It has become a treasure trove of sorts for me

*****

I still often catch myself wishing this was a bad dream. Like one of those really bad television shows that go on too long because the writers didn’t know when to stop. It typically only lasts a brief moment. Perhaps a second. Two at the most. Then rational Koye shows up and I remember it is true. And my heart breaks all over again. I remember that I held him, cold and unyielding, and he just lay there. I remember watching on as Simi called out to him in the morgue, and as she remarked on the fact that it was the first time in our lives that we’d be in daddy’s presence and he couldn’t acknowledge ours. I remember Fehintolu, who was there for most of his final day, recounting its events endlessly – wondering if there was anything he could have done differently.

As daddy sometimes said, Ejo ki la fe ba olorun fa?

*****

There is so much I am yet to unpack about his life.

As a son and brother, he was incredibly devoted to his parents and siblings. Tragically, he lost his dad and mum within 23 days of each other on either side of his 20th birthday. He wrote about the devastating experience and about how long it took him to recover: “It was as if the whole world collapsed on me. The grief was too much. With none to share with.” He talked about his father non-stop. Once, when I wrote on Facebook about what an amazing father he was, he commented saying he wondered what I would have thought if I met his own father. He loved his mother too. He always spoke about her fondly and commissioned the most beautiful painting of her that was delivered only months before his death. He made annual remembrance posts for his parents. He loved family very much and often sent his siblings lengthy letters about various family topics. He showed up to almost everything and organised many of the family events. He cared for his nephews and nieces before and after their parents passed. They will miss him sorely.

Daddy at 18, holding his nephew in Traflgar Square on a trip to the UK with his dad. I loved this picture as a child and it was my first exposure to the UK. Interestingly, I can't find one of him and his dad from that trip. When I moved to the UK 38 years after this picture was taken, Trafalgar Square was the first place Busola and I visited.

Daddy with some of his relatives at my wedding

*****

There was never any doubt that my dad had been called to be a pastor. He loved the church fiercely and the church loved him back. People came and went over the thirty-five years or so that he pastored the Faith Club and then Victorious Christian Life Ministries, but he had a gift for staying in touch that he deployed liberally. My father was the personification of “showing up”. Whether it was to celebrate or to mourn, to dedicate a child or to gently break the news of a lost loved one, ‘Reverend’ was always there. I resented it somewhat when I was growing up. I wanted him all for myself; wanted him to be just my daddy – not the daddy of an entire church. But as I grew older and realised the outsized impact he had on all those lives, I became thankful for his calling and increasingly proud of him. I found a letter written to him in 2021 by one of the children he had named seventeen years before and pastored since then. It was a most loving letter. Daniel wrote: “You are a pillar in the Lord’s building; a shoulder to lean on; a mentor, a teacher, a father, a rare gem; a special person.” I am very glad that Daniel wrote him the letter when he was alive to read it.

When he was ill in 2021, you would not have known Simi and I weren’t in the country for the early parts of the illness. People left their jobs behind and children at home to care for him and support our family round the clock. They prayed in twenty-four-hour prayer chains, covered bills without telling us, and showed up every day. When he died in 2022, they rallied round to support us emotionally, physically, and financially. Several months must have passed before my mum spent a night alone. I am very proud of the family that Victorious Christian Life Ministries was and continues to be.

Daddy with some members of Faith Club / Victorious Christian Life Ministries in 1989 and with some elders of the church in 2021. The 1989 event was a child dedication. The 2021 event was my mum's birthday. He and my mum are the only two people who are in both pictures.

*****

Daddy at Fehintolu's OAU matriculation. Along with our mum, he was our greatest enabler and supporter.

Do you want to be the kind of father your father was? My answer is yes. 100%. Unequivocal. Of course, there are many things I’ll be trying to do differently – I am not him and I don’t have his personality after all. But I would count my parenting journey a success if I simply managed to be everything my father was to me.

He always put our needs before his and went to great lengths to ensure we had opportunities that he did not. When I was only a young child, he took me everywhere, asked for and valued my opinion, and treated me with respect. He involved me in his life and ministry, and so we went to print tracts together, I went to preach with him and he let me use the PA system once I was old enough, and I went to crusades with him. He exemplified living by faith and working hard for the things one wanted. He encouraged me to read widely and allowed me access to his vast library from a very young age. As a nine-year-old, he trusted me to type most of his correspondence – including to church leaders and senior Nigerian clergymen. He often called on me to read the bible in church.

Despite carrying the burden of a full-time calling, he started a construction business to put us through school. When he didn’t have the money yet, he was never ashamed to write a letter to the school asking them to not send us home until he had raised it. When I went through my teenage rebellion, he handled it with great maturity despite my many provocations. I never once managed to provoke him to anger. He took OAU’s faculty of Tech to war when they didn’t want to admit me because Ife was my second choice – drowning them in letters until they admitted me on the morning of matriculation. He often drove from Ibadan to Lagos and followed me right up to security whenever I left the country. He taught me that there was dignity in labour, and to protect and provide for family. He was still instructing me about ethical behaviour and obeying the spirit of the law months before his death. He set the parenting bar really high.

I couldn’t possibly list every single thing he did or taught me, or this would take another thirty-one years.

What an incredible man.

Screenshot from the video call in mid 2022 to tell my family we were expecting a baby. My mum is to the left of my dad and was not in this frame. I am sometimes comforted that he kind of saw Oreofe.

When my daughter was born in January of 2023, barely three months after he died, I wrote in my journal: “Dear daddy…I wanted to let you know that Busola and I had a baby girl. She’s beautiful. I made her the same promises you made me…she’s starting from a very different place in life than I did, all thanks to your sacrifices. I love you for them…I wish you could have been there to name her. But I thank you for leaving her such a beautiful name…I promise to be a good father to her. I’ll make you proud. I’ll try every day to be as good a father as you were. Every day until my last breath. And I’ll love you forever”.

*****

There’s a lot more. Enough to fill several books. To avoid triggering my mum, I have chosen not to describe him as a husband. Oko Taiyelolu. I haven’t touched on his beautiful smile and impish grin that lit up every room he walked into. Omo adu f’eyin soge. I have stories for years of his courage and charisma. There’s that one of him coming out with a machete to get us on hearing there were armed robbers in the neighbourhood after he’d sent us to deliver Christmas food to neighbours. Omo owa, omo ekun. I have not recounted his love for his roots and his frequent trips home to Okemesi Ekiti. He was supposed to be traveling there to plan a crusade on the Friday he died. Omo Onirayi ogun l'oke odo. I haven’t touched on the depth of his faith and commitment to the gospel. Iranse eledumare. Omo kiniun eya Judah. Ajogun pelu Kristi. Omo oba loni, oba lana, oba titi aye ainipekun. And I haven’t touched on his passion for Nigeria or his devotion to his friends, old boys and old girls alike.

Adekoyejo Adeniji okan soso ajanaku ti mi’gbo kiji-kiji-kiji!!!

My father. My rock. My love.

At OAU matric in Dec 2006. At our (delayed) graduation in Dec 2012. With my INSEAD MBA diploma in Dec 2018. Didn't realise until today there was exactly six years between each of these pictures.

I miss him badly. I still wake up crying for him often. More often than he would have approved of. I love my little one to bits and she brings me great joy, but it remains indescribably tough to have become a father just after losing mine – and a legendary one at that.

I recognise that I am luckier than most in that we have thousands of hours of my dad’s messages on tapes, cds, and mp3 files. While we can no longer speak to him, he can continue to speak until the end of time – about almost everything: faith, salvation, raising children and so on. You name the topic, he probably taught about it at least once. I can’t bear to listen to any of them yet – but it falls to me and my siblings to organise them and make them accessible. “…All the revival messages I am documenting should be replayed to the world. Dad.” It is what he wanted.

I have been thinking about my parents’ legacy for many years now. In 2021, I started a small scholarship scheme and named it after them. He was very proud of it. I always said I wanted to give my parents their flowers while they were alive. I am glad that I told him many times and as often as possible how much I loved him, privately and publicly. There’s nothing I’ve written today or since his death that I didn’t tell him when he was here to hear it.

*****

In a strictly physical sense, they say people die twice. The first time when they stop breathing. And the second time when somebody says their name for the last time. There’s a picture I find comforting: it is of me, Simi, and Fehintolu from the day after his funeral. We were standing in front of the altar where he had preached for years, in deep pain, but looking to the future and smiling for the camera. When I miss him too badly but do not wish to look at a picture of him, I look at that one of us three. And I think to myself: as long as we carry on, as long as my eyes glint like his when the light hits just right, as long as most people call me Koye - his name – something of my father lives on this side of eternity.

Edward. Adekoyejo. Adeniji. Okanlawon. Tadeniawo. Babatunde. Akande. Husband of Taiyelolu Olubunmi. Father of Mogbekeloluwa, Mosimiloluwa, and Mofehintoluwa. Grandfather of Oreofe Mololuwa Ikeoluwa and of more to come. Son of Emmanuel Aderibigbe Ladele and Muinat Adukeade. Grandson of John Bodunrin Ladele and Sarah Aina from his father and Yusuf of Obadore and Iya Ade of Ijebu from his mother.

You would have been sixty today. You are sixty today. I remember you today. I will remember you until my last day.

Rest easy dear.

*****

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Believers Who Have Died

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

*****

My favourite inheritance and a legacy of faith. My grandfather's legacy was described as one of Integrity and Honour. My father's legacy has been described as one of Service and Devotion. I wonder how mine will be described after I'm gone.

Teaching in 1990, the early days of his ministry. 

Just look at that handsome grin. Omo adu'feyin soge.

Right after the joining during our wedding. I turned round and went straight to him for a hug.

The Koye-Ladeles.

My dad was a passionate lover of Nigeria and became a household name in Ibadan due to his views on politics and the role of Christians in nation-building. This picture was taken in the United States after a service in 2019.

The morning after the funeral. Hurting deeply but looking to the future.

22 comments:

  1. This was hard to read without tearing up. Without a doubt, I know he’s proud of you. I can tell, although too short, he lived a great great life. I love that he’s also set a great example of a father for you and hope that in those tiny moments you recognize the fatherly traits you picked from him, you brighten up with a smile. πŸ’œ

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  2. Teared up whilst reading this.
    Rest on sir

    Lost my dad in July 2021 and I am unable to move up
    It was as if you were describing my dad, except that he hadn’t travelled out of Africa. Was supposed to go to the UK same year he left us and I was just planning my wedding ceremony


    Didun ni iranti awon olododo

    Rest easy Sir Koye-Ladele

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    Replies
    1. Amen. I am very sorry about the loss of your father. I pray that you can find the strength to move forward. Indeed - didun ni iranti awon olododo.

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  3. Daddy was an exceptional personality,even though short he lived an impactful life I am glad he was my spiritual father.

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  4. May his soul continue to rest in peace πŸ™

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  5. This was such an emotional read. It’s interesting that I only heard about him after his passing, despite spending my early years in Ibadan. Thank you for sharing his story with the world, just as he would have wanted it; you are doing him very proud. May God forever uphold and preserve you all.

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    Replies
    1. It was such an emotional write too! Amen. Thank you for reading.

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  6. Wow!
    Thanks for capturing all these moments, indeed he lived well, to the glory of God.

    Thanks to Jesus

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  7. This was really touching to read and such a beautiful description of the exceptional Dad you had. I’m sure he’s proud of the great human you are. Hugsssss

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  8. May uncle koye's soul continue to rest in peace. Happy post humous birthday sir

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  9. Omolara Theophilus-Oni18 May 2023 at 14:47

    Koye!
    I cried reading this. Once again, I pray for comfort for your family.
    I am a Daddy's girl and I have always dreaded loosing him. I avoid burial ceremonies of fathers because I will often cry throughout the service.
    Stay strong Brother, maybe it will get easier with timeπŸ™.

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    Replies
    1. I hope it does get easier with time. Thank you Lara.

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  10. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

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  11. A real and a precious dad he was. Thanks for capturing all of this wonderful event of your dad. May soul rest in perfect peace and may his legacy lives forever and be remembered.

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