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Adekunle Fagbenle, Esq.

CLASS AND GRACE

Words can hurt, and words can heal. The power of the wordsmith cannot be understated. My Brother Kunle had a potent way with words, and not once did I hear him use them unwisely. Just when I would think I had it all figured out, he would suggest something that surpassed my logic. I am sure I became 17.5x smarter just by being around him.

I remember being a young girl, ever in awe of his ability to pull out quotes from the library of his mind... like a magician. Watching Big K recite the great poets and playwrights with his own ground shaking eloquence, would move me to tears. He pierced through the chatter, and spoke right to my heart. How many can do that? The rarest of breeds. Somehow he understood all of my pains, as if he'd lived them all before and survived to tell the humble tale. Now there was a man.

Hearing his oratory, I was determined to commit all my favourites words to memory, too. And dear Brother, they have served me well, through heavens and hells. How could I even begin to thank you for giving me a tool that would get me through all this mud and mire? Over the years, you continued to speak right to my heart, and allowed me to cultivate a discerning ear. I will be clear: you were the one I wanted to emulate. You who set my feet on solid ground, and steadied me as I walked along. Only a fool or a lunatic would turn away from greatness that soared the way yours soared. Did I ever tell you all that? Did you know you were the greatest in my eyes?

If ever there was a man who strove tirelessly to live by his values, his name was Adekunle Fagbenle.

I can only pray to the God inside him that He eased his passage out of this world. And when prayers don't come, at least I have your poems.

They say you should keep company with those who challenge you to be better, by their being better. Big K was the kind of company you'd want to keep. Driving back from a tennis match one day, we spoke about philosophy, as you do at age 12, and Big K asked if I believed in God. I remember this because he was the first person to ever ask me without assuming. I replied, "sometimes," and told him why. He stayed silent for a little while then said, softly, "Me too." I had never felt less alone than in that moment. There in the car, after I'd lost a match and he wouldn't buy me ice-cream because he knew I could have played better, there with the griefs only children have, and all my unanswered questions about an oft-confusing world, there in the quiet he replied with a, "You are not crazy. We can live in this uncertain space, even without an immortal God to cry to and call our own. Torera, you are not alone."

He spoke with gentleness in his voice, and walked with grace in his step. And his smile... in Lao Tzu's words, it could soften glares, untie knots, become one with the dusty world... this dusty world that couldn't save our eldest brother and his heart, which beat till the end. This dusty world where words don't suffice to do justice to the memory of great men. This dusty world that better not dare to forget such a man -- he who fought for the best until the end. He who had the world and, which is more, was a man.

Well brother... I don't always believe in gods, but there's no fighting where you are now, and it's been said that you are smiling... And don't the wisest gods smile? I know you'll cook up a poet's storm for the lucky few around you who'll hear what I mean when I say you were the greatest. Till we meet again, this side or the other.

Submitted by Torera A. Fagbenle


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