I didn’t know Amy Winehouse but I knew Tobi Ekeze

The Death of Amy Winehouse

Yet, her death this past weekend made me reflect. Winehouse and I are the same age, although, she was born a few months before me. I saw a news story that mentioned other famous people that died at the age 27 including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and others. None of us know how long we’ll live, I doubt many of us think that we’ll die at 27.

If you knew the precise time of your death wouldn’t you try to make the most of your life? Have you lived the life you wanted to the fullest or are you treading the life others (who don’t really know or care about you and can’t help you) want you to live?

Read this on a friend’s facebook status:

‎”Rupert Murdoch says he is deeply touched by all the messages left on Amy Winehouse’s voicemail.”

Reflexively, I laughed and almost immediately felt bad for doing so. I’m not the best at holding in my laughter and tend to laugh at some of the most inappropriate times.

The Death of Tobi Ekeze

Democrat & Chronicle: Educator’s heart was as big as his smile

I didn’t know Amy Winehouse but I did know Tobi Ekeze who died two weeks ago. He was a husband to Karen, married probably now for twenty years, and father of two teenage kids. Tobi like my parents came from Nigeria and somehow ended up in Brockport, my small hometown in upstate New York.

I’m told he lived with us for a time while completing his degree, I don’t really remember that because I was too young. When Tobi and his wife Karen got married they asked me to the little bridesmaid and I remember being overjoyed at the prospect. As the youngest and baby of the family, it was a small way to upstage my two older sisters.

I always admired Karen and Tobi’s relationship, growing up they were one a handful of interracial couples I knew and I always admired their courage to go forward loving someone of a different race and ethnic background. Most of my relationships have also been interracial, not consciously, it just happened that way. Part of that I credit to my parents who although I’m sure they would be happy if we married someone from our tribe, never discouraged the idea of interracial relationships.

That’s one of the things I love the most about my parents, the home environment they created for us was in many ways so open and accepting. I can’t ever recall my parents discriminating against anyone nor ever using common stereotypes or slurs. Those are things that I learned out in the neighborhood, at school and from books and television.

I was deeply pleased to hear that Tobi completed his PhD and had become a vice-principal at my former high school, which was far from the most diverse place in the world. Once again, proving to me the value of hard work and determination to persevere and to achieve whatever goals you set out for yourself.

My dad wrote me a letter informing me of Tobi’s death, after a battle with cancer, and he called him a “gentle soul.” That’s how I remember him. My condolences to all of his loved ones.

From the Storehouse

Obituary: Mildred Loving

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

5 thoughts on “I didn’t know Amy Winehouse but I knew Tobi Ekeze”

  1. Memorial Friday, August 5th, 7pm at the High School. He was an amazing person and he is deeply missed.

    1. Thank you Alia for your kind words.

      There’s a post that’s been forming in my mind for awhile about the dearth of practical guidance and support for Muslims experiencing the death of a loved one who is not Muslim. I hope to write it soon, insha’Allah.

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