I began the year with some pretty high hopes. I was expectant that this would be a year that I’d learn a lot, in many ways.
Well, this is my first post of the year, and it’s pretty much based on an event in this early part of the year that has had a massive effect on me.
So as the year began, my very close friend, Paul Folivi, had not been feeling too good. A few days in, and the boy informed me that he had been admitted to the hospital. Obviously, I was quite concerned, but he was like, nah, he’s not sick, just a little something they wanna check on him. He was admitted for quite a while, and a number of us from the church made it a point to visit him constantly. I went to see him on Friday and Sunday.
Later, he was transferred from the private hospital he was in to Korle-Bu. That slightly heightened our worry. But once again, he insisted it wasn’t that bad. Once again, a couple of us went to see him on Friday. Later that weekend, he was discharged, which brought some relief to us. We were convinced the worst that could happen had passed. We were communicating with him, and he continued to update us on how things were going. We were pretty much assured that he’d be fine. Besides, we were all fervently praying for his recovery. This was just a slight blip in the life of this young man. He had been absent since the beginning of the year, but surely he’d be back to do his usual thing.
Then the 23rd of January came.
I had something I needed to send to him, so I had it sent, and sent him a WhatsApp message informing him I had sent him the thing. He hadn’t been very active on WhatsApp, so when I saw he hadn’t been online for a while, I thought to myself, he’ll see it later. Late afternoon, however, and I saw a status from a friend in church saying ‘Our guy is gone’.
I got worried, but then I told myself to calm down. It must be someone else, right? I called Paul. No answer. I assured myself, he doesn’t always answer his phone. Especially during his illness period.
I had a meeting at church to attend, so I left home for it. On the way, the words in that status continued to haunt me, and I just continually prayed, ‘Dear Lord, please don’t let it be Paul he’s talking about’.
I got to church, and one of our close friends, Bernard, was around. As I parked my car and walked over to where he is, I saw him burst into tears. One of our pastors stood by, and putting his arm around me, he said something about having to strengthen the others. At this point, I was terrified, and I asked what’s going on. His next few words confirmed the nightmare I had been praying against.
Paul had passed away.
The memory of me collapsing and wailing in my pastor’s arms is one memory I fear will haunt me for a long time to come.
This, without a doubt, has been one of the most difficult periods of my life. I lost a close friend in Nigel Nartey many years ago, but we were close in JSS. He died when we were in SSS, and had met only once since, so as much as the news of his demise hurt, it doesn’t sting like this. This loss really crushed my spirit, for Paul was one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. From early 2013, when we’d meet on Tuesdays and talk before the leader’s meeting would start, we shared a unique bond. We shared our problems with each other, we teased each other, we became spoken word artists together… he was a gift to me, and to everyone that knew him.
These past 2 months have been difficult. Very difficult. So much of what I had my sights set upon have been thrown into nothingness, coz they had him in the picture. I’ve wept bitterly. I’ve cried. I’ve questioned God why he had to go. I’ve asked for a Lazarus miracle. I’ve called his number, praying to God it would ring, and he’d answer. It’s been really rough, and even as I write this, I’m nowhere near fully OK just yet. I miss my friend so badly. I want him here, where I can tease and torment him as I always do. Where we can chat on our various groups. Where I can tell him my personal issues and what I’m going through. The thought that his spirit is not here anymore, and I had to see his mortal remains get buried on Saturday is still very difficult to digest.
In the midst of the pain I’ve had to deal with and am still dealing with, there’s some rays of joy in there I can hold on to.
Paul Folivi was a guy who was sold out for the Lord. In all the time that I knew him, he was certainly not one of the rascals. He wasn’t even just a good boy. He was a God-centered boy. He lived for God’s glory. He was a part of the church choir, Firm Praise. A vital part of it, I should add. Our spoken word group was one that was to glorify God through poetry. Knowing him personally, it was clear to see that the Holy Spirit ruled his life. Of course, he had his flaws, as every single saint does, but he was a devoted believer. Even in the time of his illness, he asked, “What’s the worst that could happen? Death? I’ll go to heaven.” That was creepy, but an indication that he was not afraid of death. That’s something most Christians these days honestly seem to lack. We pray against premature death, all right, but sometimes, we honestly seem to behave as if death is the end of it all. Like our bodies are the real us. The truth, though, is that we’re really spirits, who have souls and live in bodies. I’ve been taught this numerous times, but I never thought it would be a source of comfort. As much as it devastated me to see his coffin in the grave, I’m reminded that it’s just an empty shell, and that the real him, who was made alive in Christ while he was here, is with the One who redeemed him.
I could mention the few scriptures that have helped me throughout this period, but I have to say that I’ve grown to have a greater appreciation for the gospel. Never has death dealt a heavier blow, but strangely and simultaneously, never has death been dealt a heavier blow. Its sting is so obvious, and I feel intense grief at losing Paul, but a reminder that Jesus conquered the grave more than 2,000 years ago is the greatest reassurance that it is powerless against the Saviour of the world. I think of the beauty of heaven and all its joys, and I’m even more grateful for grace, the cross, the sacrifice and His love. None of us deserve it in any way, but out of love, He granted us a way to spend eternity with Him, by accepting Christ as the One who took our punishment, our Kinsman Redeemer and our Master. Paul accepted him long ago, and he didn’t just say it, but lived it out. He didn’t deserve to be where he is, but Christ made a way for him, and I know he’s lost in wonder, love and praise as I write this.
Suddenly, many hymns I used to sing seem to have a deeper message than I used to think. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like I can feel the emotion behind the words. Faith that broke through the pain, and chose to trust in God. Hope and confidence in seeing the Eternal City. Deep-seated love and passion for the King of Kings.
Also, I now have a deeper passion for soul-winning and evangelism. The fact that my best friend is with the Lord now is something that comforts and encourages me. But then a question rises up in my spirit, What about others? There are others who aren’t going to meet the good side of God after death, and I need to do my part in reaching out to them and bringing them out of darkness. Christ will be coming very soon, and I can’t sit down and do nothing. Hell must be depopulated as much as possible. I pray you’re moved to action as you read this.
So I guess what I can say is that I’ve had a rough period. I’ve been through a furnace of affliction. And if the enemy thought this would get me to denounce or waver heavily in my faith, unfortunately he lost. Again. God never left my side during this tough season, proving He told no lie when He promised He would never leave or forsake us. He certainly hasn’t abandoned me. I’m clinging unto Him tighter than I ever did. I have no interest in embracing the world and what it offers. All I want to know is Christ and Christ alone.
Am I totally OK now? Not really. Have I gotten over Paul’s death? Not in the least. As I write this, too many things seem to be reminding me of him. Will this void be filled? Definitely not. This is a void that nobody could ever fill. This scar won’t be healed by anything mortal; only a glorious return will fully cure it. The moving on period just started for me, and it’s so much harder than I anticipated. But… in the midst of my sorrow and heartache, it is well. I might still shed a tear or two because I miss him and I always will, but it is well. Church won’t be the same, and TRP will always feel that sore vacuum, but it is well.
Through it all, my eyes remain focused on Him, for I know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed. I understand that I don’t understand why this happened, and that with my human mind, I will never understand. It’s only when I’m in His presence, like Folivi is right now, that I’ll understand things from His perspective.
Until then, I just pray He heals my heart, and not just mine, but the hearts of all who have been sorely affected by this departure.
Paul Folivi, I’m glad you already knew you were a brother and a friend to me. Even as we’re worlds away from each other, that will never change. I’ll always love you, dude. I’ll always miss you. Rest in the bosom of our Father. Your family on earth can’t wait to see you again.