MY DEAR WIFE AND PARTNER
OLAWANLE TITILAYO OJEWALE
May 26, 1959 – March 17, 2014
I CELEBRATE YOU
10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. (NKJV)
When Ola (as she was known and called in the US) and I got married, I married up. That’s a phrase that suggests someone’s other half is better than them. If life is a game marrying Olawanle has elevated my game. She has brought me to a new level of understanding and living.
Wanle (as she was fondly called by Nigerians) was a very independent person. She was not the “whatever you say,” non-engaging wife; or the “if you say I-am-your-sister-not-your-wife, then that’s who I am” Sarah-type spouse. This was what I had prayed for, except she was just too much of it. I know I am a dreamer so I had prayed for a partner who could help to ground me and also help me clarify my dreams from my daydreams. Ola was just too independent for my liking. (The nickname some have for my wife is Ms. Independent.)
Our marriage gives compatibility a new definition. If compatibility means thinking the same thoughts—forget it. When I think left, she is thinking right. Most times the best way to go is right and there are those times when left and right find a middle or center. The only thing we share in common is Jesus (as you know, that’s good enough). We also share mutual respect and support for each other. Think of complimentary than compatibility when you think of our union. Thankfully, Wanle supplied whatever was missing – which were many – in my life.
I’ll give 3 examples of Ms. Independent:
First, pastor’s wife: I was a full-time, paid employee of a Christian organization when we married. I was working in a para-church ministry but not an ordained pastor. My wife liked that because she did not want to be married to a pastor or become a pastor’s wife. For some reasons she did not want to be a pastor’s wife and I had said or promised it wasn’t going to happen. But it later became apparent that my traveling and teaching ministry would be enhanced if I was an ordained minister. You guessed right; my wife was not present when oil was poured on my head and hands were laid on me because, “that was not what we agreed upon.”
With ordination came open doors here and there to pastor. I felt the leading to accept the chaplaincy of the University Of Lagos Chapel Of Christ Our Light. Again, you guessed right, my wife was not with me in the congregation when I led the service on my first official duty as the Protestant chaplain. But, by the following Sunday she was present because God had spoken to her in God’s way and she embraced it all.
Second, medical bills: My wife had battled the disease since 2006. No one cherished life and wanted to live than she did. Olawanle was a fighter in a special class. If there was a surgery, chemo or treatment that’s promising, she took it in top class hospitals – Methodist Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As you expect, her medical bills were astronomical. But all expenses were paid between her and her insurance. Some co-pays she scheduled to pay over time. Sometimes she would ask that money be transferred from her account in Nigeria. Olawanle owed no one anything but love.
I am not financially worse off because my wife was sick. She paid all her bills—from her own pocket. She had a credit card dedicated for pharmaceutical needs. If I used another card, my own Visa or MasterCard for her medication, Ms. Independent would transfer the money back into my account. She had a bag for money for cabs, medication and such things. If you paid for anything out of your pocket, Ola would refund all expenses – including taxi fare. If you question why she was so obstinate, she would say, “People know I am sick and they gave me money; that’s what it is for.”
Third, dignity in labor: As soon as we arrived in the US, Ola was paving the streets looking for employment. If she did not get a job the week she did, she was going to spend the day scouting for work and spend the night rummaging garbage bins for cans and soda bottles to turn into money. If she had to do that I would have to be by her side doing the same but I (The Reverend Michael Ojewale, former chaplain of the University of Lagos) was not emotionally prepared to roam the streets at night collecting soda bottles and cans. What would people think or say of me? But my wife would rather do that than be dependent on others. I was glad she got a job before desperation stage. That attitude of hers helped me later because, for all my degrees and qualifications, my first job in the US was as a security guard. I did not think it was beneath me because my wife would rather pick soda cans from garbage bins than be dependent..
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