2020 strikes again, this time very close to home. My father in law, Daddy Olatoye, fell asleep and not even our loudest wailing could wake him up.
Although he spent the last 22 years in a wheel chair, nothing was an uphill task for him. If you weren’t told, you would never have deduced that he was physically disabled. In the midst of grief, I find myself reflecting on the question: how did Daddy Olatoye manage to make a life that was so obviously constrained go far? How did his five loaves and two fishes feed thousands?
Please don’t read this thinking I’m a self-help guru who can wave a ‘3 winning ways to abundant life’ wand. I ain’t got nothing like that! If you have, please hook me up 🙂 Rather, below are my reflections on how I believe my father in law managed to stretch out a life that could have become atrophied and withered.
#1 Live for the audience of One.
Although he had to take a step back from active ministry, he never stopped being a pastor – that is, if you define a pastor as someone who shepherds and nurtures the flock. Although the days of mounting a pulpit and dishing out sermons with a thunderous voice were over, he never stopped praying for and counselling people around the world over the phone.
He really showed me that you don’t need a position to serve. In fact, the titles sometimes have become convenient ways for people to obfuscate their abdication from the actual job of a leader.
So, why would my father in law continue to faithfully shepherd his flock from his wheel chair without an award or any recognition? I believe it’s because he lived for the audience of One.
Though he lost the use of his limbs, he did not lose the consciousness of being a steward. Though he carried the burden of his own compromised health, he continued to shoulder the burden of his flock and pour out into their lives in ways he could from afar. Though he had nothing (materially) to gain from looking after his flock, he knew he was accountable to God and still sought to please Him.
So, even though he didn’t get to climb the proverbial ‘ministerial ladder’, he was still greeted with a resounding ‘Well done’ because he kept his eye on the One person in the audience who really mattered – God.
Please, take your eyes off the crowd.
Would you still perform with integrity when no one is watching? Would you take the absence of the applause to mean a permit to be selfish and sloppy with life? Would your house (and life) be tidy if you didn’t have to take photos for Insta? See, the end of my father in law’s time on the pulpit and the exit of the audience was his perfect excuse to down tools and lick his wounds in private and no one would blame him for that.
Rather than retreat, he sought for ways within his reach to impact others far and wide all because he knew that although everyone has left, God NEVER leaves the stands. He is always watching for faithful workers who commit to the task and keep digging, even if they have to do it with one hand tied behind their backs.
#2 Invest in relationships
Because he didn’t quit, my father in law instead spent time investing in people and nurturing relationships. It still surprises me that in a world that is saturated by smart phones and other devices, people still battle with loneliness. We’re supposed to be more connected than ever before yet loneliness still casts a dangerous shadow over many lives.
It’s very easy to be deceived into thinking that just because you have a smart phone and a few social media profiles, you have friends. That is a big lie. My father in law was great at keeping in touch with people at his own cost. He would travel to events organised by friends and in-laws to honour them and also show them that the relationship mattered to him.
It was not in any way convenient for him; in fact, on a couple of occasions, we discouraged him from doing that because of his health and associated risks of travelling. Thankfully, our (rightfully placed) concern did not stop him; he kept going.
In the aftermath of his passing, we have been inundated with people sharing memories of how Daddy Olatoye would attend their weddings and other occasions even though it was not comfortable for him to do so. They saw his sacrifice and that endeared him to them more. When he couldn’t go, he sent money and other gestures to show that they mattered to him. Simply amazing.
Despite his limitations, he stayed connected. In fact, most times he was the one with the latest information on what was going on with friends and family and had to brief us, the younger but socially distant generation in possession of more social media apps than you can count on one hand.
Please, nurture real-life relationships and show up for the people in your life. If you’re one of those who wrap themselves up in the false blanket of 5,000 followers on Facebook or Twitter and you think all is well, you’re in for a rude awakening. It is the friends you call, celebrate with, cry with, laugh with, encourage, pray for and I dare say argue with (sometimes) that’ll have concrete memories to share about you. The rest I’m afraid are just well-wishers (if you’re lucky).
#3 Be generous
Because he lived for the audience of One and took time to invest in relationships, my father in law was incredibly generous with his resources. Somehow his own need did not stop him helping others. His disability could have left him frozen in place but instead he decided to share the little he had with others.
That selflessness is what enabled his life to stretch beyond the confines of a wheelchair. Where his legs couldn’t go, his money and resources went. His prayers and counsel traveled farther than his physical legs could ever imagine. That my friends, is how to live a limitless life.
We soar over our problems when we choose to look beyond them and be selfless regardless. No matter how vast your challenges are and how little you think of yourself, you still have something to offer to others around you. If you choose to hoard your five loaves and two fishes, you’ll never witness the miracle of it feeding thousands. I can truly say that my father in law died empty; there’s nothing more we could have asked of him.
Funny thing about all of this is that whilst alive, he didn’t think he was doing anything extraordinary. He thought he was just living like everyone else, trying to make sense of the hand dealt to him by life.
That’s the same for you. Right now you are swimming against the current and doing your best not to drown in the stormy seas on life and you don’t see that what you’re doing is commendable. For the mere fact that you woke up today and chose to give life another go, you are extraordinary. You are already living a limitless life.
So, thank you Daddy Olatoye for giving life a good go and refusing to back down. I promise to do the same.
Sleep well, and yes I’ll definitely see you again and this time, no lockdown will stand in the way.
8 thoughts on “How to live a limitless life – a tribute to my father-in-law”
So much lessons for us to draw from!
That was a beautiful tribute, well done!
Thank you bro! 😊😊
Deep. This is more than a great piece. God bless you
Thank you very much for your kind words! Glad it blessed you.
Dammy this is a job well done like you were there all the while.
That is what exactly who he was all the while. From Ile Ife, with our then leader, when he was young and agile till the last time I saw him at Ayobo.
His love and concern for the brethren never diminished by anything even when incapacitated. I am talking about a space of over 40 years. You will be remembered by all you have done. Your lovely voice in the choir, the speed with which you respond to practice all the way from Ife to Ibadan to perform at the Bible Study at the Start of the ministry at the then Oyo State. Bro Tayo the way you give for
singing would not be forgotten.
All you went through in life and yet you stood tall is
Moopa Church would not forget you, so would Iva Valley in Uniife (Bro Emman)
Your prayers services, the lives you touched etc. remain very fresh in my head. So 40 years on the line I can only pray for the strong woman, my beloved sister and friend, who understand all I have written that as she carries on the Lord will continually strengthen and protect you.
She too has not changed a bit.
God will see you through and bless You.
He has left a good and great legacy for all the children biological and spiritual children to emulate.
What took you away from the service of God, oh leave the church or ministry far less than what bro Tayo had. Think about it and consider your life do not just read and think oh dear what a pity or what a man. Rather let his life, testimonies move you to taking decision.
He never had opportunity of pulpit any longer after the incidence like it has ended but no not him he was still a shepherd, leader, father, concerned with others welfare etc.
Where are you? Come out of the cocoon of self pity and disappointment fly out as high as you can. You can, you could if you want. Bro Tayo did you can.
He did and he is remembered. 🌳You will be evergreen in our memory.
Rest in peace the Bossom of your Father, Master and Lord until we meet to part no more. 🛏️
“Invest in relationships”! Quite instructing. Thanks for sharing.
I had the privilege of living with him in the same compound during my undergraduate days and I can say everything you have said he is indeed true, for I was one of the many beneficiaries of his legacy.
Hello Hello Ma’am,
So, I thought this is a beautiful piece, I have therefore decided to do an audio version of it, am gonna post it on Facebook book and tag your husband @Shiloh Olatoye, your husband apparently is a big brother from way back…
Thank you for puting this Piece out and many more thanks for sharing Papa Olatoye with us as well….
Brother Adetunji Zion