Rev. Fr. John Gabriel OwusuFrempong (Dwomo), the quintessential gentleman and infinitely tolerant peacemaker, is a priest forever – one who earned his place according to the order of Melchisedek. He and I, the Physician-Politician brother and friend, loved and cherished each other because our relationship went beyond who and what we had become as adults.
Thus, every so often, people would ask, 'Doc, is Father OwusuFrempong (Dwomo) your brother?' I would smile in response... This question became like the recital of the 'Pater Noster' in a monastery because Dwomo, my dear friend, brother and classmate, had hanged and displayed our framed photo in his parish office everywhere he went to serve as a priest.
For me, as an only child of my mother (Mama Letitia as he affectionately called her), Father was a friend who surpassed and still surpasses a brother. Yes, he was that brother I never had and this is why his sudden departure cuts so deep, so painfully.
Our paths crossed in the late 1980s in the house of God at then St. George Parish in Koforidua, now the Cathedral. Since then, we had meant many things to each other: brothers, friends, classmates, counsellors and confidantes.
Growing up, our home was his, and so was his mine. He did not enter Pope John Secondary School and Minor Seminary as a junior Seminarian. He was like many of us in the main stream and not rigidly programmed to be a priest at all costs. As though to depict our different parentage but common brotherhood, Father was in Boakye House, which was joined to Mposo House, where I was – two different houses but within the same block.
After O'level examinations in 1994, he received his final call from the Lord "of sea and sky" to serve in the noble vineyard. He responded positively and obediently and never turned back until his last day on earth. It was a day of indescribable pain and peril and anguish.
My dear brother was a vital pillar of support. He was that wind that enabled my wings so I could fly; he was one of the key reasons, why, I navigated stormy waters with calm. As mutual counsellors and confidantes, we regularly took a long hard look at issues and their overall effects in the long run. With time, we convinced ourselves that most of the concerns that drive people into contestations and rancour are transient temptations; vain pre-occupations that cease to matter or even exist with the passage of time. Indeed, this was a philosophy we shared with Rev. Fr. Ralph, his younger and spirit-filled brother.
We had good times together! We would meet up when time, schedules, and space allowed – not too often though – to catch up together over fufu or banku and good soup. A tradition his deceased mum (aka Awonye), my mum and my dear wife Rita sustained to the admiration of our guests.
Even in faraway London, we would find each other and spend time in a popular Chinese restaurant at Russell Square. This was to re-connect and catch up with both Fr. Ralph and Nathaniel (Kofi 'koko'), their junior brother who was pursuing his Ph.D. studies in the United Kingdom. Our chats were endless, cutting through his life as an aspirant, seminarian and to priesthood interspersed with mine as a medical student, physician and politician.
Nevertheless, we also had trying times! I recall the periods of the death of both his dear mum and dad in succession. Also, only recently, the restless, purposeful and unquenchable efforts to save the life of 'Kofi koko'. This feat was only achieved through the grace of God, the dexterity of the doctors at St. Joseph Hospital, Effiduase, who promptly referred Kofi to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital for upgraded management of his condition. The professionalism of the doctors, nurses and staff at the Neurosurgery Department of Ghana's prime referral centre and finally, the unyielding prayerful and hardworking spirit of Dwomo, Ralph and many more allowed our younger brother to be alive today.
Father would not ask for help but was always ready and willing to assist everyone. And even when I offered to support him, he would retort, "Honourable, your burdens are many." Indeed, you had to be innovative, always, in order to lessen his burdens as a true and pure man of God. Father was a benefactor to many who are today wailing and mourning their source of hope.
How I wish we had the opportunity to do for Dwomo what he would have done for any of us if we fell ill as he did. Unfortunately, the opportunity is lost and gone forever!
Ours is to learn deeper lessons not only from the circumstances that led to his transfer from Nsawam Government Hospital to Akwatia St. Dominic Hospital; but also to imitate his enviable character traits of forgiveness, peace-making and service beyond self for a meaningful and dignified life.
Dear family, friends, priests, religious and laity, because my friend and brother never bore grudges, and because (unlike in his childhood days) he grew and matured into a man who was not easily provoked, and because he wore an ever-present infectious smile on his broad face, let us learn to forgive one another. And let us live in peace with one another.
Above all, let us continue to pray that the good Lord who called him to serve in his earthly vineyard would mercifully receive his soul into his heavenly Kingdom.
Father Dwomo, Mama Leticia, Rita, myself and our children ask you to rest well in the Lord whom you served with all your heart and with all that was within you. We miss you dearly, and I am in tears once again.
I quote the eternal words of the priest-poet John Donne, because I believe you are only asleep for a short while but will awake on the Resurrection day and conquer death:
"One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more
Death, thou shalt die."