‘Teach us good Lord to number our days that we will apply our hearts to wisdom’ Psalm 90:1-2
For many of us our journey with Alex started in October 1991. This was for us, the beginning of an arduous path to become healers. Healers of broken and ailing bodies and sometimes of the mind as well. For a good part of seven to eight years we shared this journey with its joys as well as numerous trials and adversities with Alex Ire.
Most of us remember Alex as the ever-smiling young gentleman who took on whatever the world threw at him with poise and equanimity. Medical School put the squeeze on most of us, and there were many among us in those days who doubted if we could make it with our sanity intact. While the struggle was clearly evident on most of us Alex in his own very unassuming manner always appeared to sail through.
One can never accurately judge what goes on in another person’s psyche but if you asked how Alex took medical school, it would appear it was a breeze to him. Alex took things in his stride, never allowing all the stresses and vicissitudes of our medical training to pull him down. For many of us though this journey was a struggle that was not always joyful.
With all these happenings, Alex Ire would usually be seen sitting quietly at the back of our shuttle bus that took us back forth from our lecture halls and labs in the hospital to our dormitories about 12 miles outside the city in Legon the main University campus. He would usually be reading a novel to pass the time. More often than not if it was not a Friday most of us would be trying to study for our next assessment or just plainly memorizing some arcane nerve pathways in our Anatomy textbooks.
Fridays on the shuttle back to campus were usually fun times; most of the boys especially those in Commonwealth Hall would sit at the back of the bus and crack jokes and tell stories all the way back through the ever-treacherous Accra city traffic. Those were the few times Alex will get rid of his novel and join the loud bantering and bawdy lying tales all the way back to Legon.
After medical school with all of us spreading out all across the country and the world, Dr. Alex Ire returned to Tamale where he grew up to serve his people. We may lose touch with each other, but the old memories always linger on. One classmate relates a story that he had carried with him all these years. This was on a trip with Alex and another classmate many call Alex’s twin, Dr. Thomas Gbireh. They were traveling in the Northern Region in one of the many health week trips to provide educational talks in different parts of the country.
“We were in a bus and being foolish young men as usual and taking loudly in pidgin English. I believe there were more than a few people who took offense at the intrusiveness of our loud discourse. Our bus companions did not spare us and really gave it to us by speaking nastily about us in their local language.
Just before we got to our destination Alex spoke gently in the local dialect being from that part of the country about not saying nasty things about people because one assumes, they would not understand. The bus was as quiet as a cemetery as we got off at our destination.”
Dr. Alex Ire was not only just a human being, he was humane. Although Alex lived a relatively short life, it was a fulfilling and a profoundly beautiful life.
As many of us approach the mid-century point in life we are learning to deal with the harsh realities of life. We are at a phase in our life when we have started losing our friends and colleagues not from travel for work and other opportunities but to a more final and non-negotiable adversary death!
Dr. Alex Ire’s passing is a good reminder that our time here on this earth is brief. We must make every effort to ensure this time and every breathing moment count.
Goodbyes are always difficult and more so to a very fine and gentle soul such us our dear departed brother. It has always been said that God takes away those dearest to him first. Well that may be the case; but for those of us left behind it feels like this is the cruelest of jokes one ever has to endure. We would continue to wipe our tears for many more years for our brother.
Rest In Peace our dear brother and friend. We love you so much.
Alex, gang vela
By University of Ghana Medical School Class of 1997 for Dr. Alex Abetera Ire