"When a great person dies, for years the light they leave behind them, lies on the paths of men" - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
I did not realize how hard this was to write until I tried remembering as much as I could about a mother I had known only for a very short time that seemed like ages. The only other two people in the family whom have not known her longer than I have are infants. I wish they also got to know her the way I did. She was already preparing for her youngest nephew's birthday on the 31st of December but passed away on the 27th.
Prior experience had made me almost give up on the true meaning of family until she came into my life shortly after I met my wife. She was not just a mother to her biological children and those related to her genetically, she was a mother of all who came to her and others whom she met in the course of her work. Her work was taking care of people and she did it excellently well. She was one of the very few I have met who not only took the Hippocratic oath very seriously but Christianity in the true sense even more seriously by being a keeper of humanity. From individuals to entire villages, she took care of everyone and did not seek publicity or fortune in the process.
She once told her brother Philip that if all we do in life is to provide for ourselves and take care of our own children only then we have not done better than animals as they do exactly the same thing. She also told her sister Helena that she choose to locate her hospital in the midst of the less privileged because they also deserve good doctors and great healthcare.
The only time she actually asked me to help her do something was to find employment for a Nigerian man who had walked into her hospital looking for a job. I did not understand why she personally took it upon herself to help this man she had never met until I learned later that there were many more like him that she had devoted her time to helping out. There are those she paid school fees for when their parents could not afford it and others she gave employment to who eventually stole from her but she never pursued them or set the law after them.
I had thought her generosity to be extreme sometimes especially as she deprived herself to help others. I remember a conversation we had in about my impulsive buying and how I tried to rationalize that the possessions I bought made me feel better. Now I would give everything I have away just to have her around to continue to share her wisdom and kindness.
There are very few human beings that try to be like she was but ideally we should all strive to be that way. She was born into wealth but did not give in to greed. Her greatness was not in the possessions she acquired and left behind but in the legacies and the path she blazed for us to follow.
Grief is a terrible thing, It comes to you at unexpected moments. I had previously written a long windy and emotional tribute out of grief but changed my mind to keep it simple as I learned from mama. Writing a tribute that will cause more grief to others as they remember our loss is not what Mama would have wanted. She lived her life that others may learn and make the world a better place. Her lessons will continue to be passed on to her family for generations to come.
"A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous" - Proverbs 13:22
Mama's lessons are the greatest heirloom a parent can ever leave for a child and she left many for her children. I am grateful for all the time we spent together especially her last days. I am most grateful that she gave me the most important person in my life - my wife . Thank you Mama.
Irene (March 1950 - Dec 2012) - Mama