Salone News

Thanks for Sympathy

12 October 2006 at 23:08 | 3907 views

By Zubairu Wai, Toronto, Canada.

Dear all,

I would like to thank all of those who supported my family and I during this past week in the event of the death of my younger brother Abdulai Konneh. Though my brother’s death was devastating, your kind thoughts, words of encourament and show of support helped my family and I to deal with the harshness of that reality and it meant a lot to us.
Abdulai was laid to rest today at the Ascension Town cemetary in Freetown. Though I am still in shock, I have learnt to accept it. Below is the tribute I wrote to his memory, which was read today by my friend Alhassan Kargbo (Alaska) on my behalf.

Time Does Stand Still!

A Tribute to the Memory of the late Abdulai Konneh

(27 July 1982 - 5 October 2006)

(Written by Zubairu Wai(photo); read by Alhassan Kargbo (Alaska)

Time does stand still!

It is everything and nothing,

It may creep when we despair;

And may be too long when we mourn;

Or sometimes even too short when we rejoice;

But when we love and stand strong, time does stand still for it is eternal!

We have come here today, as a family in grief, surrounded by friends and well-wishers, to pay our final respect to you and to bid you farewell, as you make your way to the land of our departed forebears. It has fallen on me to write a tribute in honour of your life and the joys you brought us during your eventful, but short stay with us on this earth. But this is not an ordinary tribute to your memory; it is an invitation for us all to celebrate your life.

We were fortunate to have you among us and even though your life has been cut short, it has left permanent imprints in our hearts that no amount of grief, sorrow or the pain of loss and parting can take away. It is the tragedy of my family that you would be taken from us so young, at a time when you have started embracing life, understanding its meaning and preparing yourself for its struggles. But struggle was, in fact, nothing really new to you, for throughout your life, you had to constantly, but bravely, battle with sickle cells, a condition with which you were born. At a time when it appeared that you had finally overcome it, your fragile body gave in, and you were suddenly taken away from us. It is my personal tragedy that I wouldn’t be around to pay my final respects to you and bid you farewell, considering how much I loved and cared for you, and how much you respected and looked up to me. I am sorry Abdulai that I didn’t make it!

My mum was not expecting to have any more kids at the time Abdulai was born, for she was pretty certain that my sister Sia would be her last child. But then she fell in love when she least expected it, and out that love, my brother Abdulai was born. Thus from his very conception, Abdulai was the epitome of unconditional love. But just as his coming was unexpected, so also has his departure. Up to his very last minute, he was in lively spirit, heartily talking to our elder sister Massah.

It was that liveliness that made Abdulai who he was, and it was what informed his character. Throughout his short life, Abdulai’s hearty-pleasantness would light up people’s hearts wherever he went. He was never jealous, mean or malicious; like a titan, he rose above anything that was petty. Abdulai was magnanimous, very humble, compassionate and sometimes meek to a fault. I remember in September 2005 when I visited Freetown and got mad at him for making our mum upset with him. For close to 30 minutes, I yelled at him. Abdulai did not say a word; neither did he even try to defend himself. He just sat there till my rage was over, then he apologized and promised never to upset our mum again.

That got me thinking what I would have done if somebody had tried to talk me down when I was Abdulai’s age, like I just did to him. I probably would have yelled back, or at the very least stormed out of there. But that was not Abdulai’s nature: No matter what situation he found himself in, he was always cool and calm. It is therefore no surprise then that he was the most loved, most friendly, most forgiving, most fun-loving and the most respectful of all my brothers and sisters.

You were a true blessing to our family, and even though you are no longer physically with us, you will always have your place in our hearts, deeds and memories. I, and the rest of the family, your friends, and those whose lives you touched with your warmth, smiles, compassion, love and understanding, will make sure that your memory forever lives on through us! Watching you grow up into the man you became was remarkably interesting and entertainingly fulfilling.

For even as a kid, it was always fun to be around you. Whether it was by singing "Unisa Congo foot" with your baby voice, or reciting some of the numerous nursery rhymes you learnt in kindergarten, (like tin - tin - na - bu - late), or becoming the man who grew up into loving Hollywood movies, hip-hop/R&B, and Reggae dancehall music, the man who got invited to almost all parties organised by female clubs at FBC, you never were short of ways of having a good time and entertaining us.

I was surprised though, that your interest in Indian movies changed for American films, for as a kid, you would get upset with us, your older siblings, for singing "I am a Disco Dancer," the concept song of the hit Indian film Disco Dancer, which you claimed was yours. We liked teasing you then, and we always got into trouble with our mum for making you upset.

The most remarkable memory I have, and which I believe, all of us who watched you grow up will never forget, was declaring yourself ’minister’ (Ministay), when you were only about two years old, and couldn’t even talk clearly. What exactly did a two year old know about being a minister? Abdulai had no illusions in his mind about who a minister was, and what his responsibilities were: "I am the minister, be quiet when I speak," he would instruct us his older siblings and, the other kids who would be cheering for him.

And we would do exactly as instructed. "I am the minister, raise up your hands and clap;" and so on. Much to the disapproval of our late grandmother (may her soul rest in peace), Abdulai, in his ministerial role, would always share his food among those kids, some of whom came from poorer families than us. Back then, none of it made sense, but reflecting on these incidents now in my adult life, I couldn’t help but admire the ingenuity of a two year old who had a clear understanding of what the nature, purpose and function of power should be.

Anyone in a position of authority, Abdulai believed, must use his position to care for and help others. This is why I am particularly devastated, for I had somehow accepted that he would, and was waiting for him to become the minister. We had plans, and I was so excited that he had shown interests in taking after my footsteps in pursuing a career in academia. I was just waiting for him to complete his undergraduate studies. In fact, even when he was down with illness in the hospital, all he could talk about was for the university to reopen so that he could go back to college. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long for us to realise our plans and put them into fruition. You will however always be our academic and remain ministay to us.

We will miss you my brother, and for a long time, we will be sad for the void that your departing from us has created will never be filled. But, as hard as it is, we will also try not to grieve, for we know that’s not how you would want us to honour you. We will try and smile, and live to be happy, for that is what you would want us to do if you were standing right here and charming us with your warm smile. Each day, as we mourn and despair over losing you, each day, as we grieve and suffer the pain of your loss, our pain will be lessened and our grieving hearts comforted by the example of your life, the smiles that you brought us, and the meaning that you gave to our own lives.

Your passing has taught us never to take each other for granted, or hold back in showing those that we love how much we care about them, for there might not be tomorrow. In your honour, and through the celebration of your life, our family bond has grown stronger, for we have had to rely on each other to deal with your loss. Through your friendliness and compassion, we have today many people who are not only supportive of us in this time of grief, but mourning your loss with us, something that we have drawn a lot of strength and courage from. For that, my brother, we can only thank you. Farewell Abdulai, and May your soul rest in peace!!!