What life has taught me; tribute to an uncle and a ‘friend’

Pa Baimba Sesay-writing from China:

I shrieked over the phone like dying lion, crying, in a rather flabbergasted manner, calling on my Mum, Jane D.M Sesay who is thousands of miles away from me, precisely in a small but very well kept and always refreshing village behind Binkolo, called Kapethe. The apparent uproar at home here in China was sure to come (as death is the only inevitable aspect of mankind) but this was not the time least expected for it to happen. Yes, I still not described how I tried to express my sudden shock and disbelief at the cessation of the life of not just an uncle, (my late Dad’s younger brother) but who was also a real and true family friend, Wusu Sesay.

I kept on asking my Mum “why now for uncle?” when suddenly my Mum asked me to listen, for her to tell me what life means. “Baimba, your uncle and friend is gone, but one thing with life, do your best and do what you can and leave the rest to God, for you know not when your time will come”  My mum is an ardent Christian and she was very religious and faithful in telling me, “na God done call am.” Truth be told, I was not eager to hear this philosophical wisdom for how can God call someone just too soon like that. But here I learnt a lot.

Indeed, life is not how you want it but definitely what God wants for you.  Uncle Wusu Sesay’s death is one among many fissures that has been created in the Pa Baimba Sesay family of Safroko Limba chiefdom. Coming from a traditionally African background with over half a dozen of wives of his late Dad, Chief Pa Baimba Sesay and with dozens of Children and dozens and dozens of grandchildren, Wusu was a family bridge that tried in his way to keep an extremely extended family united. He was such a caring and promising young man, that it surprised me that at aged 37, he could die only for her mum, my grandma, to witness the burial of his son, with whom, she had stayed for the last couple of years.

How great God works, for grandma, at over 80, to witness the burial of his loved son, just at 37. From my observation with the number of years we had been literally together as ‘friends, Wusu, it would be suggested was a cherished child among the dozens of others, but that love he got from his parent was never misused. He ensured, he lived an industrious life, with his best service to nation as a police officer and to family as a linking bridge between the older generation and those of us the younger folks.

My Dad died in October 2005, just when I was preparing to start my second year in the university. And though there was this other uncle Jose Lansanah Sesay who was taking care of myself and my younger brother, prior to and following the death of our Dad, coupled with the helping hands of the Bondi family-cousins of ours, we also were in full expectation of other family members, especially following the sudden transfer of uncle Joses to Kabala as Dispenser in the government hospital. Prior to his transfer, he was at the Cottage Hospital where he had served for years as Dispenser. This transfer brought some constrains as was expected  but uncle Wusu , and the Bondis, plus other family members like Ernest Abram Sesay became the source of help, both in guiding us and in financially supporting us.

Wusu’s love for family members was exceptionally great that when I was in the University, he was always ready to meet my demands, even if at a later date. Hear this story:

Climbing down the hills of Fourah Bay College one Friday afternoon, with broken shoes, peeping right underneath, asking for repairs, I arrived at the offices of the Central Intelligence Service, where he was working at the time, my shirt covered with sweat, not necessarily as a result of the hot burning sun, but again, due to the lack of my basic needs as a student-ranging from weekly allowance (Le15, 000-Le 20,000 was manageable) for food and photocopying of reading materials. I was not just sweating which may have appeared better, but I was looking hungry and as such I was angry. Yes, hunger and anger when brought under one umbrella lead to psychological madness.

And so I was literally mad, that things were rough with me and making ends meet was very challenging. Those who could help also had their problems, but to me, Wusu was there for me.  I was thinking of my daily visits to the student’s canteen (with my constant suggestions to the woman, of “mama make am fine”) and the visits to ‘Kothor’ under the ‘wisdom tree’ for the regular supply, or call it purchase of a loaf of bread each night.

So, off, I went with the help of a friend who had paid my way down Model School and had to walk the rest to State Avenue. “Chief, tin rough me o, but look Le 5000, kam next week…” My frustration added but “next week” came and I got Le 50,000 and that was after he had got his little but a salary he was managing others with.  This is the guy that is no more. Life was very tough and challenging at the university, I must state. There was this typical African boy, given a ‘green card’ by Foday Sankoh’s RUF group to come to Freetown unprepared , but to later climb FBC to acquire some knowledge, at a time our Dad had died and an uncle unexpectedly transferred  from Freetown to the provinces. You know what that means. But we coped and made it, with people like Wusu by our side.

As a matter of fact, my going to the University was very painful and was a great miracle. My source of funding was by us, searching for job for my younger brother, and monthly take home pay, which hardly could take him home, was what we had to use to refund a loan we both had jointly signed for, for my university fees. I was to get a government grant after a year. And then by my 3rd year, when I went on internship, I was to be later employed by Talking Drum Studio, then came my turn to support my younger brother. But even these trying moments, Wusu together with the Bondis and Ernest Abraham Sesay would not relent to inspire us, that even though thinks are difficult with us, we should not relent.

‘Uncle Wusu’ was not just an uncle, but he was a personal friend. He would discuss his personal problems with me and Joe Joe, a cousin, but would hardly do with even his brothers and sisters. He took us like friend, like younger brothers and would hardly tell people we are his nephews.  Wusu Sesay would not relent to talk to us to keep working hard. “Chief, you are now suffering but don’t relent, work and ensure, you support others” His zest to help was apparent but his earning abilities were limited, but he was industrious with pride to have contributed to   our present being.

By 2009 I was with the National Revenue Authority. But two years later, I also encountered some challenging moment in my life. I fell terribly sick to the point that I was like a living corpse, not been able to walk for few days, taken to the provinces but still there was this friend by my side, together with a trusted cousin, Joe Joe.I got appointed by President Koroma to serve as Information Attached in China. Wusu’s happiness was overwhelmed, and advised that I do my best “to help those you can family… nor forget the family… we plenty but we small na de family…” He was been literal here, we are a large family of over 40 children and dozens of dozens of grandchildren, yet …having difficulties

Wusu had struggled also to save his life for the last two years or so. We did all we could, going for medical check-ups, seeing medical Doctors, to know what was wrong with him, but alas, he was on his way  ‘home’.  I could barely talking to him for less than 12 seconds on  the 27th July when I got a call that “ Wusu done sick back” from cousin Joe Joe. Uncle’s last words to me  “chief na Connaught, na Connaught…” off, the phone went, I called back, but told by Joe, “uncle Wusu nor dae talk again, John.” We battled with him, but he had to answer the call of Allah/God  on the 31st.  He had survived on a number of occasions, with one, involving us (myself, Joe Joe, the late man, my daughter and two of our aunties) travelling to the village and the  late man, driving and almost  running  into a stationary fuel tanker towards Lunsar late at night. He was an operational driver, having driven one late Captain Abu, prior to him joining the police force.

Wusu was a great family man, he was the darling of us the nephews, he was always there for us, he would have time to listen to you speak, but would calmly tell you, “chief you wrong…”   You will be missed by all, but especially by my very self, aunty Agness, aunty Subbeh, uncle Alaska and Cousin Joe Joe, amongst other family members. You left dozens of brothers and sister, but you will agree with me that within the family, there were those of us with whom you shared some kind of friendship relationship.  And those friends you have left will mourn you for years.   I can’t tell how your child, Wusnatu received the news of your death.  But it was two days after it occurred; your mum, our grand ma, was said to have behaved in an unknown manner when she had of your dead. “Yes”, I told aunty Agnes, “she just has to, since she is very old and was not expecting to lay to rest his son…”

Even as you take your final rest on Sunday in the village,  I will not hesitate to state that a gap has been left, you went so soon at 37, you left a daughter but be assured she is in safe hands,  you wife is with you no more but again, we shall meet one day . Your call for me not to forget the family still lingers in my mind even as your brothers and sisters are preparing to take your remains to the village on Saturday, for burial on Sunday.  I am not in Sierra Leone to say good bye, but we shall meet again. But in all of these,  what life has taught me,  uncle , is that we need not worry about how we live today, we should do  our best and do what we can and leave the rest to God for today you are gone, tomorrow, we know  not  who  shall join you.

Rest in peace uncle, rest in peace, please rest in peace till we meet again. Your nephew and ‘friend’ John Pa Baimba Sesay

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