Since death is inevitable, there is only one painful truth we have to contend with when we lose someone dear to us. It is no longer possible to see, hold or communicate with the deceased as when they were with us. Perhaps it is the unknown of where they have gone and for their souls that emotionally trouble those that they left behind.
I write this tribute to my late Aunt. Mrs Agnes Fatu Keili who passed away at the Segbwema hospital on New Year’s Day. I deeply mourn her loss, and I regret the fact that I was not able to visit her in Mobai in February last year when I travelled to Sierra Leone to support my cousin Andrew’s Kelli’s campaign for the SLPP standard bearer. But I am sure Aunty would have been proud for my time and the support I gave to support Andrew.
I was privileged to grow up in the Kelli household in Bo where, discipline, honesty, respect for others, fear of God and hard work were instilled and highly valued. Aunty Agnes and Bishop not only raised tens of children from the extended family during their life time, but also other children from people they hardly knew.
The Keili household was like an institution where everyone was given equal attention and care for their welfare and social development. It was not easy for a casual visitor to distinguish between the real siblings of Aunty from others because everyone called her Aunty. Indeed, at no time did Andrew, Michael, David, Joy, Hannah, Joseph, Francis and Christian (deceased)ever call her mom. She was Aunty to us all and Aunty to the Bo community.
|Beautiful Photos of Late Mrs. Fatu Agnes Keili (nee Coomber) from youth to old age
Aunty was by nature a good person. She dedicated her life to supporting those who were less fortunate in society. She gave so much to others and worried so much about the welfare of others even when she had little for herself. She had a strong sense of duty as a mother, a teacher and a wife. She combined these challenging duties and discharged them with unflinching commitment and passion. Although, there was a domestic assistant at home, Aunty would come home during her school lunch break to supervise the cooking because the female cook could not cope with the pressures we put on her to increase our individual portion of food. Aunty stepped in to ensure there was fair play. It was only after I married in the UK and started raising children that I appreciated the enormous sacrifices parents have to make in bringing up children and valued the responsibility that goes with marriage and family life.
To the Bo community at large, to whom she gave close to 4 decades of service to education and the mothers union, she was a pillar of strength and hope to many who knew her.
One of my indelible memories of Aunty is that despite their status, she and Bishop Keili were more concerned with the welfare of ordinary people. They lived a very simple but genuinely happy and accomplished life. Aunty never argued or raised her voice in front of us even when she disagreed on issues with her husband and up to this day I recommend this as the most civilised way to bring up a disciplined, cultured and cohesive family.
In today’s harsh world our strength and sense of values to society should not be calculated by the personal wealth we accumulate, but our moral obligations and how we cared for and treat those who are less fortunate. Aunty was such a person; a compassionate, kind person who was strong in her Christian faith that guided her to extend a helping hand to those neglected even by their own communities. She raised her adopted son from a Limba family in the north and educated him up to a College level.
She housed and fed those who were made homeless. I knew of an old blind woman who was beaten up and thrown out on the street by her family members who had accused her of being a witch. Aunty took her. The old woman became a member of the Keili household enjoying the same facilities as anyone of us in the house.
For some of us who have been very concerned about the level of selfishness and greed that is tearing apart the social fabric of Sierra Leone, there is still hope as we have been a witness to how and why love and kindness remain the ultimate salvation for a cohesive and civilised nation. This is her legacy. She lived a fruitful life and left us with a job well done.
Where she had pain, it was because she wished she could have done more; where she had disappointment it was because there is so much tension and vices in contemporary Sierra Leone; and where she had hope it was because she raised all her children with the right values of respect, honesty, hard work and love for humanity. Today, the Keili siblings are strong and good citizens of Sierra Leone, who have excelled in their various field.
To build a nation that is tolerant and law abiding, it is important that we love, respect and be fair to our neighbours. The starting point is from within the family where social ethics and progressive values are learnt. This has been Aunty’s greatest achievement and it is for all parents to believe in this concept of raising a good family as this is what our county needs if we want to see a nation that is stable, cohesive and law abiding.
Even in adversity, I am sure Andrew, Michael, David, Joy, Hannah, Joseph and Francis will remain shining examples of their mother’s legacy.
Aunty will be laid to rest on 22 January 2012 at her late husband’s home, Baiima in the Mandu Chiefdom, Kailahun District after a funeral service at the Local Anglican Church in Freetown and Bo. This will be preceded by a service of remembrance at Christ Church Freetown on January 20 and another one in St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Bo, where her late husband was the first Anglican Bishop.
May god grant her a save passage to his Kingdom for an eternal peace.
Yankuba Gbassa Kai-Samba
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.