From Awareness Times Newspaper in
TRIBUTE TO A DEAR FRIEND AND SISTER, MRS VICTORIA PAT-SOWE (nee FRENCH)
By HAJA MARIAMA SERAY KALLAY.
Sep 29, 2014, 12:00
A few times in life, someone walks into your life, and you realize that you have been touched by a miracle.”My dear dear Vicky, my African Queen!”, the way I greeted her was one such person in my life. Up until her last breath, she not only proved to be a friend, but a real sister in all sense of the word, except by birth. Vicky was always bubbling. Just about two years ago, she went from a bad and persistent cough, to being diagnosed with lung cancer, to which she finally succumbed on August 1, 2014, and was laid to rest after a befitting funeral service at the United Brethren Church, Regent Road, Freetown.
Vicky’s faith in the Almighty God was remarkable, and was what saw her through until the last phase of her life. She was very prayerful and always sought the Almighty’s guidance on all matters in her life. She was an ardent worshiper, who attended Sunday Church service regularly as long as she was able to get up and walk. Most times, my house would be the next stop after church. We would either relax on my bed or sit in the kitchen and continue our discussions from where we left the night before. Sometimes she would come over just to pick up rice pap, beans and banana fritters she would have me prepare for her to entertain her husband and his regular Sunday guests.
In the beginning of the year not long before her last trip to Ghana, the United Brethren Church of which she was a member, had a fund raising activity and its female members were divided into groups. The group that topped the list was going to be specially recognized. For Vicky, it was not about the recognition but she knew her group was depending on her and she did not want to let them down. I was handed some envelops which I was expected to distribute. When Vicky came to collect them the day before she was to turn them in, she discovered that the majority of them were empty. She was so despondent believing that she had let her group down. I came up with a solution for us to fill up the empty envelops with the names of my household members and some other persons. Soon after Church service the next day, even before getting to my house, she called to say that her group topped the list. That was my dear dear Vicky, serving God in any way possible!
|The Late Mrs Victoria Pat-Sowe |
I first met Vicky soon after she and her family relocated from London in England, to Maryland in the United States of America in the mid 1990’s. She was introduced to me by her husband, Honourable Captain Allieu Patrick Sowe, a lifelong friend and brother to my husband and I. I became very close to Vicky during the last thirteen years of her life, and I cherished and will continue to cherish each and every moment of that time. What a sister I found in her, in good times and in bad times.
Vicky’s love for, and dedication to her family, was beyond reproach. It surmounted everything else except her love and worship for the Almighty. She was the epitome of a “good and obedient” wife. Through all those years I had known her, she was hard working and served her family as a good wife, mother and sister, except when she no longer had the energy to do so.
She loved her husband to death and always demonstrated that all the time I was around. That was one of her qualities that I respected her for. About two weeks before she passed, I was standing outside of the hospital ward she was admitted in, when her husband came to visit her. No sooner their son, Omar, came out he went straight to his dad and urged him to go see his wife as she had been asking about him. As soon as Vicky saw Hon. Capt. Pat Sowe, her eyes lit up as she smiled. That was a demonstration of the depth of love that she had for her husband. It just happened that it was my birthday and I was wearing one of the African attires she had designed for me; and that too made her happy. I left shortly so as not to excite her that much, considering the state that she was in.
Omar was Vicky’s hand and glove; her “walking stick”. That was, up until his last year in school when like most adolescents, he started becoming independent of her and Vicky would at first not want to accept the fact. In the past December month, we had started organizing a 21st birthday bash for Omar, which would have been at my place as it is very spacious. Vicky wanted so much for it to be a show with a display of the latest Marquees and other settings and decorations, but it was not to be.
Vicky also thought Isha, her daughter and eldest child through life. Isha was a university graduate who works as Assistant Course Organiser at the Judicial College in London. She would tell me time and again how Isha had grown to be a lady, how she somehow was a little bit on the conservative side, and how she was so happy that she had been engaged to be married. I was delighted to meet her when she came to visit her mum during her last few weeks at the hospital.
In America, Omar would be there in the kitchen giving a hand to his Vicky when she had a catering event. When Vicky had to cater for a large number of people, even her Uncle Pat Sowe had to be at hand. A vivid memory of that was on my eldest daughter’s wedding reception when Vicky prepared delicious Sierra Leonean cuisine to supplement the in-house cooking. Uncle Pat Sowe went back and forth dressed in an apron, delivering huge pots of jollof rice and other cooked food; the guests had just started arriving. It was a vivid exhibition of his support to his dear wife.
Kingsley, her second child, I did not have the opportunity to meet. But I believe Vicky always had him at heart, and thought of him all the time.
Vicky loved her siblings and relations. Some of them proved to be a big disappointment to her especially during her last phase in life. But she was a person who bore no grudge for anyone. The love, care, and protection Vicky had for her brother, Syl Goba, lasted until death parted them, and it was mutual. I remember the times Syl and I would be together, shed and shed our tears away on Vicky’s ailment. I always likened Vicky’s love for her relations to the one I have for my siblings. One minute, she would be all over Syl. It will be all about Syl. The next minute, it’s Seray! “I am not going to have anything to do with Syl. He did so and so”. The next minute, she will call me, “oh, Syl is around and I have to help him out with this or that”. What I will never forget is the moment Syl was appointed Deputy Minister of Lands, Country Planning and Environment. On being told of the appointment, Vicky insisted and we did organize a dinner for him and his wife the next Friday, at the Atlantic Club. She did not stop there, Syl coming from Njala, Vicky got her husband to do all it took to enable Syl and his family settle down before he took up appointment. That was Vicky. Her patience and care with a capacity to endure suffering without becoming frustrated was a testimony of the love she had for her family, friends and all.
To her family, I say “Take heart!” “Trust not the Lord by feeble sense, but praise Him for His grace. Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”
She was so full of hope and believed that no matter what trials and difficulties she faced, if she worked through them with confidence and a smiling face, she would eventually surmount them. That was why the last time we spoke in the first week of the past month of June, the understanding was that she would travel to Nigeria to receive prayers from a certain formidable Evangelist. The second week in June, she called while I was in the bathroom, and then spoke to my husband in an angry tone about some adverse publications in a newspaper that she heard was being done about me. I unfortunately could not call back as I was confronted with the news that she had suddenly turned for the worse.
Her love for children, she told me, was the determining factor in her decision to go further with her nursing career and become a trained Pediatric Nurse. Even before becoming a nurse, she had trained as a certified caterer, and held the position of Manager in the catering section of one of the then top hotels in the center of London until her departure for the United States of America. In America, she practiced both professions exquisitely, catering for weddings, Lodge functions, social and political events whilst also organizing Christmas parties every December for less fortunate children and other persons in her neighborhood, which she did until last December... Vicky died survived also by two female infants she had informally adopted into her family. That was my dear dear Vicky, wanting for them a better life always as well as serving humanity in her own small way. Undoubtedly, she would be missed by all and sundry!
Vicky had so many other virtues and that, I believe, was what made her have a presence in any circumstance whatsoever. Meeting Vicky for the first time, one appreciated that she had pedigree. Indeed she hailed from a good stock, the renowned French family of Bonthe Sherbro Island. It was therefore no surprise that she had a deep sense of honesty and integrity. Her regard for other people’s feelings was unique in my experience with her. It was remarkable. Not that Vicky was afraid of hurting people, but certainly it had nothing to do with gaining anyone’s estimation of her either.
Indeed, as noted above, Vicky had a deep sense of honesty and integrity.One of her virtues was that of giving when she thought it was necessary. Her soul rejoiced when she could say yes! and realised that she had contributed to humanity somehow. Notwithstanding her ill health, which caused her personal earnings to dramatically reduce, she was still able on a constant basis to support some of her less fortunate friends with food items and monies from what she got from her husband, Honourable Captain Pat Sowe. Sometime late last year, Vicky called me up early in the morning just before I left for work, to inform me that a mutual friend had a misfortune and was in dire need of financial assistance, and that we should both help her out. My response was that the friend was not being fair to her knowing that she was in and out of hospital, which was already a costly exercise for her and her husband. She retorted by giving me a short lecture on life: “If you were in my situation, your response would be the same because we both appreciate that at any given moment in life, there are those who are better off than us, and there are those that we are better off than”. She got me on that that day! That was Vicky; a simple demonstration of how her soul rejoiced whenever she could say yes! to someone in need, knowing that she had contributed to humanity somehow.
Vicky was full of life, always bubbling and looking radiant even in casuals. Her sense of style was immaculate. Sometimes, it was she that would persuade me to attend certain social functions. She was ever ready.
We were both optimistic despite the odds, however. For her to have survived her ailment for so long when usually lung cancer patients would survive for an average of about three months was the mystery of the Almighty God, who wanted her to live long enough to continue to enrich our lives. The affinity we had for each other surmounted all human interventions and interference. Only death separated us!
There is not a day that I do not think about my dear dear Vicky, my African Queen. She was giving; she made me and everyone around her laugh. She astonished me with her bravery and wonderful way of looking at life and the mysteries around us. My life has truly been enriched with the conversations we shared. Vicky was a woman of valor and that is what made her so special. That is how Mrs. Victoria Pat Sowe nee French should be remembered.
My dear dear Vicky, my African Queen, I miss you so dearly. Not a day goes by without me having fond memories of you. Councilor Mariama Seray, Fatou Turay, friends at the Water Spot at Percival Street, friends at Mountain Cut, London, Maryland, California all miss you. We all pray that the Almighty God grant you eternal rest. May your precious lovely soul rest in peace!
I end my tribute with a befitting quote by Joyce Meyer, slightly adapted: “A strong woman knows how to keep her life in order. Even with tears in her eyes, she still manages to say “I’m ok” with a smile. You were a strong woman. That was why God heard your prayers and said hard times are over, come sleep and take your rest”.
© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.