Tonight, 17th may 2020, when a friend called me at 9:43 PM, to inform that she had just passed away, I initially thought it was an “April Fool” joke but I later remembered that we’re actually in May. A quick look on social media confirmed what I feared the most. And even as now as I’m writing: I still can’t believe it.
I met Sally through the YALI RLC Training at GIMPA where we spent 5 intensive weeks together with over a 100 other young African from 9 countries. Fun, supportive and very friendly, we easily connected and became friends naturally.
At the end of the YALI training in August 2017, we remained in contact through social media and WhatsApp. I secretly admired her boldness, courage and positive attitude towards life. As many of us, she has been through serious storms and losses in her life but has always respond positively and never set back.
During the YALI, I never knew she was suffering from any sickness and someone couldn’t have imagined that since she was vibrant, full of joy and energy. It is only when she came in Ghana last year October for medical exams and treatment that I knew, her health wasn’t perfect.
As I look back, I’m realizing the huge privilege I had to host her during her 2 weeks stay in Ghana. Through our conversations, I got to know her more and here are few lessons I’ve learned from her.
1.Don’t make conclusions based on the outward appearance of people
You should never judge someone if you have never been in the person’s shoes.Sometimes, we are quick to judge people base on outward appearance but except we get closer to someone and hear their story, we might never understand their attitude, actions and appreciate their uniqueness. You might never know what others are going through unless you get close to them. So let’s learn not to look at the “outward appearance, but [as] the Lord, [let’s] look at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).
I initially thought Sally was rude, that perception drastically changed when I got close to her. I discovered a woman with a large heart, caring, courageous and funny with her own internal struggles as any of us. I am not saying she was perfect: none of us are; but she certainly God’s work in progress.
2.Live. Laugh. Love
Any memories I have from Sally, she always had a smile on her face. When I look to any picture of her, she is smiling. Smile was our common ground, a common denominator. We loved cracking jokes and laughing from each other. Through her, I got to know that the ability of laughing of our difficulties, is a sign of maturity and confidence in God.
But beyond anything, Sally’s greatest source of joy and the reason behind her smile, was her son “Paul”. He represented [CE1] both her most difficult and beautiful times of her life. She was so proud of him and always ready, to go the extra-mile to give him the best. Working hard as a Sport Journalist to assure him a brighter future.
3.Value and fully enjoy every moment in life
Life is short and we often forget that. Time is the greatest currency on earth, but we often waste it on things that do not really matter in life: seeking after money, power, fame or influence. Sally was someone who knew how to enjoy every bit of moment in life. The first week of her stay in Ghana, she frankly told me that my life was quite boring and invited me to spice it up with more leisure and fun activities.
We started playing ludu together and she often went out for shopping and hangouts with other YALI Friends (Anna, Jason etc.)
4. Don’t be egocentric: value and nurture relationships.
True friends are gold. We all know that, but we often neglect to nurture our relationships. We get busy at chasing our dreams, moving from one goal to another, and forgetting our friends along the journey.
After the announce of Sally’s death, many started feeling guilty, for not checking up on her since YALI training ended in August 2017 . One member of the WhatsApp group commented:
The message above expresses our egocentric and selfish nature. Many suddenly remembered how important it’s to look after each other, to be our brother or sister’s keepers as God invited us to. But except we are filled with the Love of God, it’s difficult to genuinely and consistently show love to others, mostly when we know we can’t get “anything back” from there. Sometimes, we only wait on people’s birthday to share our wishes or write them a text message. There are some people from whom you’ll just hear from them, when you have your birthday… or when you die. They would difficultly or never check on you with a selfless interest, just to know how you are doing.
But I do believe that is not what God has called us to live like this. Even though I know nobody is perfect, I do believe that we can all better ourselves when we intentionally decide to do so and develop habits to regularly nurture our relationships, especially with those we expect nothing from.
5. Rejoice Always: there is hope in the midst of pain.
Even though my heart bleeds after the sudden depart of my friend Sally, I’m still able to find the strength to rejoice for I believe she is now with Heavenly Father. When she was in Accra, I got to know she was an active member, serving as a Christian counselor in a local church in Liberia. She came along with me to Agapè House New Testament Church whenever possible and I know she was a born-again Christian. As a believer, her death is not a period, but a comma in the story of her life.
Many stories are told about aliens invading our planet. Christians are really aliens who land for a while on this earth and then go to their true home: Heaven. This world is not our Home, our citizenship is in Heaven. Therefore:
“The believing Christian has hope as he stands at the grave of a loved one who is with the Lord, for he knows that the separation is not forever. It’s a glorious truth that those who are in Christ never see each other for the last time.”Billy Graham
John Milton once said: “Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity”. No wonder Paul expressed his, “…desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). We should live as Paul did, serving faithfully and anticipating Christ’s return.
Heaven is a place and not just an experience. Jesus said, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go… I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am” (John 14:2-3)
A poet said:
“Wish me “Bon Voyage”
As you do a friend
Whose joyous visit finds its happy end.
And bid me both “a Dieu!”
And “au revoir!”
Since, though I come no more
I shall be waiting there to greet you,
At His door”.
6. Let’s be always ready to die 😊
All of us must prepare to meet God while we are still living. The first truth in life after we are born, is that we shall surely die one day. We may not know the details on the exact time, but we are all certain of that. Someday everyone will stand before God’s throne and give an account of himself or herself.
Beside the shock of her sudden departure, Sally’s death must remember us about the brevity of life and the fragility of human being. It’s a call for each one of us to reassess our life priorities and reflect upon our trajectory:
are we having purpose driven life? Our achievements, are they aligned with God’s ambition for our lives? Our priorities and principles are they truly reflected in how we spend our time? Do we always put God first or do we only seek Him when there is a need or emergency? Are we valuing people for who they are and not for what they have? And most importantly, are we ready to die? If it happens that you are suddenly called by the Father, what would be your legacy?
These are some of the reflections I’m currently going through, and my prayer is for God, not only to comfort Sally’s family, friends and colleagues, but also to use this event to minister to us. For “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28)
If there is anything that you learned from Sally or any good memory of her, kindly share it in comment.