I’ve been working on a recap of the first Yoruba-Yoruba wedding I’ve attended and that’s what I planned to put up next but I’ve just had a “moment” that I want to share with you.
Seventeen years ago, after spending a year in another province, we were moving back to the province we currently live in. I guess we had just finished a one year lease on a house, so the six members of my family needed a place to stay for approximately one month (a long time to have people descend upon your family as many of you can say from experience!) during the summer. Because it was summer, we children weren’t in school so we needed to be entertained somehow. We had no family in this province, and we had only lived there a year so no friends who could say they had really known us for that long. Nevertheless we found a place to stay…two places in fact, with friends we had made in church (if I’m not mistaken).
The details are so fuzzy (I have to talk to my sister more) but I do remember that my parents and brothers were provided with beds in one house, while my sister and I stayed close by with another family that had four daughters (at least two of whom were no longer living there as they were older and had moved out for school or something). We spent that summer going back and forth between the house and the place my parents were staying. Both sets of hosts were extremely gracious, treating us like family 100%, both of these oyinbo families. The family my parents stayed with treated us like grandchildren, and treated my parents like children (they basically showed Nigerian-style hospitality). At the house where my sister and I slept, we were closest to the mom, Brenda, and their youngest daughter, Sarah Jane.
When you remember things from childhood, it’s always those little things that stick in your mind. For years after the summer of 1993, my sister and I would talk about the mint chocolate popsicles we ate there that summer (we didn’t often get such treats in our house!) and my sister reminded me that we also had waffles there and one of the older girls in whose bedroom we stayed was a big Michael Jackson fan. I think I remember riding one of the girls’ bicycles back and forth between our two ‘homes’ for that month…we had a ball.
After we left that province, my mom kept in touch with both families but over time we lost touch. I remember hearing that Brenda had cancer; I think she may have had it before.
Sarah Jane sent me a message on facebook yesterday, asking if I had lived with them for a summer 17 years ago. I recalled her name and checked her profile…she hadn’t changed a bit from that chatty, exuberant girl…you could tell that from looking at her profile. I sent her a message saying that yes, we stayed with her family all those years ago and I asked how her family was doing. Then I carried on with my day.
I was checking Sarah Jane’s facebook profile this evening and I learned that her mother passed away 13 years ago. I became emotional because although I know it has been a long time for her family to deal with this information, it felt like it just happened hours ago.
I called my sister and told her that Sarah Jane had contacted me on facebook and the first thing she asked is how her mom was doing. I burst into tears, and I’m still crying as I write this, which is silly, but I’m comforted that this woman who was always smiling and was so generous still lives in her youngest daughter (who was only seven or eight years old when we knew her). I don’t know what made Sarah Jane think of my family, but I am thankful that she did and I’m thankful for what her family did for ours all those years ago. I was a kid myself back then; I didn’t fully understand the true impact of having to feed and entertain two more people in your house for a month. Brenda’s family went out of their way to make us comfortable; in actuality we were far more than just “comfortable”. The fact that we lost contact may have made them think that we never think of them but we did. My parents especially have never forgotten the year we spent in that province and the kindness of our newfound friends. My dad has always said we have to write our life story because God has brought amazing people into our lives just when we needed them, and I totally agree. This is yet another example of that.
So although I’m 13 years and 10 days late, I have to say Rest in peace, Brenda. You will never be forgotten.
And my message, cheesy as it may be, is to encourage you to thank God for all the people He’s brought into your life, and all the opportunities you’ve been given to touch the lives of others. When I first got the message from Sarah Jane, I was in the car, at a red light. When I finished scanning the message, before I had any idea what I would discover about Brenda over 12 hours later, I had a big smile on my face and I said out loud “this is what I’m passionate about, human connections”. I don’t know what the point of that was but I believe that without human connections, life is not worth living. If your life revolves around serving yourself and only doing things for yourself, I suspect you live a very empty life. It’s easy to get selfish and self-centred; I often do, but Brenda’s life has reminded me (and hopefully you) to reach out and allow yourself to be touched. Not every person you reach out to will grab hold of your hand warmly or reciprocate in kind, but don’t let that deter you. Life is all about the connections we make so please, keep making them. It’s what you will be remembered by.