I wrote this article as a tribute to one person who had played a very important role in my life and that of my mother and siblings. Uncle Pap Saine is a younger brother to my mother (Ya Fatou Saine) and both are the children of Ebrahim Saine (Mbanta) and Awa Njie (Medina Serign Mass).
Losing a father who had given all his best and did everything possible to ensure he has a happy and united family that was ready to conquer the world and overcome all the challenges it had to through at you. Losing Papa Momodou at fourteen had been one of the most shocking and heart breaking times of my life and it get to a point that the Nigerian quote I came across in a book entitle (The Concubine) by ElechiAmadi in which a young man by the name Emenike was killed by his friend Madume over a piece of land, and more for the business of Ihuoma one of the most beautiful young lady in the village of Omokachi during my high school days as a literature student, when the news reached the village elders they were in shock and knowing how respectful and hardworking Emenike was, to them for a young person like him to die at his age was something they couldn’t come to terms with and then one of them said “Death is a bad reaper and it is always after the unripe fruits”, but after a through soul searching it came back to me that Dad was not that young man but an old man who had live over 80 yrs. In situations like this you really need a support system, someone to come to your aid and feel the empty space in the family, a father figure and most importantly someone who is genuinely ready to be your support system without expecting anything in return. For us we were lucky that Allah (S.W.T) sent us a guiding Angel in our uncle (Pap Saine), he took us in to live with his family and during that period it was impossible for a stranger to know that we were really not his biological children. He gave us the comfort of a decent housing, clothing, three meals a day but most importantly the opportunity to complete our education without which may be we wouldn’t be the persons we are today.
Once again we had become a happy family again, but not knowing that it was not going to last that long as another sad episode of our lives was yet to come. In July, 2001 I woke up to the sad news of him being no more but the most shocking aspect of it was this is a person I had a very intimal conversation with while watching the rebroadcast of the 22nd July march procession before going to town and chill with friends and coming back late to sleep and only to hear a very hard knocking on my door that early morning of the 23rdJuly with a loud yelling of people and it was my grandmother that came knocking. I rush to open my house door and she came in and I could see she was shock in disbelieve, traumatise, tears rolling on her cheeks but yet she was trying to be normal and didn’t want to put me through stress and sadness as she knew I was very close to my uncle since my childhood. One thing she said that I couldn’t forget till now was a Wollof proverb “Xalamdemona be de nekh boom nga doge” wantehxamal ne Yallah du lenbaiye and for a minute I was relieve. This event has changed my life forever and I shall never be the person I was before it occurred, that young naïve young man who was living a care free life that was into most of the things my age mates were into. It had made me come to memorised and believed in the quotation below which say;
“Everybody has gone through something that has changed them in a way that they could never go back to the person they once were”
My case it was some 14 years ago, on the 23rd July, 2001. My day began as usual being an unemployed young lad who has completed high school and had the dream of changing the life of his family and everyone I could come across on the face of the earth, waking up on the early morning of 22nd July 2001 and had bread and butter with a cup of coffee as that has been the breakfast menu on daily basis. After facing the east to prostrate and seek guidance, blessings and protection from Allah (S.W.T), I had proceeded to the sitting room to greet my grandmother who had been like my biological mother. It had been my daily routine that most of my time had been spend on brewing Ataya (China Green Tea) with friends and that day was not an exception, it was late in the evening that I return home to take bath and have dinner with family as I had not been home the whole. After having had shower and sat patiently in front of the TV watching the rebroadcast of the 22nd July celebrations march procession that had happened earlier during the day in Banjul, few minutes later dinner was ready and as a family of more than fifteen we sat over a bowl of rice and ate. Later that night I had re-joined my friends at our normal meeting place Zebra (campeh) where we brew Ataya and chat about our individual dreams and what the future holds for us, zebra was one place that I could feel much more at ease with myself and for few hours forget about some of the troubles and challenges of my life. We had been together as friends for years and it get to point that it has been a family and had shared everything we have.
Late that night I came back home and retired to my single room house with a small bed that I had to share with another person. It took time for me to finally sleep and forget for a moment all the worries and challenges my everyday life. July 23, 2001 is a date I would never forget it my life, because a death happened that has gone on to change my life and my perception about life itself forever and with all honesty it went on to make me the person I am today. I was on bed in my deep sleep when a knock on my door persistent and force me up to open the door and it was my grandmother who had come to announced the sudden and never expected death of my uncle. An uncle I had look up to as a father figure, mentor and a guide, initially it was hard for me to believe as this was someone I had dinner with the night before and never look like someone who was going to die before the morning, at that point a lot had come into my mind. Why him? Why now? Who was going to be there for us like he used to? What will life offer us? But the hardest part of it all was that at a young age of 21 years I had to fill into his foot and take up the responsibility of being a family head and ever since it has been like that, having the put food on the table for the family, ensuring that both the kids and me went on to be a graduate and most important and so much dear to my heart was keeping the family united and strong as one. Walking into his room and finding his motionless body lying on his bed brought me back to reality that it wasn’t a dream but true, suddenly I remembered that “Any soul that taste life but taste death”.
After the burial and mourning, two options avail itself for me to choose from. Either I had to remain depress, shock and gave in to the situation of not having a shoulder to lean on as a support system and allow myself to be conquered by fear, failure and defeat or pick up myself and take up the challenge and bear the torch of hope and support system the family needs at that crucial point in our lives and go on to not only create a better future for myself but my family too. In having to choose among the two options, I thank Allah (S.W.T) for guiding me in choosing the latter option and though it had been a very tuff and rough journey I am always happy when looking back to measure how far we have come as a family. In live we sometimes go through hard times during which we have two options to make, either you gave in to defeat or challenge yourself to go through it in victory and become a hero to your family. Giving up is the easiest choice to make but remember “winners don’t quit, and quitters don’t win”.
I wrote this article as a form of personal therapy to get over this sad episode of my life but also as a form of encouragement to anyone going through such situation in life to see it as a challenge and go through it with positivity and believed that no challenge is too big to be conquered. Most times in such situations there is disunity within the family as some think of what to inherit, while others tries to position themselves in places of power and dominance. Experience teaches me that during this period the family needs to come together and be the support system for each other and collectively go through it together. I conclude with a verse from the holy Quran that have been my guide all this years “And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him. And if He touches you with good- then He is over all things competent” (6.Al-An’am).
By: Dabakh Malick