It was the last day of the semester, my first year in university—a rather wretched semester I must say; the hallways were overrun with students, most of whom had showed up for a friend’s Dionysian cocktail hosted in his room. I was feeling a bit under the weather that evening: I had a terrible chesty cough and to my dismay, got admitted the following day—which was to be the beginning of my vacation—at my dad’s clinic for about two weeks. My cough had worsened and a slew of mad mosquitoes had done great justice to me as well.
Day in, day out, teams of medical personnel and family members poured into my ward; “Dela, how are you feeling today?” was the usual greeting: a kind gesture on the their part that soothed my woebegone state brought about by the thoughts of sickness, death and purpose, that invaded my mind. I believe these thoughts began when one of the senior specialists called my parents out of my ward to have a private talk with them. I recall laying on my back and praying to God to heal me and to let me fulfil His calling for my life for I did not want to pop off. I was a nineteen year old geek filled with a myriad interests, and at that moment, when I came face to face with what my entire being perceived to be close to an end, I beseeched God to give me another chance….this was ten years ago.
Do you know her?
On the morning of the thirtieth of March, as I stood chatting with my brother in law, he reached over to a dresser and picked what looked like a flyer. “Dela, do you know this girl?” he asked, ” I think she attends Agape House, your church.” Initially I didn’t want to accept what my eyes saw; my mind wanted to believe that I was holding a program for a function other than a funeral brochure. She was twenty years old, and most of all, a part of a bible fellowship I had headed less than two years ago. I couldn’t believe the news: Laquaye Nartey was gone! Memories of my first fellowship meeting with her played back in my mind. During that meeting—and she was the only one who showed up that day—we spoke primarily about the hurts many young adults were going through. She told me about a couple of friends she was trying to counsel, some of whom were going through deep hurts and family problems and I sent her articles from this website in the hopes of helping them. That’s was our last and only fellowship meeting together. Why I never organised another, I don’t know, and whether or not we could have had a meeting or prayed together before her sudden death, I don’t know. As I reminisced on our last lengthy encounter, tears filled my eyes; in a way, I felt like an incompetent leader. I recall the day she joined my bible fellowship group. I was outside the church campaigning when this young girl walked up to me and asked if she was in the right place; I said yes and geared up to tell her how good our group was going to be and how touched she will be by our interactions. And after finding out that we attended the same high school, Achimota School, I joked about our serendipitous encounter being a sign from above. She and two others joined; I was deeply touched and I treasured her support. We spoke just a couple of times after my first and only bible study with her; I probably thought I could always revive the group and continue from where we left off; little did I know, that in close to two years she will be no more.
The Saint is Gone
At my grandfather’s funeral, which occurred a week before Laquaye’s; as I sat next to his casket in church, listening to his tributes, and reminiscing on his life, I began to think about life. Why will people cry when you are no more? Is it because you were rich or attractive? No! It came to me that people cry only at the loss of a person who truly impacted their lives in a deep way. People cry because they feel the loss of ‘something’ great. And our tears and grief are as a result of the realisation of this loss. People cry when they look at you in the casket because the real you, your personality—the love you expressed through your demeanour—will be experienced no more. I realised that I missed my grandfather, and all who spoke about him did as well because of the healthy relationships he established, and the experiences he shared with those he loved; it wasn’t because of his money, it was all because of him, the person.
In writing my grandfather’s tribute, I realised how beautifully my grandfather had impacted our lives. Our deep conversations about Ghana’s future, his desire to see me pursue a stable career path when I finished university which actually led to our conversations about Ghana; the encouraging words he gave to a boy over 60 years younger than he; the way he teased us which I believe filtered down the family tree; his ever burning desire to do us good and to give us books and advice that would better our lives and so forth. And yes that whopping he gave me when I slapped him as a kid. He didn’t spare the rod and spoil us. I can think of no evil when I remember him, only smiles, for he made it a point always to put a smile on our faces. Grandpa was an amazing man, and thinking about all this made me ask myself, how will we all be remembered? Thinking about this made me wonder how I would have been remembered should the worst have happened to me back at the hospital years ago: as an introvert who cared not about people? As an attention seeking youngster? As a curious brother who was always fidgeting with home electronics? I don’t know! My grandpa had his biography written down ending with the words ‘rest in peace’ years before he passed. He knew the legacy he had left behind, he knew the impact he had made and I believe in a way, he was ready. But how about my friend who popped off at a very tender age? Apparently she had made a great impact in the lives of people, and I say this not just because of the little I know about her, but in her final words—written by her and taken from her funeral brochure—to the world.
At the moment most of us are just students, believers etc., who just pray selfishly to God to make their dreams a reality, and that is it. They acknowledge Him because they know “if I don’t do right I’m not getting there”….and that’s it.
How about not being just this but being someone who can put others before him/her. Someone who can pray for others. Someone who helps or devotes his or her time to make a change in the lives of others. Someone who sets time apart to find out the needs of others and makes the effort to make a difference in that person’s life. Sometimes it’s not about solving their problems. It’s about letting them know that they can survive the storm. That will be who you are..The person with the “adjective.” A person who can put a smile on anybody’s face with just a word. A person with that different touch. You dont have to wait until you are living in those dreams of yours to start. What if your life on earth is shorter than you expect it to be? That’s why all we can say about some of our friends who die early is, “Oh he/she was a lovely person, full of smiles, a good child, friendly etc.” everybody has these qualities…so what difference did the person make? He or she just lived…that’s all!
But from today you are not going to be a person just living but a person with an “adjective” [Amen] attached to him/herself.
…..Unless you are a person with the plus people will never have a vision of you. Be a person whose future someone can visualise as promising just by seeing your face. You can only be this if you are the person with a plus. Now tell someone “Get an adjective attached to your name…Add a plus to who you are now”.
Then you can conclude for yourself that you are not just a person who realised his or her dreams but had a plus attached to it. Remember that all this is only possible with God and Grace.
[Your ultimate plus is Jesus and all other ‘plusses’ will surface]
Laquaye Korkor Nartey.
These words—her legacy—embody the girl I spoke to during our bible fellowship. In a way I can’t believe she is gone…but I doubt my unbelief will change a thing. She was a sweet girl who had a great desire to see other lives bettered, and she will always have a place in my heart; thank you Laquaye Korkor Nartey, may your soul rest in perfect peace. And to my grandpa Daddy Acquaye, I say a big thank you for being a great grandfather and Saint. Till we meet again, may your impact spread beyond the walls of Ghana and cause many souls to “add a plus [Jesus] to who we are now.”