WHEN DEATH STRIKES: A TRIBUTE To
The Late Ma Bonor Jallah
I have been trying and trying not to think about the untimely home-going of Mama Bonor Jallah. But even with this ambivalent state of mind, I feel a high sense of gratitude since I have been given a family responsibility of reflecting on the good life of Ma Bonor. I feel a debt of gratitude doing this not because Mama passed away so untimely, but because in my mind’s eyes, I see countless happy moments of Ma Bonor with her children and grandchildren. Left alone, I could cite a million things or instances about the innate good nature of our beloved mother, but time and space aside, there are just not enough words that would make this all possible.
Now a few months ago, while on one of her routine visits in Pennsylvania, Cousin Rose Kpana Jallah Bonar shared with me the ailing health of Ma Bonor and indicated her desire to travel and “ visit the Oldma in Liberia sometime before mid-July, 2013. Considering the declining health Ma Bonar, Rose had (in two prior discussions months earlier) spoken of “going to see the Oldma sooner, no matter what”. Even as we discussed Rose’s impending trip to see Mama, even as we discussed her deteriorating health condition, we inherently did not have a conversation about the possibility of her untimely demise. Aware of her implicit confidence in the Lord, we wished her many more happy years to come. As we always did, we recounted some of her our experiences with her, especially her recovery successes from other ailments in the not-too-distant past. We spoke lengthily about her unconditional love and sacrifices for her grand kids. All this was possible because even in her final moments, her spirit was well and alive as it had always been.
Just about midway into the Liberian civil strife, Ma Bonar accepted an invitation from Rose and Blyden Bonar (Daughter and Son-in-Law) to travel and spend a few years with the family and grandchildren in the United States. Although Mama was excited about leaving from a stressful war prone zone, she was even much more motivated by the opportunity the plan would afford her to once more unite with the grandkids, the children she hadn’t seen in a few years. Her reunion with grandchildren Willie, Bonor (name sake), BB, Jr., and SK was more telling than I can emphasize here.
To say Ma Bonor was the best mother, aunt, sister or grandmother would be a gross under-statement of her true nature. I feel utterly blessed that my memories are accurate to near-perfect when it comes to recalling some of my personal encounters with Ma Bonor. Going back in time, when we were growing up in Kakata, Liberia, the Oldma went out of her way, more often than not, to maintain a happy household with more than eight kids, including sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, etc. For each day in those many years, she woke up early and was on her way to her professional peddler marketing business by 4:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Additionally, I vividly recall that following my graduation from the elementary school in Lofa, I ganged up with a few of peers who were heading to the Firestone Plantations Company in search of a vocation job. I informed my parents about the scheduled trip just two days before the trip. Outraged, they objected to my decision, citing age as their first reason for rejection in addition to their inability to identify any competent family member with whom I would lodge while I was away. Thrilled by my ambition to travel to the coast, I sneaked out on a Monday morning and boarded a commercial vehicle headed for Monrovia with three of my teenage peers. As the trip progressed, I became outraged by fear and anxiety. To counter the fear, I intuitively began to consider alternative actions. It then turned out that even at sixteen, I experienced an inner or small voice that began not only to speak to me but redirected me in making a better choice. The voice echoed these words: Listen young boy, you know that Aunti Bonor is in Kakata, right? Ok, then stop with her. Remember, Uncle Jallah always took you around when he was in the country? Now call that intuition, smart thinking or good luck, whatever. But at sixteen, I did not influence those occurrences. The Good Lord took control and led me. At about 5:30 p.m., our vehicle reached and stopped at a Kakata gas station where I made a swift decision to end my journey. My peers were disgusted.
Not knowing where my hosts were in the city, the driver and his conductor began to track one Ma Bonor in the Buzzi quarters area. No sooner than they had begun the inquiry, the men were able to identify the Jallah’s residence. For me a repeat of this history would not matter if Ma Bonar did not receive me the way she did. On laying eyes on me, she stood in utter awe and for a few moments, appeared dumbfounded and speechless. But a few second later, she cried out “my son who bring you here?” She paid off my fare to the driver and his conductor and thanked them for bringing me. Going through a litany of names, Ma Bonar asked for every member in the family from home, beginning with Ma Kpana. Without prior knowledge of my coming in the home, Mama Bonor took me in unconditionally. What more could one ask?
For me it is out of such compelling accounts that the untimely passing of a loving Mother and Grand-mother is more than tragic and distressing, at the least. As we go through these most difficult moments in our family history, let us take courage and pray that each of us take solace in the greatness of our Lord because God led our beloved mother through a successful life's journey. What else could we ask? Don't we remember that our Mother represented one of the finest examples of women of legendary characters in our long family tradition? Though we have physically lost a loving mother and the vacuum created by her unfortunate passing may never be filled, we can surely rest assured that the Soul of Ma Bonor will rest in perpetual peace. Certainly, as believers, we will all meet again on that final Rising-up Morning and when we do so, we will together triumphantly confirm the demise of death itself! The Glory of God will prevail and the soul of Ma Bonor, and all the faithful-departed, with those of our own souls, will live on eternally and happily. Certainly, when death becomes powerless & immobile, with no more ability to strike, what a rejoicing that will be!
As we bid Mama Farewell, I join hands with all the children in praying for the peaceful repose of her soul. They include Mr. Kpagbla Kollie, Mrs. Rosetta Kpana Jallah Bonar, Mrs. S. Jallah Coleman, Mr. J. Woiwor Jallah, Mrs. Korpo Jallah Gooding, Mrs. Mamai Jallah Bryemah, and Mrs. Sangai Jallah Massalay. For twenty-two grand children who are still grabbling with this saddened event, I invoke the Lord’s support. Certainly, at a point when death becomes powerless & immobile, with no more ability to strike, what a rejoicing that will be! Rest in Peace Mama and may God Bless Your Soul.
Kpana Jallah-Bonar: 011-231-880-78-4652 or 1-301-518-1864
R. J.W. Jallah: 011-231-886-55-0899
Korpo Jallah: 011-231-88657-6414