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27 years Today Since Anyan Left Us

Her parents named her Tanneh. Her siblings called her Chinchyne  meaning "Little" in an affectionate way. At an early age, she would get married to one of the most intelligent, wisest and kindhearted men of their generation and become Anna Tuopay-Tanneh Jah.We all called her Anyan, that was my eldest sister's attempt in pronouncing the name Anna. She would be my mother and the sweetest lady I know, the best cook, the most caring nurse, my favorite story teller and all time best soloist on the planet. I would go with her everywhere she went and took it as a compliment to be called mommy's baby. That special bond for a last child became my hope even when everything else  didn't seem to work in my favor.

At times when the farm work was tough, we stayed on the farm and commuted to Doodwicken for school. From Gbakuken (the farm) to Doodwicken was about an hour’s walk that was when you “walk like a man.” Sometimes when I was tire or still sleepy to just hit the hour long road to school, Anyan would give me a piggyback ride for almost a quarter of the journey to cross the first creek called Wea-ne before turning back on the farm to begin her day's activities. I was perhaps the youngest of all those making the early morning trek to school. There were other school children from the nearby villages of Chetugbah, Chaltehken and Pomenken all heading the same direction. Being late for school meant punishment – either being whipped or cutting grass so we made sure to cross the last creek before the first bell rang. By the time the second bell tolled, all should  assemble to raise the flag or else you would be sorry for yourself. Late comers got between 2-5 lashes in their palms or on their backs depending on the mood of the executioner.

In our area, being young had a lot of disadvantages but being her last born gave me some privileges to cope with those challenges. And where it was tough for me, Anyan would carry me. I was smaller in size than many in my age group and therefore lagged behind in some of the physical activities boys of my age should be doing. When climbing a tree, for instance, was hard as I practiced, she would go with me to give me a push. Whenever others tried to put me down because of what they believed were my shortcomings, Anyan would step in and assure me that I was making remarkable improvements. At that time, even adults became what we know today as bullies but Anyan cared and would always have a rebuttal for their cheap shots. When the food was not much, she would go without a full stomach or as we say “tie her stomach” and save her last for me. Believe me when I tell you that in our part of the world where almost everything is determined on the basis of age ranking, being a child was tough but it would take all the love, care and protection of a loving mother for me to survive what we knew as a man’s world. So my safety and assurance of a better future were found in her. Early in the morning when she rose to pray, I heard her pray for her children. She would mention me by name and I was assured that God heard her prayers and was always with me.

While I was in Monrovia and she in Doodwicken, my mom would send me my favorite fan rice and coconut oil every now and then. I would send letters back periodically on the progress I was making in school and in the big city. I just got promoted to the 12th grade and was looking forward to an exciting senior year. It did not take long after she came to spend time with us when the unexpected happened. Together in Suburban Monrovia, we had celebrated a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New year with all the hope and expectations. Mama even attended the Annual LCA church conference held in Bong Mines that year. At the close of the church convention, she took sick and would eventually die as a result. Those who saw her leave Doodwicken for her last trip to Monrovia told me that it seemed that she knew that she was never going back judging by the way she put everything into place before departing. Looking back, they agreed that she might have had the feelings that her journey on earth was about to end and was making sure to do all the Lord has asked of her before her time could come.

It has been long 27 years since Anyan went to be with the Lord but how come the grief is like it happened yesterday?  I have grown to the point of growing some strands of grey hair and raising my own family but the hurt and sore refused to heal with age. Losing a mother at a young age is excruciatingly painful and there are no words to describe the feeling; everyday it takes you back to that stage when your mother was everything to you. 

RIP mama; I am a grown man now and all of us are doing very well. I have taught your grand kids your favorite gospel song “O how I love Jesus” both in English and Jeadepo/Grebo and I told them a lot about you. That love for Jesus which you not only sang but lived stays with me forever and I can assure you that I have passed it on to the next generation. Interestingly, that same love for Jesus gives me the hope that I will see you again and hear you call me “diahju, nueme” and all the wonderful names you called me when I did something that was so pleasing to your heart. Although you were not able to eat from my hands as a fruit of your labor, I know you are in a better place where all the things for which we toil incessantly matter no more. Anyan I love and miss you more than words can describe and before another tear drop from these watery eyes of mine, I say sleep on, dear mother.

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