‘Yeriba boita kunoluu janjanta’ (The big tree has fallen and all the birds are scattered!)
She was a mother of many characters;
At an early age she taught us how to be self-reliant and not to be dependent on anyone; self-content and not to beg or be subservient to gain from a person what our people call ‘ndigu’;
‘Gorr Yombul’ dignity is earned we stood high in our peers and she ensured we lack nothing with self-reliance; she narrated to me that she never hesitated to do anything that will earn her dignified money; that she has been going to the bush to bring firewood which she would be splittingby herself and also charcoal to sell in order to supplement the household income for the upkeep of her family. She has never allowed the man as the sole bread winner. For over 50 years up to her demise, she has been selling vegetables and other condimentsat the Banjul Albert Market and became a successful market woman. It was the proceeds from this trade which she used to ensure that all her children male and female are educated.
Her word was her bond and she never wavered if she was convinced that she was right and does not care what others might think and that took many people off who disagreed with her.
To me, I never disobeyed her up to the extent that my younger siblings accused me of spoiling her.
“It is you who makes her naughty, tell her the truth;” they would be saying but I refused to be rude to her and always finds an opportune time to have a frank talk with her which she very much appreciated.
She was a mother that made us what we are today and we will never stop talking about her many characters until we meet again.
She trained us as ‘dohandem’ (strangers) and her reason and her reason was as she said “I want you to be resilient and this is why I am giving you this hard training to make you storm any weather because I’ll not be always there for you as I can die any time.”
Some disagreed with her and pitied our harsh training, but it benefitted me in later life because it gave me tolerance to be able to move with every kind of person and to love labour because she taught us all the skills needed to live anywhere in the world. This had greatly helped me when I travelled with my late husband for greener pasture in another land.
I accepted everything from her and whenever my siblings troubleor make her angry she would come to my home and vent all her anger upon me and I accept it in good faith and never returned any word back to her. I fearedand kept her in great awe until the last moments of her life when she died in my hands.
As a Philanthropist
She has opened 20 shops for people not related to her but just to help them live independent lives. When women come to her to complain about their husbands she would first ask them whether it is about fish money:
“Is it about ‘depass’ (fish money)?” She would ask. If the answer is in the positive, she would then give them moneyfor that day for fish money but would further advice and provide money for them as start- up capital to engage in petty trade to supplement the income of their husband for the upkeep of the household.
“I’ve educated my children who are now independent but I’m not dependent on them for my survival. They are not happy that I am still selling at the market but who cares? I’mearning income through the dignity of my labour and I’m free to help the poor and needy unbeknowing to them.”
Mom has also been always cooking and providing food for the poor and needy. She was giving out loans to people with the condition: “If you let it known to my children I’ll never forgive you.”
“She asked us in life never to reveal it, but it is honourable for those of us she had given loans to come forward and tell the family and leave it to their discretion to forgive or ask us to pay,” said someone who attended her funeral.
Mom was also providing cooked food to people staying in some car parks in Banjul. This was a project she called ‘Boli Dohandem’ (food for strangers). She was also doing the same during the fasting month of Ramadan.
We once heard from people that a lot of money was stolen from her safe at the market before she performed her second pilgrimage but when one of the siblings went to enquire from her, she admonishingly replied: “Who told you? The person who took it has a need for it. I’m not reporting any matter to any police. Go and mind your own business.”
We also heard from people at the funeral that she went with a particular person to a branch of the Reliance bank to open an account but we still cannot ascertain who this person is or whether it is true.
That was our mom. A woman of many characters. We cannot be like her but will strive to do good to earn the respect and admiration of people.
She has been blessed with children, grand children and great grand- children. She cried when she held one of her great grand – children while in her hospital bed.
May Allah grant her and my compassionate dad Baaba Conteh of blessed memory Arjannah Firdausi.
Rest in perfect peace mom (Aja Isha Yaboye Sarr) and dad Abdoulie Baaba Conteh until we meet again!
Eldest Sibling (Aja Kujajah (Aunty Kuje) Conteh (Tunkara).