Leaving No One Behind
Even in death, she continues to impact. Dr. Olije chose the theme for this reflection for us. The title of her PhD thesis in Health Economics was LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND: TRACKING UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVERAGE IN NIGERIA. This is the pledge underlying Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. It prioritises the welfare of the most disadvantaged groups and reduces group based inequalities as a way of transforming the world. She was very erudite in her search for the truth and this was what she was working on before she died. Her supervisor is here with us, Dr. Lucy Kanya, to bear us witness. So, for everyone in this church this morning, in everything you do, you shall make this pledge in memory of Dr. Helen to leave no one behind as you advance in life.
In our first reading from the book of Wisdom 4:7-15, we are told that a blameless life is a ripe old age. It is the quality of life lived that matters. The passage continues that “being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones”. I believe that it was for this reason that this quote usually attributed to Maya Angelou came into existence – Our lives are measure not by how many breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.
Our response to the Psalm today says that “One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord”. Olije lived a life of a person with a good Catholic upbringing and cheerfulness. You are finally in God’s embrace. Rest on dear Sister. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans 6:9 reminds us that “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him”. We are no longer slaves to the fear of death, we are children of God. The Gospel of John 5:24, this morning, “Jesus said to the Jews [all of us gathered here], “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. The Gospel concludes with these words and this is our hope for Olije, “for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life”.
She wore her faith on her sleeves and was not afraid to live it out in the midst of cynicism towards the mystical. She championed her Catholicism like a true legionary. Her faith was deep and strong. She was a warrior on a mission; she challenged normative thinking and was interested in issues of social justice. She even left her studies to come nurse her Dad. Her experience with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, further fuelled her acts of charity in her bid not to leave anyone behind.
I listened to the tribute delivered by Samuel Wakdok on behalf of Olije’s husband, Sabastine and especially the poem of her being your soulmate. That was some deep eulogy summarising your relationship of about 15 years and your marriage of 8 years. I listened to the way Olije’s family spoke about you, not just as an in-law but as a family member. Sabastine, your relationship with Olije was special. Not many people have the opportunity to marry their soulmates. I discovered that you both won the highly coveted Chevening Scholarship together in 2017 as a couple. Who does that? It would not be an exaggeration to say that your hearts beat as one. You were in sync together Spiritually, Physically, Intellectually, in Communication and Emotionally. What a brilliant way to SPICE ones life. I have listened to you talk about her prayer life and her love for the rosary. She wore her faith on her sleeves and was not afraid to live it out in the midst of cynicism towards the mystical. She championed her Catholicism like a true legionary. Her faith was deep and strong. She was a warrior on a mission; she challenged normative thinking and was interested in issues of social justice. She even left her studies to come nurse her Dad. Her experience with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, further fuelled her acts of charity in her bid not to leave anyone behind. You were glad that she was able to receive the sacrament of the Sick before she left us. She desired to be buried with her Bible and rosary, and I trust that you will be able to grant her that wish. Olije is physically gone, but just like Jesus did not leave us without His Spirit, you shall have the comfort of the memories you shared together as you explored the world.
John Powell once said “There are only two potential tragedies in life, and dying young isn’t one of them. These are the two real tragedies: If you go through life and you don’t love … and if you go through life and you don’t tell those whom you love that you love them”. Olije lived a loving life with her soulmate. She lived life to the full. She travelled the world, broke barriers all in an attempt not to leave anyone behind. May we be consoled by the quality of life lived and not be saddened by the shortness of her life. Maya Angelou said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style”. You will all agree with me that Olije thrived with passion, compassion, humour and style. We celebrate Olije’s life. If we could have changed the hands of time, I know we would love to bring her back to life. In as much as we may not be able to control the events of life that happened to us, let us not be reduced by them. In memory of Olije, we can keep her ever young in her hearts by living out what she strove for, by not leaving anyone behind as we journey through life. If you are a policy maker, a person of influence in whatever sphere of life you are involved in, could you help us eradicate discrimination, poverty, sickness and the sense of hopelessness currently pervading our world today? If you can be deliberate about this, you would be making Olije smile wherever she is. She loved Africa and was ready to return home to make a difference. Be a difference by not leaving anyone behind.
I loved the way you used Olije’s name artfully to create an angel’s wing. I have a token of an angel’s wing to Sabastine.
Each time you wear these angel wings, feel peace within your heart. And keep her memory with you in each new day you start.
The Lord came for her, she took His loving hand.
Her leaving at this time, was in the Lord’s plan.
Although her time with you on earth seemed so very brief,
She wants you to move on now, not to linger in the grief.
Know she will be watching and guiding from above,
Sending hugs from heaven, on angel wings of love.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and rescues those whose spirit is crushed. – Psalm 34:18