Last week I had the honour and privilege to attend the funeral of a loved one at the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains- Mountains of the Moon, in western Uganda. She was born a simple, ordinary woman but died at 95 years of age as a rich and powerful woman.
As celebrant after celebrant paid tribute to her, I was forced to take an inventory of my personal life. Without any hesitation, I realized that there were many things I needed to improve on and I had to do better at sharing the gifts and talents that God gave me. I needed to go from just being good to being better and doing good every day.
They say that: “At a funeral, the eyes of the dead one are closed while those of the living are opened.”
My eyes were opened to the inner beauty of that extraordinary woman and to my inadequacies.
Having been widowed in her early thirties and never having remarried, probably the struggles she went through to bring up her two sons- who unfortunately died later and her two daughters, taught her a lot about what is right or wrong and to trust God in everything and for everything.
No doubt, she must have received adequate love and care herself from her parents to know who she was and what she wanted in life- to care, give and guide others. She loved and cared for herself first and then went out to love and care for others. She loved unconditionally, nurtured, instructed, disciplined and empowered all those who went through her hands and mothered anyone in her village who needed mothering. With her motherly advice, she kept the young on the straight and narrow. She found great joy in helping others; always sharing what she had. Sometimes, she gave while hurting as long as she was sure that her efforts would lift up someone.
She never lost herself as she met the needs of others for she had set her own boundaries and guarded them well. She never lost the capacity to say ‘no’ if she was not in a position to help. She never had difficulty in receiving from others.
As Mother Teresa said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’’
She did just that: she listened, she smiled, she held people’s hands, she cried with the bereaved and danced with those rejoicing. She prayed with the sick, shared fruits and vegetables from her garden and the milk from her cows. She was fruitful with her generosity and the more she gave away, the more she had. She nurtured the children, family and friends helping them to grow and develop. She created a community around her where we all felt we belonged, were valued and were cared for and stimulated us to develop and nurture relationships among ourselves. In her presence we all felt safe and at home even by her bedside in a hospital room. Everyone who went through her hands left gracefully, full of thanks and ready to emulate her. Her humility, love and generosity will outlive her.
In the last thirty years of her life; her great devotion to God had turned her into the Bible we read every day. She shared her love, her heart and her faith with her whole heart.
It is said that: “The dying pray at the last not ‘please’ but ‘thank you’ as a guest thanks his host at the door.’’ This great woman also expressed radical thankfulness and celebration of her long, fulfilled life. And we the living, gave her a befitting funeral as we celebrated her as one of our own; so ordinary and yet so extraordinary. For this is what she was.
Abwooli Evasta Kyamulesire, Rest in Eternal Peace.
One last quote: “To be rich is not what you have in your bank account but what you have in your heart.’’
Let us all go out and do the little we can do with what we have and do it with great love.
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