It is with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow that we at the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW) pen these words on the eve of the laying to rest of one of Liberia’s most illustrious masters of the pen, Joseph Saye Guannu.
We feel joy because he dedicated virtually his entire adult life to writing, especially documenting the country’s history from the days what is known as Liberia today was a colony, before 1822. As a teacher, he molded the minds of the country’s youth, both in grade school and university. As an author, one of the very few indigenous with a PhD in his day (a big, big deal then), he wrote many historical texts, several of which are still being used in Liberian schools to date. He was instrumental in setting right many of the misinformation about Liberia and its people.
Dr. Guannu was, to put it simply, an icon in Liberia’s literary world. He put Liberia on the map for his insightful pieces of writing.
Dr. Guannu in his latter days fell ill and was cared for by family members. His health gradually deteriorated, from not talking much, to eating only cereals, to saying only hello, to not saying anything at all, before he was called from this life. By then, we members of LAW were expecting the worst any minute, and waiting with bated breath.
Minutes after his passing, LAW received a call from his crying nieces, saying, ‘the papay gone o’. O, farewell to a life well lived, in service to God and humanity. After consoling and thanking them for being there for their father and uncle when he needed them the most, we hung up. A few minutes later, we got another call, asking for our advice about what action to take, because government says they wanted to take the body of the late erudite writer to Monrovia. What immediately came to our minds: To what end, since Dr. Guannu is already dead? Why? To do what with his corpse? Because frankly, no matter what, whether for love or for shame, Dr. Guannu will be buried. Burial rites, whether extravagant or simple, are integral parts of our culture; the dead must be buried.
The truth is, this has happened over and again, from government to government. People serve this country, dedicating their all, for some, their lives, to ensure a better Liberia for generations unborn. Being human, there come the time in people’s lives when they virtually become babies again, unable to do what they did in their prime because they simply do not have that strength anymore. This is when they need people to show them that their sacrifices to God and country did not go unnoticed.
But no, we wait till the person dies; then all of a sudden we have money to give the family, money which if even a quarter was given when it was most needed, that person would probably still be alive. Then on the day of the funeral, we read the ‘official gazette’, lay a gigantic wreath on the casket and say, ‘s/he was a dedicated public servant’. Seriously?
You know, this is not to defend why some public servants enter government with one goal: to steal. They probably think nobody will care when they are unable to work; so they may as well steal what they can. Not to worry, stolen money eventually does no good to the thief and his beneficiaries. The evidence is all over the place.
This charade has to stop. Let’s learn to show up for people when they would appreciate the gesture the most. When they die, whatever we do is for ourselves. As an old man one said, ‘All die be die; all burials are not the same’. Whether the burial cost a million dollars or one hundred dollars, it is a burial, and all that has to be done for the dead.
Dr. Joseph Saye Guannu, you lived well, an exemplary life worth emulating! From the bottom of our hearts, we at the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW) sincerely thank you for your sacrifices to God and country!
FARE YOU WELL, ILLUSTRIOUS, SELFLESS SON OF THE SOIL! TILL WE MEET AGAIN!
The Liberia Association of Writers (LAW)