Tribute to Auntie Therese: A Legendary Lifelong Friendship

DUNSTAN MENSAH

DUNSTAN MENSAH

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV States as follows; “Two are better than one, because they have a good return on their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them.”

 

Soon after I learned of Auntie Therese’s passing I contacted Geta to express my condolences. Geta concluded our discussion by aptly describing the friendship between my Mom, Ms. Sophia Walter-Holtz and Auntie Therese as legendary. In the days since we spoke, and upon reflection of my first hand observation from my youth onward, I cannot think of a better word to describe their bond; legendary indeed. Auntie Therese lays out the foundation of this relationship in a tribute she wrote and read at my Mom’s funeral in June, 2003. I wish I could reprint the tribute here because of the nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout but it’s 3 and half pages long because Auntie Therese had a lot of history to relay. So for the sake of brevity, I will rather borrow from her tribute.

 

Their friendship began on a difficult day for Auntie Therese. This must have been in 1940 or 1941 as she stood there teary eyed watching her mother drive off and wondering why she had left her in a place of “strict rules and strange faces”! And who would walk up to both console and welcome her but Mom, or Awuradjoa as she was called at Achimota even in those early days. As the passage above from Ecclesiastes confirms, Auntie Therese was feeling down and Mom reached out to offer comfort, dry her tears and reassure her that all will be well. Again, according to Auntie Therese, “she was my guardian angel and I followed her everywhere”. A great lifelong friendship was launched at that moment and they became inseparable.

 

As fate would have it, by the time of their first meeting, Mom, who had enrolled in Achimota Kindergarten when she was 5 years old, knew the terrain quite well and which of the “trespassers will be punished” signs could not be overlooked as well as the rare occasion when rules could be cast aside. I am sure Mom in those early days helped with advice on how to handle those pesky senior students who never wasted the opportunity to show a “nino” who was boss.

 

Of course as one would suspect, the support was mutual. Mom started her time at Achimota with both emotional and financial stability. Things changed when her father was taken away during WWII. For a young person trying to find their way in an environment where regimented structure and the bland adult supervision lacked what we would call “counseling” today, the only alternative was a close friend who you could share your troubles with, a dear and trusted friend who would not then turn around and put your story on blast! Auntie Therese was there as a shoulder for Mom to cry on when things became dire.

 

All was not doom and gloom however, far from it. The students made the best of their Achimota experience for example, when they were relocated to Aburi in 1942 to make room for Royal troops. Auntie Therese speaks of escapades up and down the Aburi road singing vernacular songs, with Mom leading the group to summon God’s help and protection on a rickety "Tso Lolee" or Wooden Truck, probably a Bedford, traversing a rocky road.

 

Auntie Sally joined Auntie Therese and Mom in Form 1 to form the Three Musketeers. Auntie Therese describes their jaunts as “Mischievous, full of pranks, a little naughty but controlled”. Well what a pleasant surprise when I learned of this story and others after I left Achimota.

 

They moved on from Achimota and transitioned into adulthood with careers and children and all the challenges that accompany this phase of life. Auntie Therese was a great product of both Achimota and Ghana, excelling in the legal and diplomatic spheres as a judge and ambassador. Their friendships blossomed throughout these many years and us children were lucky to witness this amazing bond up close. We would often visit Auntie Therese and Auntie Sally and be welcomed with goodies that would spur us to hound Mom to go back as often as possible to give our Aunties opportunities to spoil us. They never failed to exceed our expectations. More than goodies though they gave us a template to nurture and grow a lifelong friendship. Even after Mom’s death, the friendship continued for many years through Auntie Theresa’s calls and other outreach efforts. Each time I visited Ghana, I always made it a point to stop by Auntie Therese’s residence for lunch, love and care.

 

A photo album emerged from obscurity in 2013 at the close of the 3 weeks I spent in Ghana for Mom’s funeral. And if indeed a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’ then the series of photos of Auntie Therese and Mom lend credence to the great, deep enduring friendship between the two wonderful ladies, see two examples below that speak volumes about the sentiment to which I speak.

 

Auntie Therese was class, poise, and intellect exemplified. As many people know, and my words and photos show, Mom and Auntie Theresa were no doubt the best of friends. I hope this expression of appreciation reaches the heavenly realm but either way, I want to take this time to show my gratitude for the love and friendship that accompanied Maa’s earthly journey, being there during the difficult times and celebrating her successes.

 

I leave you with the words of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints on your heart” and certainly these imprints are there for those of us close enough to witness what true and enduring friendship is all about.

 

Auntie Therese and Mom are now reunited with all those who have gone before. I am sure that this time there will be no tears or a place with “strict rules and strange faces”. Rather, there will be rejoicing that another one of God’s children has earned their eternal reward after a life filled with joy and pain. A place “where the sun is always shining and where sorrows are no more”. They have left footprints on our hearts but also markers on the ground to guide us on this sometimes rocky earthly terrain.

 

Peace, love and God’s comfort I leave with you.