Have you done a “Maimuna”?
It has been 3 days since I lost my best friend and sister (Maimuna Anyene), my Godson (Kamsi), Kayine, Kayima, Noah, Onyeka and Aunty Mijindadi. Somehow in my 34 years, I have been shielded from grief so I am in an unfamiliar and very strange place. Intense, numbing pain (60%); uncontrollable tears (35%); logic, rational calm (5%). I am currently in a 5% moment. However, this note is not about me or how I feel. It is all about Maimuna and her family. Not the way they died, but the way they lived. My purpose for writing this (and I struggled about whether to post on FB) is to share lessons I have learnt from her life in the last 24 years I’ve known her and hope her life can continue to inspire others for good.
10 things about Maimuna:
1. She had a strong, unshakeable faith in God: Anyone who knew Maimuna knew she was a devout Muslim. Not just by mouth, but deep down in her heart and in her actions. No matter where we were, Maimuna prayed 5 times a day. She finished her sentences with “Insha Allah” or God willing. When we were in UI, even if we were all dressed up to go out, she would stop and pray. Her unwavering faith really defined her character.
2. Dedication to her family: Maimuna loved, respected and honored her family. She always talked about her late dad, mom, Aisha, Mohammed and Ndako with love and endearment. She loved her aunties in MD and Detroit. When she got married and had her beautiful children, she lived for them. Aunty B. spent a lot of time with Maimuna over the last 4 years to help with the kids and Maimuna always listened to her mom’s advice and learned from her wisdom. Family meant everything to her. Maimuna upheld family values and we had so many conversations about how she & Onyeka wanted to raise the kids to be Godly, respectful & kind. She loved the times Onyeka was around because they were all together. She loved him so much.
3. Strength of character & principle: Maimuna’s “yes” was her yes and her “no” was no. She had very strong principles and moral values she lived her life by and these permeated every facet of her life – work, home, friendships. Maimuna was one person who never let situations or circumstances change who she was. I’m sure her childhood friends and also her new friends in CT would describe her the same way. She always told the truth. She faced every challenge or success that came her way with love, determination, humility, courage, honesty and faith.
4. Had the most diverse friends (and shared them): Honestly, I don’t know anyone who had as many friends as Maimuna! She made friends with all kinds of people from different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities. You only needed to meet Maimuna once and you liked her. Always smiling and positive. I remember telling my sister that Maimuna has the most diverse friends I know – she made friends at work, in her community. She didn’t care if you were Nigerian or not. People were drawn to her and she made them all feel special. In UI, all the cleaners, wardens, knew her name because she greeted everyone with a smile. She kept in touch. She asked about things you cared about. She remembered birthdays. She made you laugh. Another thing that was unique about Maimuna was that she shared her friends. Some of my good friends are people I met through Maimuna – Amaka, Bisola, Dosu, Esibi, Nene, Eka, Nikki, Jameelah, Alewo, Ada Toledo - I could go on.
5. A fiercely loyal friend: Maimuna made friends for life. She was someone who was always on your side, rooting for you, encouraging you, fighting for you. She was non-judgemental and you could tell her anything (and she kept your secrets – we know how important that is ☺). Maimuna also told you the truth, even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. The only time I remember arguing with Muna was about bridesmaid stuff (I was being a bridezilla and she told me!). We counted down our pregnancies together, talked about starting a business venture together so we could get rich and retire early (distributing “zobo” drinks in the US – Muna even wrote a business plan but we quickly realized it wasn’t a great idea ☺). She encouraged me to start a baby hairband business (which I just might do now for fun).
6. Loved life: Maimuna loved life. She had this effervescent spirit and positive attitude. She loved adventure. She was so witty. She loved to travel. She laughed. In our G21 days, she & Amaka came up with a concept of “Room awards”. She organized a choreographed dance. I remember in UI, we took bus rides to my home every weekend to hang out with my parents and collect money and supplies for the next week. The bus rides from UI to Ojoo to New Ife road was when it was just the 2 of us and we caught up on the week, laughed, talked about the future. We explored London, NY, Chicago, Toldeo, Hartford together. She did creative things with Kamsi, the twins and Noah. She is the only person I know who would welcome the “challenge” of taking a 2-year old and months old twins from CT to London so they could all experience the city, reconnect with friends & family. She lived each day with such a great attitude. Even when she was feeling down, she found a way to smile. She loved people. She cared for people.
7. Extremely generous: Maimuna was one of the most generous people I know. From our UI days when she would buy an extra loaf of bread for the “room” and share her “provisions” to giving me the best wedding present I received to buying a fur coat for my daughter on her 1st birthday; Maimuna always gave and was never broke. A few years ago I was teasing her about how she was able to give all that – she said that she tried to save as much as she could. I then remembered that she had always saved money from our UI days where she would have to budget for the whole semester while some of us were quick spenders of our weekly stipend. That was something about her that inspired me.
8. Never used the “I am too busy” excuse: Maimuna wore many “hats” and rocked them all. No complaints, no excuses. She always picked up the phone or texted back. So many times I called Maimuna and I could hear one of her kids trying to get her attention. She would say “hold on” hold the child (or feed or whatever needed to be done) and get her handsfree set to talk to you. She made time for you. If she had to go, she would call you back. She never complained about how much work it was to have 4 kids under 4, but instead would share the fun things they were up to and in the process give me tips on how to get my toddler to eat Amala ☺
9. No pretty girl “B*#%*hit”: Without doubt, Maimuna was the most beautiful, prettiest person I know. As most of us would have done, she could have used that to be manipulative and get what she wanted, had “fine girl drama” and put on airs and graces. Eventhough she was breath-takingly gorgeous, she had none of the personality flaws that usually come with that. You might have been initially taken by her beauty, but you quickly realized that what is inside was even more beautiful. She kept a level-head, relied on hardwork and determination to get what she wanted.
10. Loved being a wife and mother: Maimuna naturally fit into the role of wife and mother. I remember when we were much younger, Maimuna wanted to have 6 kids. I always teased her that she still had 2 more to go. She naturally fit into the role of wife and mother. Eventhough she had a very successful career, she was the ultimate mom. She made time to play with the kids, take them out to the park, cook, take photos regular photos of the kids and mail to her friends (I don’t know how she found time!). Her kids and husband gave her joy. This gives me a semblance of solace when I think they all left this world together.
So now you see who she was. Was she flawless? No, but she sure was close to perfect (no bias here). We are broken by this loss, but we need to use this tragedy as a platform to turn our lives around. No matter your religion, personality, gender or situation in life– there are numerous lessons to emulate from Maimuna’s life. Pick something. Start today. “Do a Maimuna.”
By Ebun Onagoruwa
June 7, 2012