Thelma Mae Williams Wells
“Make a monument of your life through your relationships.”
I recall her telling me how, after having been taken on a tour of the grounds she sat with the nurses in a little, cement brick enclosure, sipping “tangawizi” (ginger ale), admiring the quaint village setting. Ocassionally a goat or a couple of chickens would wander in and out of the shadey enclosure as they chatted. Finally, anxious to see where she was going to work, my mother asked “When will you take me to see the birthing center?” The response was sobering, to say the least. “This IS the birthing center.”
Whereas most would have been instantly defeated, my mother defined the moment instead. Immediately, she put every single person within the sound of her voice to work. They sanitized the area, which unfortunately meant that the goats had to search elsewhere for shade, built beds, created an administration system, then gradually she gave the people everything she could from her 30+ years’ experience in the medical field.
In turn, she was recognized as an Elder and became known as Bibi, which means grand mother in Kiswahili. Bibi received and delivered scores of babies in that year. According to local custom, as an Elder, she was invited to bless the babies with names. And so, true to our family tradition, she passed on the names of our ancestors, Barry, Wiley, Isabel and others.
May the quilts symbolize the monument of our collective lives as an African people, seeking to restore the relationships that link our past, present and future glory!