As friends, family, colleagues and other sympathisers turned out en mass to pay their last respect to late Mrs Helen Olufunke Eniola-Olaitan, wife of the Managing Director of THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Eniola Bello, at an outing service held in Lagos, MARY NNAH reports that rather than mourn, concerns were on how to keep Helen Olufunke Eniola-Olaitan’s spirit alive even in death
The event scheduled for 10am on June 30, 2019 at Banex Beach Hotel & Resort, Oniru, Lekki, Lagos, kicked off with songs ministration, Bible reading, hymns and tributes, done intermittently before the General Overseer of the Realm of Glory International, Abraham Sam Aiyedogbon, mounted the podium with a word of exhortation for the teeming congregation, that turned out en mass to pay their last respect to late Mrs Helen Olufunke Eniola-Olaitan, wife of the Managing Director of THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Eniola Bello.
Present were former governors like that of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who is now the erstwhile Minister for Transportation. Others include Publisher of Vanguard Newspaper, Pa Sam Amuka, former and current editors and staff of THISDAY Newspapers, as well as a large number of creme de la creme from various sectors of the nation’s economy, too numerous to mention.
Kicking off with his sermon, Aiyedogbon said, “I thought I had a very difficult assignment but after listening to all the tributes said here today as well as the ones said during the burial of our late sister in the United Kingdom, I felt my job has been lessened. And as I looked at people drawn from all walks of life present here today, I realised what needs to be done and that is what my sermon is on.
“My sermon and message is about bringing the spirit of Sister Helen, back in our midst. We are not here to mourn Helen but we are here to celebrate such a vibrant spirit. We are here to celebrate such a glorious life.”
Speaking further, the cleric said, “We can do all the poems and the writings, but one thing is constant – like John the Baptist, Helen was a burning and a shining light.”
Explaining that the world is full of darkness, Aiyedogbon stressed that as many that had the privilege to interact with late Helen, are now the burning and the shining light in the darkness of the world.
He said further that he has gone through the scriptures trying to see what woman can be used to capture what late Helen represented and found no other but a lady called Dorcas in Act 9:36-43.
“Dorcas represents great love, not just a lover of people but a lover of God. I saw the life of late sister Helen represented by this woman called Dorcas. As a matter of fact, I want to call Helen the Dorcas of our days. Helen was a woman that loved God and people. She was a woman that was selfless and was always there for the widows, orphans and the needy and these are the downtrodden people on earth.
“God says that if you want to be like me, don’t look up to people that are above you. But look down to people that are down there and see how you can help them to be up. And that was what Dorcas did too. And listening to the tributes concerning Helen; they capture perfectly what was represented in the life of Dorcas”, he noted.
Reflecting on the tribute on THISDAY back page titled, “So Painful the Goodbye”, written by Eni-B , (Eniola Bello) husband to late Helen, last week, Aiyedogbon said, “When I read that, I said when a writer and creative people grieve, you should expect some fountains to flow.”
Quoting bit by bit from the back page publication, the cleric said, “He says ‘Helen was the spark and glow and sunshine of our household. Her tireless energy, her selflessness, her natural humility, her playful friendliness, her easy laughter, her material and emotional generosity, and her motherly disposition to all made her central to anything concerning me. Helen was someone I am incapable of becoming in several lifetimes. Where I am reserved and enjoyed the privacy of my company; she was gregarious and revelled in having people around her. Where I am carefree and couldn’t be bothered about some insults; she was boisterous and wouldn’t accept any indignity. Where I am quietly uncommunicative; she was openly lively. Where I am inhibited; she was spontaneous. Indeed, she seemed to have been specially created to fill the gaps in my life and make up for my weaknesses. She was my angel’.”
Aiyedogbon said therefore that beyond any reasonable doubt, Sister Helen belongs to a special class of people.
“She belongs to the inner caucus of the disciples of Jesus’ disciples; the class of disciples that meet regularly in where we call the upper room.”
Consequently, Aiyedogbon said that the only way to bring back her spirit and keep her spirit alive was to touch the lives of the widows and downtrodden just like Helen did,
Making more reference to the Biblical Dorcas, he said: “When Dorcas died, they took her to the upper room and when Peter the Apostle came, everyone that benefited from Dorcas’ life brought gifts and cloths – everyone had something to show because of the works of this woman, called Dorcas.
“The way to keep her spirit alive is for people to rise up and say her legacy must continue; it is for people to live for what she lived for by donating to her charitable organisations: His Grace Children Home and Hostel – (Fidelity Bank: Account Number: 4110026490) and His Grace Charity Network – (Polaris Bank: Account Number 2001995147), both of which have been reaching out to widow, orphans and the less privilege in the society.”
Mrs Helen Olufunke Eniola-Olaitan, died at the age of 50 on June 4, 2019 at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom after a three-year battle with breast cancer. She was buried penultimate Thursday, at Danescourt Cemetery Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. She is survived by her husband, four children, an aged mother as well as brothers and sisters.
Tributes by friends and family of the deceased came in torrent provoking various levels of emotions. However two out of all the tributes were very touching as they both triggered serious emotions while they could hardly hold back their tears as they could only managed to read their tributes to the end.
Mrs. Yemi Omofe, a foster daughter of late Helen Eniola-Olaitan, during her tribute, told the story of how she unexpectedly became the adopted daughter of the family and how late Helen till her dying days showered so much love and affection on her.
She said, “On my first holiday at her house, she put up a story. She told her children that I was her first child and that I have been living with her parents before she married their Dad. But her third child, Peace now asked, “But Mom, if she is truly part of us how come her name does not start with the letter P? All of her four children have names that start with letter P. Mamma Mia, as I fondly called her, quickly said, “Oh! No! She is Precious. Ask her”. And so she told them, “she is your sister, she is the eldest and she has come home.” And the children said, ‘Oh! We would love to have her here. Aunty Yemi please doesn’t leave us again’. At that point, I could not explain what was going through my mind. But that was the beginning of my journey to becoming her adopted child.
“That marked the beginning of a very close relationship between Omofe and late Mrs Eniola-Olaitan. The relationship was so intimate that soon after Omofe began to confide in her foster mother.
“Things I could not share with my biological mother, I was able to share with Mamma Mia. I called her Mamma Mia and till date everybody in the house and those that were closed to the family called her Mamma Mia”.
Omofe recalled that her foster mother was so generous that there was nothing she couldn’t give to people as long as she had it.
“The first day that I came to stay at her house, I was forced to ask a question. I said, “How do you do all of these things that you do? How do you love people so deeply and also sacrifice so much for people who do not even care about you? She said to me, ‘if you have God, you don’t have to struggle to love people and when you love God, it becomes natural to love others’. So, I held unto that.”
She recalled the morning she was told her foster mother may not live beyond 24 hours: “The morning I was told Mamma Mia had just 24 hours to live, I was just crying. I called all the pastors I knew to pray that she should not die but God took her away from me. I never imagined a day like this would come. Your love, kindness, generosity and fearlessness can never be commensurable. Mamma Mia was one of a kind. You were irreplaceable. You left us with beautiful memories and so we take solace in your memories”, Omofe moaned.
Still paying her tribute to her late mother, Omofe further revealed that the last time late Helen came to Nigeria; it was for her wedding ceremony.
“Prior to my wedding, you have always engaged in prayer and fasting for me to get married. And that day I sent you a short message, saying, Mamma Mia, I think I have found the one, you were so excited and you asked, ‘So, baby when it is? Who is it? And then you said, I don’t need to ask. Since you have said this yourself, I am sure you are ready’. And later she called again and said, baby it has to be this year o. … Don’t worry, I will go to my war room now and start my prayers’.
“And the wedding happened last year and Mamma Mia came in. She left no stone unturned. Even when she was going through her own pains, she did everything she could have done for her first child, for me. She brought family and friends from everywhere to my wedding.
“Barely two weeks after the wedding, I had told my husband that I felt the need to go back home because I knew Mamma Mia was still in Lagos and I wanted to see her one more time. I pleaded with my husband that he had to let me travel and so I left for Lagos. When I told Mamma Mia that day I arrived Lagos, that I was close by her, she found it hard to believe, saying I was expected to be with my newly wedded husband at that particular period. She had to call my husband to confirm I was saying the truth, after which she came and picked me from my location and then she told me that it doesn’t work that – that I cannot run away from home but rather I should go back and be with my husband. I virtually begged her to let me stay till she goes back to her base. I never knew that was going to be my last time with her.
“And then I sent her a scan of 24-week of the baby I‘m carrying now in my womb, she was so excited and she said, “I pray that God will keep me alive to carry your baby in my arms”, but she never did!
Another emotive tribute was by Bunmi Awonaya, a long-time family friend who also fondly called the deceased Mamma Mia.
“Mummy Wura. How could you just leave without saying goodbye Mummy Wura?
“We made long term plans, so many unfinished conversations and arrangements. But alas! God needed an Angel in heaven and your crown was ready. I know you have gone to a better place though too early”, she said.
Recalling how they met, the former director with THISDAY Limited, revealed. “I met you when you and my Managing Director, Eniola Bello, got married and we came to Kogi State for your marriage ceremony. It has been sisterly love between us ever since. Everyone knew you as my sister. Only my colleagues at work knew we weren’t related by blood but we were related through the love of Jesus in us.
“I wish I read a deeper meaning of your last Facebook post. Maybe I should have prayed the Holy Spirit to help me understand the message beyond face value. Your kindness and humility was unparalleled, your hospitality second to none. Sister Helen the kindest and most selfless woman always willing to be there and give sacrificially to everyone. Your life really emulated Jesus Christ. Your life was enough to evangelise.”
Describing late Helen as a true Christian like the Christians of the Church in Antioch,
Awonaya said, “You always had me in mind. My house is filled with wonderful gifts from you. You would always make time to come see me even if you were spending two days in Nigeria and anytime you visit my home it’s like I should not let you go. Each time MD’s call came to my phone, he would say: Nibo lo wa? Wa gba eru e o (Where are you? Come and carry your load). I knew I had a gift from mummy Wura.”
“I so treasure the birthday message you sent me in May. Memories of your last visit in December kept playing in my head. Who would have thought! You never betrayed any emotions – smiling face and loving heart.”
“Oh! How I wish I called you! No wonder I just felt sad the morning you went to be with the Lord. I was just crying and my friend Funke Egbemode called me and heard me crying, she asked me ‘Family mi kilode?’ I told her I didn’t know what made me sad.
Some hours later I opened the Facebook and I saw Duro Meseko’s post and I was confused. I was afraid to call Eni-B, your husband. So I called Duro and he confirmed it.
I was so devastated. Crying all morning not knowing you had gone to a better place to be with your Maker and that was a sign that you had gone that your crown was ready and you had gone to wear it.
“My darling sister, whom I fondly called Mummy Wura you, you just left a void in my heart that no one can fill. I pray God will comfort your dear husband Eniola Bello, whom we all call Eni-B, your loving children and the entire family. I pray your children will grow from strength to strength and from grace to grace in Jesus name. Mummy Wura, to know you was to love you… But God loves you more. You will forever be missed.
“May your beautiful soul rest in peace profound. 1cor 15: 55 “O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory, where death is your power to hurt? It’s so tough to say goodbye”, Awonaya bemoaned.
As the last hymn rang out to bring the outing service to a close, the general consensus was that although the physical body of late Mrs Helen Olufunke Eniola-Olaitan has been committed to Mother Earth, her spirit lives on in the hearts of those that love her.