Home Editorial When Time Bears its Best And Brightest Away: Eulogizing Professor Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer

When Time Bears its Best And Brightest Away: Eulogizing Professor Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer

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By: Mwalimu-Koh Moses Blonkanjay Jackson

Thinking Thoughts
In my thinking thoughts, I painfully digested news of the passing of Professor Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, and how the West African nation of Liberia would soon be gathered to reminisce and cement the legacy of an erudite astute statesman. But the thought which rudely awakened me was three of few encounters with Dr. Sawyer which united both of us via the 7th stanza of Isaac Watt’s great 17th Century Gospel hymn, “O God our help in Ages Past Our Hope for Years to Come”, which states:
7 “Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day”

You see, I had never gotten closer to President Dr. Sawyer until he began to fly SN Brussels as a private citizen less the heavy security and detailed diplomatic protocols. The three encounters with the Professor left indelible marks on my heart regarding the true chemistry of a true down-to-earth leader and proven advocate for equality and social justice.

Our first flight from Brussels to Liberia was canceled because the pilots declared one of the cockpit windshields defective. It was while waiting for the announcement that I got acquainted with Dr. Sawyer. “I have heard the name Blonkanjay Jackson but was unable to match this face with it. Guess you are from Rivercess” “Yes”, I responded wondering how he knew. “Now I am satisfied that I have met you after reading and thinking about your thinking thoughts articles”. He smiled and spoke as I were an important person. As we parted ways to our separate hotels I was amazed by the humility from a “whole President” to afford somebody like me at my little level, an opportunity to chat with him. Lord have mercy!

Our second coincidental meeting in Brussels was episodic. A few hours after the plane took flight, the pilot announced that one of the engines was leaking fuel and he was diverting to Toulouse, France, for an emergency landing. Blood of Jesus!

Albeit, amidst the melee and fear, a passenger garnered strength and raised a hymn that reverberated all over the plane including the First Class cabin: “O God our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for Years to Come”. The seventh stanza, “Time like a rolling stream soon bears all its sons away…”, gave everybody a serious face and we sang that stanza with so much zeal, solemnity, and reverence that had Jesus arrived that day, scores of edified souls would have been saved. Dr. Sawyer must have sung along as well.

When the plane eventually got repaired and landed in Liberia the next day, Dr. Sawyer said to me, “Blonkanjay, I will not fly with you again”, “Me too”, I said, and we both burst out laughing, shook hands, and said our goodbyes.

A year later when we met on former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s farm for a cabinet retreat: “Blonkanjay, you are Assistant Minister in this Government?”, as if the position was too small for me. “Yes oh, Prof. I am here” “Next question, when you are flying?” I knew what he wanted to say, so I simply replied “Soon, but I will not tell you, Prof.” We burst out laughing again as other government officials looked on wondering what was so funny that a highly prestigious ex-president would be mingling with a petit Assistant Minister from the notoriously underdeveloped Rivercess county.

You see, fellow Liberians, when “Time” bears its best and brightest away, it leaves us empty, confused, distraught, and woeful. At times, it bears away the most famous leaders, leaving the haughty, notorious brats; it often bears away the true advocates for social and political justice and leaves the fake political chauvinists and bigots. Time usually bears away the breadwinner of a family and leaves the corrupt bread consumers. Whatever way time decides, it will eventually bear us all away someday, somehow.

Now, note that “Time, like a rolling stream” did not bear any of its sons away on that SN Brussels flight at that moment, but it returned years later and has borne away one of Africa’s brightest and Liberia’s foremost sons, the Ex-President, Professor Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer. Time has borne away, a proven lifelong advocate for political and social justice; an astute statesman, an exemplary humble leader; an ecumenical mentor whose counsel knows no bound; a man, calm in demeanor but deep in action, and sagacious in decision-making; a scholar, an architect of intelligence; the greatest politician of our time.

As I search my imperfect human agency, I am not sure if Dr. Sawyer responded to Master Jesus’ final call with reluctance or gladly packed up and joined the throng waiting at the foot of the cross to be conveyed to the celestial shores. I am not sure if Dr. Sawyer would have loved to part ways with his fellow progressives and advocates for social justice such as Comrades Dr. Togbah Nah Tipoteh, Dr. Togar McCintosh Gayewea, Dr. Dogbeh Nyan, Alaric Tokpa, Anthony Kesselly, Dusty Wollokolie, Samuel Jackson, Kofi Woods, and Tiawon Gongloe.

I am not sure if Dr. Sawyer chose to depart at a time when a nation shakes at its foundations over gubernatorial confusion. A country where poverty is rife; where the political actors demonstrate gross immaturity each day; a nation where disgruntled citizens frequently launch protests, immolate themselves, threaten suicide by prostrating under vehicles for justifiable entitlements; a nation where the alternatives for diluting protests is via the sting of police tear gas; a nation where allegations of rampant corruption in high places with impunity is a tradition. I am not sure if Dr. Sawyer chose to take flight while the inauguration of the next President of the Republic is only months away; I am not sure if Dr. Sawyer chose to leave the stage as student groups are gearing up and perched to make their presence felt in the next political dispensation when “masses-cracy” would be the mantra of the day. Ah yes, death!

Now, suffice it to say Prof Sawyer chose to depart with acquiescence. Maybe it was to join ranks with his fellow advocates who earlier departed: Comrades Wuo Garbbie Tappia, Weewee Debbah, Gabriel Baccus Matthews, Thomas Youcontee Woewiyu, Oscar Quiah, et al., to embolden their successors, or maybe it was to simply move from labor to rest at the Savior’s feet to intercede for a nation bridled otherwise.
Fellow compatriots, as one of Africa and Liberia’s best and brightest, is being borne away by time, with extreme sadness at heart, but with victorious dispositions and spirits, we say well-done Professor, you won. Yes, you won the battle, Prof Sawyer.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55 -57).
Professor Sawyer, your fight as a progressive, was daunting yet productive. We salute you, Prof, as a Freedom Fighter in the true sense of the word. We honor you as the foremost exemplary shepherd. We pray that the Compassionate Savior will open his arms and say well done my good and faithful servant for you were truly a servant of God’s people. Albeit Doc, Good night. Sleep well shepherd, your flock will forever celebrate your legacy and concomitantly miss you.

But wait a minute Prof. As you approach the first heavenly gate, do not forget to raise the powerful hymn we sang on that episodic SN Brussels flight the day we connected, noting the 7th stanza, “Time Like a Rolling Stream Bears Its Sons away” My people please join Dr. Sawyer in singing the hymn as he embarks upon his last journey.

  1. O God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Our shelter from the stormy blast,
    And our eternal home.
  2. Under the shadow of Thy throne
    Thy saints have dwelt secure;
    Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
    And our defense is sure.
  3. Before the hills in order stood,
    Or earth received her frame,
    From everlasting Thou art God,
    To endless years the same.
  4. Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
    “Return, ye sons of men”:
    All nations rose from earth at first,
    And turn to earth again.
  5. A thousand ages in Thy sight
    Are like an evening gone;
    Short as the watch that ends the night
    Before the rising sun.
  6. The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
    With all their lives and cares,
    Are carried downwards by the flood,
    And lost in foll’wing years.
  7. Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
    Bears all its sons away;
    They fly, forgotten, as a dream
    Dies at the op’ning day.
  8. Like flow’ry fields the nations stand
    Pleased with the morning light;
    The flow’rs beneath the mower’s hand
    Lie with’ring ere ’tis night.
  9. O God, our help in ages past,
    Our hope for years to come,
    Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
    And our eternal home.

Amen

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