Wagaye Assebe: An Embodiment of Courage!

A happy, vibrant woman, Wagaye Assebe, will be missed by many. A special and gifted person, she was mourned by thousands on her transition to the next world and we felt compelled to spotlight her on this issue through her daughter’s eulogy.

A happy, vibrant woman, Wagaye Assebe, will be missed by many. A special and gifted person, she was mourned by thousands on her transition to the next world and we felt compelled to spotlight her on this issue through her daughter’s eulogy.

Wagi, as she’s affectionately called, served the UN for many years as a dedicated and exemplary staff member. Her commitment, care and forethought of service are what made her excel in her career at the UN for close to three decades. Wagaye worked directly with former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and was his Personal Assistant during his 10-year tenure where her responsibilities demanded extensive travelling around the world. As a conscious human being and one whose commitment for everything in life she deemed important is unquestionable, she cherished her memorable experiences. Before her diagnosis, she worked directly with Under-Secretary-General Maged A. Abdelaziz Office of Special Adviser on Africa.  During her 28 years of service in the UN, Wagaye touched many people in ways that will never be forgotten.

While still enjoying the life and accomplishment of her family, Wagaye was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2013 and though she bravely fought the illness, she passed away on December 2, 2013 with all her beloved family members at her bedside.

Wagaye gave birth and nurtured a magnificent child that has grown to be a formidable young lawyer. AWiB was so moved by the eulogy given by Martha, her daughter, we felt it deserves attention and contemplation and decided to spotlight her story of courage and humanity through her daughter’s eyes. The message came from a strong young woman to remind all of us that life is beautiful but brief and to make every moment count and when the loved ones depart to celebrate their life. We celebrate Wagi for her contribution to society at large, for her generosity and for leading the way to choose people first in every aspect of our lives. Wagi was a conscious leader in all her endeavors. She departed this world at age 56.

May she rest in peace! AWiB

By Martha Tesfaye, daughter

I never thought that at 25 I would be standing here speaking at my mom’s funeral. Moreover, I never thought that my mom—the woman who refrained from smoking and drinking, and even advocated heavily against drinking diet coke because she believed it was a carcinogen, would be diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer: the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers.

But I’m not up here to mourn my mom’s death: on the contrary, I’m here to celebrate her and to remember her and how she touched everyone’s life. Sometimes, I felt like she was not only my mother, but the world’s mother because she was so giving of herself. When I’d ask her about her day, she’d say “it was good, but tell me about YOURS, Emaye. How was your day? What happened with that project, or with that boy, or with your friend’s mom who’s sick, etc.”

And when I observed why Wagi is so loved amongst so many of us, I began to see that she did the same thing with others too. Have you ever noticed her complaining about her day or talking much about herself and her own problems? I don’t think so; yet she always took a genuine interest in others and tried to see how she could be of practical help. My mama always sought out where in a person’s life she could be of service, and she focused on making that person’s life a little easier by giving a piece of her time, love, energy, or attention. Let me give you a practical example: Wagi was the type of person who would say “oh, I’ve noticed how this person doesn’t wear a scarf and she’s been getting too many colds, so I need to buy her a scarf.” And this was not for a holiday or for a particular purpose, but because she genuinely didn’t want the person to get sick again.

So when you think of Wagi, I hope that you can try to emulate some of her beautiful characteristics that make her so loved and honored. These are: Her Patience. Her Humility. Her Strength. Her Kindness. Her Gentleness. Her Generosity. Her Selflessness.

So once more, I encourage you to pick one of those qualities and to embody it in your everyday life. Whether that’s to patiently pay attention to your elderly neighbor while he talks too much, or whether it’s to kindly lend a hand to a pregnant woman in the grocery store, or whether that’s to generously pay for the groceries for the man who is in front of you in line when you notice the red, embarrassed flush on his cheeks when his credit card gets declined, ask yourself, “how would Wagi have handled this?” During my rebellious teenage years, I used to think my mom was somewhat naïve for being so nice to people who probably wouldn’t reciprocate that level of kindness if the shoe were on the other foot. I used to say “But Mom! That’s ridiculous. Why would I do that for someone who wouldn’t even go half as far for me?!” But that’s precisely how Wagi touched most of our lives: she did things for us that most others wouldn’t even attempt to do. That’s why most of you love her so much.

For those of us in here asking “Why her? Why Wagi?” I’ll never have an answer to that one. I too, would have loved to have her here with me for longer. And some things in life have no definite explanation but one thing is for sure: God has a purpose for everything he does. Maybe he’s at a shortage of angels and he wanted Wagi. And if that’s the case, then who are we to insist that life down here is better than a warm place in Heaven with Him?

Thank you.

Share on your socials!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *