"I have a sad news to share with you this morning. Euginie of Rwamagana was on her way to work on a motor taxi and got involved in an accident this morning. She crashed into a bus and died on the spot."
[A file photo closest to Euginie's grave and a wooden cross]
His announcement stunned us all. Some staff members started weeping and others wailing. I too was stunned and asked Jean de Dieu, who was interpreting for me, to confirm who actually died, "Do you mean Euginie of Ngoma?" I asked him the question because I was not aware of Euginie who was working at Rwamagana. Unfortunately he said, "Yes." I fell into a deep sorrow and could not resist weeping. But I could not allow the disturbed scene to continue. I stood up and walked to the podium.
In pain and sorrow, my voice was trembling and cracking. Euginie of Ngoma was the leader of Ngoma EBU. She was the best EBU leader not only in productivity, asset quality, leadership but also transformational impact on clients. I even gave her a small gift personally in appreciation for what and how she does for the clients and UOB.
I started making a few comments. "We all are now in shock and in deep sorrow for the loss of our colleague, our sister in Christ and our friend, Euginie." I continued, "I do not understand why this happened to her and why God had to take her away from us. But, I must still confess that I trust God for what happened to Euginie today." I had to press down the tears and weeping to continue my remarks. "Although we do not understand why this happened to us, I do know that she is now resting in peace with the Lord in paradise. This incident is one of several things that I am going to ask the Lord 'why?' when I get to see him in person. Until then, let us continue to trust Him for His sovereignty and His love because He is good all the time, even when He does not make sense to us." I concluded my short remarks with a prayer for His comfort, His peace and His encouragement.
I could not hold down my tears any more by the time I was done with my remarks. This was the first loss of any staff whom I have been working with for the past 30 plus years. I ended up weeping.
I came up to my office, but I remained in stunned silence for a while still weeping. It was the cry of a question "Why?" Faustin, an executive colleague came into my office, so I asked him, "Do you know what actually happened?"
He was a little cautious and made a statement that shocked me again this time with a mixed feeling.
"Jeffrey, I could not stop you while you were praying, but the Euginie who died today is not Euginie of Ngoma. The dead Euginie is a new employee who has been working at Rwamagana since October 2010." Obviously he did not want to embarrass me while I was speaking.
"What?" His remarks gave me a mixed feeling: a joy and relief of not losing Euginie of Ngoma and a realization of the fact that one staff still died. My joy erupted quickly but I came to sense the reality that we have still lost one staff. Life was life.
Shortly after the discussion, I was informed that her funeral and burial would take place this afternoon. I said, "I would attend it."
She was only 21 years old and was a genocide survivor. She was only 4 years old during the 1994 genocide when she lost both parents. She was adopted along with her younger sister and raised by one of her relatives. She finished her secondary school last year and UOB was her first employer.
At the funeral, several people spoke about her. Her team leader Chantal said that Euginie was always on time to work and very responsible, dependable and pleasant to work with.
The relative who adopted her could not say much. "I do not understand this.... but this is the world."
A young man stood up and introduced himself as Euginie's finance. The last conversation that he had with Euginie was this morning when she said, "I am getting late to work and I am going to take a motor taxi." It was indeed their last conversation.
The motor taxi that she was riding was closely following a bus. The bus driver was supposed to turn left at a point, but he missed a bit. When he was reminded that he missed the turning point, he not only hit the brake to stop the bus but at the same time he put the gear to reverse, assuming there was no one behind the bus since the motor taxi was in the blind spots in the bus driver's eyes. The motor taxi was too close to the bus to avoid the crash. The motor taxi rider saw the bus, in quick reaction jumped off the motor taxi and barely escaped the crash, but Euginie who was behind the rider did not see the bus stopping and reversing, and crashed into the bus head on. And she died on the spot. It all happened in a blink of an eye.
A church member came out and commented how faithful she was despite her young age.
A friend came out and said "She was like my own sister, room-mating together for two years. I feel like I have lost my own body." She could not press down her wailing any more and exploded.
I was invited to speak on behalf of UOB also. I said "We all are in shock and deep sorrow because we have lost our beloved Euginie. We at UOB all send our condolences to her family. But I am confident that Euginie is now resting in peace with the Lord and it gives us comfort. We all are reminded that our life is not under our control but is under God's control. We are urged to live each day's life as if it is the last day. May the good Lord comfort Eugnie's family members and all her friends who are mourning over her sudden death. May God bless you all."
Although Euginie worked for UOB only for 4 months, more than 60 members of UOB were there, pragmatically conducting the funeral and the burial. After all, we are another family at UOB, not only through work but also in Christ.
After the funeral service, viewing took place inside the house. Her face was all deformed and her body was all torn up so we could not see her. But we prayed for her restful and everlasting life in the paradise until we will see each other again.
The burial took place right behind the house under the banana trees. A grave hole was dug up and later the coffin was laid down and buried. Dirts were placed back over the coffin and a wooden cross was placed in front of the grave. It was the end of the ceremony. Despite her sudden death and unprepared ceremony, a large crowd gathered and shared the pain and sorrow together.
Euginie's younger sister could not stop the wailing and it all ached the hearts of many people.
"Oh Lord, may she now rest in peace with you. Please give us discernment to know your profound will for something like this in our life. I do not understand frankly. Nonetheless, Lord, I still love you and trust you. Amen." I prayed silently on the way back to Kigali. It was a sad day. - Jeffrey