By Nana Mogaka
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We are gathered here today to say goodbye to William Jones, known as Bill to those of us who knew him well. He was my mentor, my friend and an inspiration. I would like to say a few words about him today as my personal tribute.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go to law school. But that is a story for another day, because I actually did go to law school and guess what . . . I made it all the way. Not to brag, but I am an advocate of the High Court. I was really happy to make it so far and I was even happier that I made my folks happy - isn’t that every child’s dream? But somewhere along that road, I got lost. I had learnt the necessary skills that could make me a great lawyer but I had a really difficult time translating that into business. And somewhere along the way, I met Bill. And Bill made everything make sense (at least he did for me).
‘They never taught us about business in law school.’ That’s a popular statement established lawyers say. I can concur. No they don’t. But Bill filled that gap for me. He ran the “Avocado Bar & Restaurant”, a great hang out place downtown. He didn’t just run the club but had other businesses that he ran successfully. I am sure all of us here interacted with him, in one way or another, in his business mode. He actually got that business gene.
There is so much I can say about Bill as a person, but today, I choose to remember him as the mentor he was to me. As I introduced myself earlier, I am a lawyer by profession. (Haha, I still don’t know why we find comfort introducing ourselves by our professional occupations, but then again, here we are.) Bill used to say that I am too honest to be a lawyer and maybe he was right. Anyway, here comes my honesty.
Bill drove me to hospital when my waters broke (again, a story for another day). But that is how we first met. And five years down the road, he kept reminding me of the importance of always showing up and doing your best in this life, because you may never really get to know the actual impact you have on people.He told me that everyone matters, so instead of just leaving a mark on them, leave a great mark on them.
He did live by his words because look at me now. But, let me not digress and remember how Bill contributed to why and how I am standing here today.
“Work hard!” he always said. “We will sleep when we die.” That was his constant reminder and he kept on living by his words until his dying day. Allow me now to share with you the wisdom Bill left with me . . . with all of us.
He once told me that when it comes to business, it is nothing personal but don’t be cold hearted. “It doesn’t matter how good you are at your skill… never lose your humanity.” “You are going to make a great lawyer Nana, but never lose your humanity.” He actually repeated that twice. And in my walk as a lawyer, that reminder meant a lot. It still does. At the same time, he would also tell me to: “Go all out and make that buck. Money is good,and to get money you need to be skilled at what you do. Academic papers are important,” he used to say, “but life is a longer learning process than academia”.
I really miss you Bill. Thank you for that.
I also remember how Bill emphasized the value of friendships. As he once quoted it - “Your network is your net worth:” He demonstrated that by bringing many of us together on a Sunday to eat together and even support one another’s parents and relatives.
Everyone agrees, Bill was larger than life. He encouraged me to start exercising when I hit 90 kgs after having my baby. Bill was an athlete and was selected to represent our country at the World University Games. From my pre-baby weight at 65 kgs, I am now down to 70 kgs.
I wish you were here to guide us through this pandemic. I am sure you would have taught us how to be strong.
My heart sighs and tears so much right now but then I find comfort in your words, “Dare to dream”. I’m still struggling with those words. I emailed you my business proposal - an email that remains unanswered to date. I hope I can get my answers from the lessons you gave me and hopefully move forward. Which reminds me of one of the greatest lessons yet to be learned from you; “Know where to stop!”
I’m really scared to practice this principle right now because it gets me into a catch 22. Should I let you go? If yes, then how can I let you go when all I have right now is because of you? So I am not even going to try. You live on.
As I conclude this, allow Bill to speak through me once more. He asks me to tell you that:
“Life is short. And yet, it is all we have. So when you make a mistake, apologize. Dream big and follow through. Care for the ones you love. And finally, get to know yourself and do good by yourself.”
I could write a whole series of books just based on your advice, Bill. You left too soon, dear. There was so much to learn from you. So much you have taken to the grave with you.
Watch over us Bill. My Mentor. My Dear Friend.
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