By Sekou Dauda Bangura, New Jersey.
“Today is another sad day in our community as we gather here to say goodbye to a dear sister, friend, mother and compatriot.” That was Alhaji Aliru Bakarr, one of the young and vibrant Islamic Scholars of Dawat-ul- Islamia of Somerset, New Jersey, in his opening remarks to family and friends who gathered at the Anderson Funeral Home to pay their last respect to a young and vivacious lady snatched away by the cold hands of death at the tender age of 49.
Mrs. Lehanatta Macauley nee Fadlu-Deen,pictured, who passed away in New York on Thursday August 9, was laid to rest on Sunday, August 12, at the State Cemetery, 2 Conover Road, Millstone, New Jersey, after a jam-packed Muslim funeral service at the Anderson Funeral Home, 201 Sanford Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
The solemn Muslim service which was attended by many Sierra Leoneans from New York, brought to New Jersey family and friends from the Washington Metro Area, Pennsylvania and Boston. Elder brother of the late Lehanatta, Alpha Issa Fadlu-Deen, was on hand from London to bid farewell to a loving and caring sister. Besides the elders of the Sierra Leone community in the Somerset/New Brunswick area, there was a dazzling array of religious dignitaries that included Alhaji A.S.G Kamara, Imam of Jersey City Muslim Jamaat; Sheik Mohamed Salieu Kamara, Imam of New York Muslim Jamaat; Sheik Issa Kargbo, Imam of Maryland Muslim Jamaat, Alhaji Abdullah K. Savage, Chief Imam of Jamatul Haq of Franklin Township, Alhaji Ibrahim S. Conteh, Chief Imam of Dawat ul Islamia, and Alhaji Hassan Savage, Deputy Imam of Dawatul Islamia of Somerset, New Jersey, .
“We’re deeply saddened by the sudden departure of Lehanatta, but we’ve to understand that it’s Allah’s will. It’s our sister’s turn now. It could be any one of us next.” Are we really prepared? Alhaji Aliru Bakarr posed the question to all those gathered, driving home the point that death is unavoidable; we’ll all succumb to the sovereignty of death. The young religious leader exhorted all those gathered to follow the path of righteousness, as that is the only way to our salvation. “May Allah have mercy on our sister. May Allah have mercy on us all,” he prayed.
Speaking on behalf of the family of the late Lehannata, Alhaji Tani Savage, described his departed niece as “very caring and respectful.” While he expressed his immense thanks and deep appreciation for the huge turnout and outpouring support from New Yorkers, he also on behalf of the family, expressed his sincere apologies to those New Yorkers who may have been disappointed by the family’s decision to bring the body over to New Jersey for burial. “It was her (Lehanatta) wish to be buried in New Jersey where most of her close relatives live,” Alhaji Tani revealed. He also expressed his apologies for not giving people the opportunity to set eyes on Lehanatta for the last time. “The decision is based purely on the fact that it is not allowed in Islam,” he explained.
In expressing his thanks and appreciation to New Yorkers, Alhaji Tani Savagee singled out the pivotal role played by Mr. Michael Macaulay; how he was there for Lehanatta at the end – even though they have been separated; how he went to the hospital to identify the body and how he facilitated the transfer of the body to New Jersey.“Words cannot express how thankful and grateful we’re as a family for what you you’ve done. May Allah bless you for all that you’ve done for Lehanatta. ” To the close friends of his late niece, he had this appeal: “If you really love Lehanatta, please give your helping hand in the raising of her son. He’s very young and vulnerable, but your love and counseling will definitely do him a whole lot of good.”
Other speakers at the Muslim Funeral service included Ananata Ahmed, a dear sister who read the short bio on the late Lehanatta; son of the late Lehanatta, Ishmael Macauley; nephew Mohamed Sankaba, who described the late Lehanatta as more than a mother; a bosom friend, Sana Tall Smith; Vice President of Foulah Town Descendants Association, Alhaji F.M.S. Kamara; President of Big Apple, the legendary Sento Johnson, and National Administrative Secretary of Fourah Bay Foundation, Aroun Rashid. All paid glowing tribute to the late Lehanatta, attesting to her stellar qualities; her loving and caring nature, and her insatiable urge to get things done. For Sento Jonson, “We’ve lost a very good community organizer.” Aroun Rashid remembered her as “a good and kindhearted person that’ll be greatly missed.” Fighting back tears, Alpha Issa Fadlu-Deen, elder brother of the late Lehanatta, expressed his thanks and appreciation for the phenomenal show of love and support.
Alhaji Ibrahim Conteh, Chief Imam of Dawat- ul- Islamia of Somerset, was the last person to speak. He comforted the family and prayed for the departed sister so that Allah will have mercy on her and grant her a place in paradise. The Chief Imam, among other things said: “The passing away of our sister should serve as lesson to us all; that death is inevitable. Our life on earth is temporary. We’ll all have to face the Angel of death one day.” And to those who believe in the teachings of the Holy Prophet Mohamed (on whom be peace and blessing of Allah), he had this message: “To Allah we belong, and to him we shall return.” He urged all those gathered to follow the right path by either going to the Mosque or going to the church.
Daughter of the late Alpha Ibrahim Fadlu-Deen and the late Maimunatu Fadlu-Deen, Lehanatta was born on October 22, 1963 in Foulah Town, Freetown, Sierra Leone. She started her education at the Amaria Islamia School, Foulah Town, and then continued on to the Bishop Johnson Memorial Secondary School, Fourah Bay Road, Freetown. In 1990, Leha, as she was affectionately known, came to the United States and began her career at The Personal Touch Home Care Agency where she worked until she was called by Allah. Leha was friendly, loving, caring, and a very devoted worker who touched the lives of those she interacted with, according to close friends and family. She was a member of the Dawa-tu- Islamia Jamaat of Somerset, New Jersey; the organizing secretary of The Big Apple Club of New York, and a leading figure in the Sierra Leone Women’s Association, and the Foulah Town Descendants Association. She was coordinating the Annual National Conference of the Fourah Bay Foundation, slated for the end of this month in New York, when fate decided otherwise.
The late Lehanatta is survived by her husband, Mr. Michael Macauley and their son, Ishmael, as well as several children: Hamzatu, Minkailu, Abass, and Regina; Brothers and Sisters: Tayibi, Issa, Rakie, Zaina, Marie, Abdul, and Amadu, and their grandmother, Ms. Ajola Cole in Banjul, the Gambia. She is also survived by the Fadlu-Deen, Macauley, Noah, Savage, Zubairu, Wurie, Tejan, Turay, Deen-Cole, Newland, Coker, Rahman, Thomas, and Mahdi Families at home and abroad. She leaves behind to mourn several friends in New York, New Jersey, and Sierra Leone.