TRIBUTE TO A DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER
TOGAR LAWRENCE RANDALL
ONBEHALF OF AMARA M. KONNEH AND JAMES F. KOLLIE
DELIVERED BY: JAMES F. KOLLIE
SEPTEMBER 10, 2016
This is an extremely difficult moment for me. But I have to muster the fortitude to perform this task as part of my final respect to someone who was so dear and special to me.
I crave your indulgence to allow me to spend a little longer time than others or than would otherwise be allowed.
It is still unbelievable to me (or maybe just plain refusal to accept) that we are gathered here today to hold funeral rites over the remains of a dear friend and brother.
Our country has indeed lost one of its best and finest. I can argue that the media has lost one of its outstanding and exemplary young men.
Anyway, permit me to look into and borrow from the works of William W. Walford, a blind preacher, who in 1845 penned some very interesting words in some of his regular sermons that later became a song titled Sweet Hour of Prayers. He goes on somewhere there to say:
May I thy consolation share, Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height, I view my home and take my flight. This robe of flesh I’ll drop, and rise To seize the everlasting prize, And shout, while passing through the air, “Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”
I have no doubt that Togar has seized the everlasting prize and is resting in a far better place than here.
Ever since I heard the news of Lawrence’s passing, I have remained restless and confused. It is no secret that Togar was a dear, a true, and a loyal friend to us (Amara and me).
It is unfortunate that Amara could not make it here today due to other very pressing engagements but his thoughts and prayers are with us and Lawrence’s family. Amara has followed these funeral arrangements very closely. In fact, he was one of few persons who went to the hospital in DC to visit with Lawrence even though Lawrence could not recognize anyone at that time.
Amara also kept in very contact with Ralphlyn (Mrs. Randall) every step of the journey in those last, very painful weeks and months.
You know, we got to know Lawrence just few years ago, actually in 2013 but I must admit that we clocked a lot more hours together than most people we have known for decades.
Not only was Lawrence a trusted and loyal friend, he was indeed that asset that anyone would love to have. His colleagues in the media can attest to that. I count myself extremely blessed to have been called a friend of Lawrence. That is a badge I wear with the outmost honor and I do so unapologetically.
The young man was one of a kind. It was the beauty and quality of his mind that attracted us to him. I have no ambivalence or confusion in my mind when I say that Lawrence had a “beautiful mind” and in him, we found a kindred spirit and true friendship.
You didn’t have to like him as a person but everyone respected the quality of his thoughts and the brilliance of his mind and his presentation. He could easily win minds and hearts. He was “a kid with a matured perspective” and that is why he sat at the adults’ table.
His thoughts and perspectives were magnetizing such that anyone who interacted him would be thrilled, amazed and attracted.
After his demise, a cabinet colleague called me and said Lawrence used to do some work for us and now that he is no more, can you find someone who can help do some work for us? I told the Minister that I would try and get back to you. Truthfully, it is a very difficult task to perform. I have since not returned the call because I don’t know who to recommend.
Lawrence was unique in his skill set: his thought process was sophisticated; his ability to innovate was unparalleled; and his energy and capacity to execute was amazingly superb.
The young man was trained in Mass Communication, Economics, and Jurisprudence and then insisted that he must get training in Public Policy. How much rounded can a person be?
And when I talk about Lawrence being a trusted and true friend, I can cite a vivid example: I am sure most people know about Lawrence and Molley Passawe. I have never seen someone who was committed to another person as Lawrence was to Molley. They would fight so badly that you think they would never speak to one another but then in a few days, Lawrence would come and say “Jimmy, Molley is in trouble and we need to help him”. Lawrence, you and Molley were just fighting. He would say “that is true but I just got a call and he needs our intervention.” That is what they call a friend, a true friend.
Lawrence knew where he and Molley came from. He was never too big to say that Molley was his mentor and Molley has never been shy to say “I mentored Lawrence but let me admit he is better than I am”.
I did interact with a lot of young people and this admission of Lawrence’s special value to me is not a vote of less confidence in the other smart young people who I deal with daily. They are phenomenal!! But Lawrence and I grew especially close because he completed my thoughts and even developed them further. All I needed to do was tell Lawrence what I was thinking about and then Lawrence would say, “Jimmy let me give you a concept note on that in 2 days”. And then surprisingly, Lawrence would call and say “Jimmy check your email, I have send you something.” That thing would be so developed and far superior to what I was thinking. With minor tweaking, it would be ready to go and amazingly, Lawrence would be ready to implement. Who will not love and be attracted to someone like that?
It pains my heart and breaks my spirit that Lawrence is no more. There was a lot we agreed to do together. Lawrence was taking lots of other special courses outside his regular degree program at George Town so that we could do a lot more. Little did we know that we would be in Church today holding funeral for Lawrence. This is just not fair! But it seems that it is the will of God.
I remember vividly when Madam President called me from New York and said, “Jimmy I understand Lawrence is in the hospital. Please work with his family and let us know what we can do to help. Lawrence has been a good partner.” I told her “Madam President, I am in contact with his wife and if there is anything we can do I will let you know.” It turns that there was nothing humanly possible that we could do to avert this devastating outcome.
Lawrence, wherever you are, I know you know that you always enjoyed my “unquantified respect and honor” and as we are gathered here amongst families and friends, I am confident that as the song writer so elegantly writes:
There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar; For the Father waits over the way To prepare us a dwelling place there.
I know that indeed you have a dwelling in that place.
Family and friends, another song writer tells us:
Temptations, hidden snares often take us unaware, and our hearts are made to bleed for a thoughtless word or deed; and we wonder why the test when we try to do our best, but we’ll understand it better by and by
Togar, I know in those last days as the pain escalated, the Lord was there listening when prayers sounded like this:
Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine, If Thou art my sun and my song, Say, why do I languish and pine? And why are my winters so long? O drive these dark clouds from the sky, Thy soul cheering presence restore; Or take me to Thee up on high, Where winter and clouds are no more.
Again, my deepest condolences to the family. I believe that Lawrence’s soul is resting in his celestial home.
Lawrence, rest in peace my dear brother and friend and know that we shall meet again.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Blessed Holy Spirit.