Memories of my uncle, Professor Getatchew Haile (Wondimtila)
My earliest memory of Wondimtila is when I was about 5 years old or younger. There are a few occasions that come to mind every time I think of him. He was living in Addis Ababa, in an area called Abware, in his father’s (my grandfather’s) house. My aunt, Wondimtila’s older sister, who I consider a mother, Tobiyaw Haile (or Eteye, as we affectionately call her), was living in the same area. During that time, Eteye brought me to her place from Assela, where I was living with my parents. I lived with her for some time and had the opportunity to see Wondimtila frequently. I enjoyed visiting and staying with him, especially when I could stay overnight at his house. I remember him taking me to recreational places, like “Fil Wuha” (natural hot spring waters) in the weekends. After he got married, I also enjoyed visiting him and his wife, Eteye Misrak. My frequent visit with Wondimtila discontinued when I went back to Assela to live with my father, Assefa Mandefro, and my mother, Wondimtila’s younger sister, Menber Haile, or Etete, as we lovingly call her.
While living with my siblings – Hanna, Hiwoteselam, Fregenet, and Yilak – in Assela, we used to spend the end of year school breaks in Addis Ababa. When the break was over, Wondimtila gave us a ride back to Assela. On our way back, he would inquire from us about our grades at school and give us awards for our achievements. He encouraged us to work hard. His encouragement was a reinforcement to our father’s instruction and dedication to help us become successful at school. At one point, my sister, Hiwoteselam, stayed with our grandparents for some time, and she still remembers vividly how Wondimtila taught her reading and writing, both in English and Amharic, in a short time during her stay. He used a technique, which worked well for her young age. Later, he helped her to memorize the multiplication table. I also recall his random, yet intentional, visits in Assela, which were quite memorable.
After I finished 9th grade in Assela, we all had to move to Addis Ababa. Finding a school for me posed a difficulty. However, he took it upon himself to find a high school for me in the area. When he got to the school, there was a notice posted on the entrance gate, stating admission for new students for that year had already closed. He went in anyway, and he talked to the director and succeeded in getting me admitted into the school. The director’s first response was that there was no space for a newcomer. But Wondimtilla argued that I was a tiny little girl and would not take much space.
When we were still young, my siblings and I noticed the special love Etete had for Wondimtila. We could also see his love for her was special. He tried to provide opportunities for us to grow closer to his children, until he and his family were forced to leave Ethiopia for their safety.
Years later, when I came to the U.S.A., he was one of the first people to encourage me to go to a graduate school, even though I already got my master’s degree elsewhere. My memory of Wondimtila and I, from the past few years here in America, is mostly our communication over the phone. Whenever I called him, I made sure I had enough time to talk with him about everything that was on our minds. Especially, whenever Etete was in Ethiopia, we would chat about her and Eteye’s family. He would give me updates about his family too. I enjoyed listening to him and telling him stories from my side. He would ask me about work or education updates in the family. He was excited to hear about any promotion or good happenings.
I am thankful to the Lord for the recent years he lived in New York City, because due to his proximity, travelling and visiting him was much easier, compared to when he lived in Minnesota. Knowing how much Etete and Wondimtila missed each other, I arranged for them to spend time together a couple of times. Every time I told him of my plan to bring her to him, I sensed his excitement. During those visits, we had a great time with him and with Eteye Misrak.
Now, Wondimtila is no longer with us. He is and will be missed by all of us, until it is time for us to go to him. His absence is a reminder that sooner or later, we will follow him. When it happens, will we be ready?
The bible says, in Hebrews 9:27-28, “…Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.” Whether we like it or not, we will all die, and we will all face judgement.
It does not matter what we, or others, think or feel about life after death, but only what God says! We are all sinners and deserve eternal death. But God’s good news is that He loves us so much and wants us to LIVE with Him, forever!
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Do you want to trust Jesus Christ and get eternal life? Please, do it now and enjoy life with our Savior Jesus Christ, now and forever.
His niece, Meaza Assefa