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20 Years Later and Death Still Hurts As Much

It was August 27th 1995; we were in school for remedial tuition. I was called from class by Mrs. Wang’ombe. This was not strange since I was the class prefect and it was common for teachers especially my favorite (Miss Carol), to call and send me out of school over lunch.

Guess who that sweet baby is...

Guess who that sweet baby is…

Something was different though. I could feel it. Mrs. Wang’ombe told me I needed to go see Mrs. Mathenge who lived near the school. She asked me to make sure everything was in order before leaving. As I walked to Mrs.Mathenge’s   I thought about many childish things but I never anticipated what I was about to be told.

I found Mrs. Mathenge waiting for me at her house. She started with some chit chat about how big my dog had become (a German shepherd I gave her since my mum would not let me keep it). Her eyes were blood shot red. I could tell she had been crying for a very long time. After trying to make me as comfortable as possible she finally gathered the courage to say it.

The entire world sunk. I became numb and every second seemed like a hundred years. I stared blankly at Mrs. Mathenge as she moved closer to where I was seated. She started crying and that’s when everything sped back to normal. I wailed heavily and from the heart. “You are a man Githaiga and you need to be strong for your sisters,” she said. At that point my tears dried up instantly and I never shed another tear until the day of the burial.

Mrs Njuguna back in the day

Mrs Njuguna back in the day

The last time I saw her, I was out playing with my friends. I saw my uncles walking her to the car and I dashed to say hi. “I am fine,” she said. “Go back and play, I will be back in no time. Please behave yourself. OK?” and she got into the car and they drove off. I went on to play. Everything would be OK. I was so wrong.

Mrs. Margaret Waihuni Njuguna was a woman I loved deeply. Even though I denounced her as my mother a million times, I loved her. Mrs. Waihuini was unpredictable. She was the love and terror in equal measure. She would switch between both characters anywhere and in a second. I seemed to provoke the terror side more than anyone else.

Mrs. Waihuini loved her family and especially her mother. Mrs. Waruguru Githaiga was the world to my mother and when she passed on my mother evidently lost her zeal and vigor. She was never the same again.  She had lost her source of inspiration. It’s like all she wanted was to go be with her mum. God granted her wish a few months later.

The Njugunahs. See those socks that boy is wearing?

The Njugunahs. See those socks that boy is wearing?

I lost the two most important women in my life at that time. My mother gave me over to my grandmother when I was a young boy. My grandmother ceasing the chance tried to take me to a local school but I couldn’t learn in the language they were using and so I refused to go back. I got my stubbornness from these two women.

My mother’s death was not painful until four years later when I finally cracked. It soon dawned on me that I was always too busy trying to be a man that I forgot to mourn her. I became bitter at the world for robbing me of my mother; my life, my everything. I was even more bitter at God because of not doing everything in His power to stop death from taking my mother.

What kind of a God can’t stop death? What kind of good God allows bad things to happen good people? Why would He take both of my parents when they world had billions of people he could take. What made it even worse was that “His people” said the wrong things in an attempt to console my sister and I. “She is in a better place”, “We loved her but God loved her more”, “She is watching over you from up there. “Though meaning well, these statements came back to haunt me four years later and I was furious because God seemed to have told everyone else about my mother’s departure apart from me.

Mrs Waihuni Njuguna. Quite Fashionable

Mrs Waihuni Njuguna. Quite Fashionable

When my mum died, my world ended. I was convinced that life wouldn’t go on. I believed that was the end of time as I understood it. I stopped dreaming unless the dream was about being with my mother. I hid my heart from hope and from faith. Nothing was worth holding on to. Moving to Nairobi made things worse because I was constantly reminded that I am in Nairobi because my mother was not around.

It’s been 20 years since my mother passed on. I have lived longer without her, something I never thought possible. Even though every now and then I miss her, I have learnt to live with the scars of her absence. Death of a loved one is a language that is unique to an individual but it’s the most painful experience anyone can ever go through. It only gets worse with the unanswered questions, the missed opportunities, and the ‘if onlys’ continue to haunt us long after the world has moved on.

Mr and Mrs Njuguna on their wedding.

Mr and Mrs Njuguna on their wedding.

I scoff at people who demand that we “move on.” Yes our lives must go on and they eventually do but if we are honest enough we will admit that we left a huge part of us “back there.” All the same the longer we live; the pain becomes part of us enough to be bearable. We learn to see the benefits of being alive. God grants us “better moments” every now and then like finding love, fulfilling our dreams, having our own family, being a source of hope to someone else or making a difference in other people’s lives.

But the more “better moments” we get, the more we wish our departed ones were here to be part of the stories they inspired. It’s been 20 years since I got to the end of the road. God has been gracious to give me many “better moments” including surviving a snake bite and life continues to surprise me every day. My mother’s corrections and affirmations continue to influence the kind of person I am today.

For everyone who is still asking the questions. There is nothing wrong with you. There is no expiry date to missing someone who passed on. One day, twenty or so years from now your “better moments” will creep up on you and warm your once frozen heart.

The Njugunahs representing about 25 years or so years ago

The Njugunahs representing about 25 years or so years ago. Do not look at the feet.

Hope.

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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Death Announcement!

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the sad and untimely death of our dear friend, Courage. Until his death, Courage has been living in our hearts from birth. He will be joining his kin faith, hope, trust, optimism, confidence self-belief, sacrifice who passed on a while ago. Courage leaves behind fear, self-doubt, limitations, cowardice, timidity and faint-heartedness.

Kenya Liz rape victim

Courage will be remembered for energizing many hearts to keep believing even when all hope was lost. He was there when we were fighting for our independence. He made the freedom fighters intolerant of injustices that were happening at the time. It is because of him that the freedom fighters sacrificed their lives and took an oath not to relent until the generations that would come after them were free to be whoever they wanted.

Courage will also be remembered for leading men and women into fighting for democracy in Kenya. He is the one who kept them from giving up when they were tortured and humiliated for taking a stand. It was Courage that reminded these men and women what they were fighting for. He showed them that even though some would lose their lives in the process, their posterity would enjoy the fruits of a democratic country.

Courage will also be remembered for walking with individuals like the late Wangari Maathai who fought greedy and self-centered individuals and organizations that were hell bent on robbing future generations of their inheritance; a safe, clean and functional eco system. Today we enjoy the benefits of her sacrifice and our children will grow up in a clean, unpolluted environment.

Westgate heros saves child

You will remember Courage when he walked with individuals like the late John Michuki who dreamt of a safer public transport system. He put his foot down and refused to give in to pressure from the stakeholders in the sector. Today, his legacy lives on; public transport is orderly, safer and more comfortable than we could have ever imagined.

Before his demise, Courage has also been living in heroes and heroines who are still alive today. He was living in the GSU officer who chose to reason with rioters during the post-election violence period instead of using violence. Courage was at the center of the people who fought for this country to have a new constitution. He was in leaders who resigned from high positions because they did not want to be part of “the rot.” Unlike the famous “I’d rather die than resign” kind of leaders we are used to

Courage, if you can remember, has over the years put Kenya in the global map as he inspired many athletes to push themselves enough to win races and marathons. He has restored the pride we have in our country when our athletes have carried the Kenyan flag high every year. From the track to the swimming pool to the volleyball court the Kenyan flag has continued to soar.

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You too interacted with Courage a couple of times and can tell of his friendship. When you went out to demonstrate and demand justice over grabbed land, justice for rape victims and other seemingly ‘small’ injustices. You refused to keep quiet when something was not right. You let your voice be heard and when it wasn’t you, joined like-minded individuals to make it even louder. You brought the fight for justice home and into your networks, including social media. Any platform you got, you raised your voice and demanded justice. Thanks to Courage, your voice was heard, and you made a difference.

It took courage for you to wake up early that election morning to go vote for a new constitution and for a leader you believed in. You believed in the need for change and you actioned your belief. You chose leaders who had the courage to declare that they had what it would take to change the status quo. Courage made you see the benefits of your choice and you took the risk.

In his last days however, Courage lived a very lonely life. We all abandoned him and made deals with his enemies; fear and selfish ambition. We soon became cowards who only thought about themselves. We refused to respond to people who cried for our help and told ourselves that it was someone else’s responsibility. We built higher walls around our homes and around ourselves to keep people out.

courage wordle

We soon joined networking forums not to offer others anything but to find out what they could offer us. We became selfishly competitive to the point of sabotaging colleagues so that we would look good. We stopped being courteous on the roads or anywhere else. Our selfishness became so severe that we started selling out our country and freedom to the highest bidder or just any bidder. We turned our back and hid our faces to injustices. We hid in our religious institutions saddened by how evil seemed to be thriving around us wondering what ill equipped simple people like ourselves could do in such times. Soon our country became the prey for terrorists, rapists thugs and land grabbers. We saw evil but shut our mouths to it and slowly Courage grew weaker and weaker.

Our leaders stopped listening to Courage. They forgot that Courage had once taught them that they were the heroes chosen by the people to fight injustices in society. They too became “crowds for hire” even at the cost of the mwananchi. They unanimously appointed a public servants who played to their tune and turned down qualified personnel that would bring the much needed change in the country. They ganged up and looted the country at any given chance.

So dear brethren, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to our departed friend. Our unsung hero who lived his latter years as a lonely, abandoned old man despite all that he helped us achieve over the years as individuals and as a country. Let us take this time to honor him by remembering all that we have lost in the demise of a dear friend, Courage.

(Moment of silence)

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru