Pure Madness

My thoughts on the "behind the scenes" of life. You will find inspiration here. Share it generously


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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


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The Days of Our Lives

I don’t like death. Well, I am yet to meet anyone who does. My greatest frustration with death is that no one survives it to give a detailed account of what exactly happens when someone dies. I have a very inquisitive mind so you can imagine the “uncertified” ideas I have about death. Movies have not made it easy either. Some people “die” violently, others just close their eyes and are no more. Dead.

Funny-Til-death-do-us-part

Many cultures in Kenya consider it a taboo to talk about death. Perhaps that is why you will find people crowding around accident spots or crime scenes. It’s our chance to glimpse at death. Have you ever noticed how people queue for hours to just glimpse at the body of a prominent person?

No one gets used to death and no amount of preparation or information can shield you from its pain and grief. Even when you thought you saw it coming when it finally checks in, the death sting will always hurt as much. It is not a respecter of age, marital status, wealth, profession, religious belief or education background. It strikes whenever and wherever it wants.

I started having questions about death when I was very young. Every time any of my pets died, I was devastated. My mum, like many other parents would attempt to comfort me by saying, “It’s in a better place.” This of course left me wondering, “Was I that bad that it had to go somewhere else?”

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The older I got, the more frustrated I became with death.  There was no stopping it. It came after my family and after my close friends. I was bitter for a very long time. Every time I heard about death even if it was a stranger, my own “death wounds” ached.

Every time I thought I had “enough experience” to encourage people who were dealing with death, my own heart demanded answers. It seemed unfair and unjust to rip precious ones from us without our consent. In my attempt to comfort the victims I ended up saying things that in retrospect made the situation worse.

Recently, when I was bitten by a snake, death was on my mind a lot. “What if I die?” I kept asking myself. What if this is it. The end of my days. What if I don’t make it out of this alive? What does this mean to my family, my relationship and my friends? What awaits me? Have I lived my life well enough? What will I be remembered for? Am I even ready to die?

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We are often very reflective when someone close to us dies. We swear to ourselves to be better people, to live for what matters, to be there for other people and to make our lives count. We promise ourselves that we will embark on a new and more meaningful life from that moment on. The brevity of life finally dawns on us and it scares us to know that there is a part of our life that we don’t have control over.

But this new revelation is often short lived. We soon go back to our “normal” fast lives. Yes “our” lives. Before we know it, our new values and resolutions take a back seat. We lose sight of what we resolved to uphold. We go back to living for ourselves, ready to do whatever it takes to seal that deal. We put our health on line and throw our conscience out the window, fight whoever stands in our way and step on others if only to “get there” faster.

The fortunate yet unfortunate bit about life is that it does not give you a death rehearsal. You only live once and most certainly, die once as well. Every day you are alive you are living and rehearsing to die at the same time. Some of us of course have perfected the “art of playing with death” through our driving, diet and drinking habits but even then, we all don’t know when and how we finally bow out.

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One day, it will be us that people mourn. It will be our departure that will make people rethink their lives. How sad it will be that at the end of the days of our lives all we will have to show are graveyard resolutions that never got to live.

It’s sobering to know that we have no control of when we die. It should be. This does not mean that we ought to live in fear of death but we cannot ignore it altogether. In my view, death should be a motivator for living and not a source of fear. The snake bite and a gangster waving a gun to my face experiences made it very clear to me, it could be anytime. What is sad is that I will soon forget that am not here forever. Neither are you.

So while we are still here, today, let’s make it count. Let’s be the best we can. Let’s aspire to live behind a legacy (and not a Subaru, blue or otherwise). A legacy that generations after us will remember. A legacy that you and I, left “our environments” better than we found them. This is not the responsibility for the Mheshimiwas; it’s for all of us. We owe it to ourselves to leave a good story behind. Not just an “I was here.”

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Today you get to rehearse for your death by living. Put on a good show. It could happen anytime. Maybe not a snake bite but who knows when it’s your story that makes us reflect on The Days of Our Lives.

Editing by Wanjiku Kimaru


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R.I.P Kenyan

There are more than a thousand ways to die in Kenya today. These are just a few ideas of places you are likely to meet your death in Kenya. Though hilarious, this account is NOT factual but that does not take away from the fact that there are people who die every day from these situations. Be the judge. Will this be the way you meet your death? Today, you get to choose.

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If you are the president of a country called Kenya, beware of flying shoes and add a backup anti theft system on the presidential escort vehicles just in case the current one fails and your car is lost. As the president, the citizen might decide to boo and chant as you (their president and Commander in Chief) try to negotiate with them to give you a chance to address them. These are just a few things that you should be LEAST worried about it.

But if you are a Kenyan citizen, your life is more at stake than you think. What happens to you when you are unwell? Well that’s easy right? Kenya have some of the best hospitals in East Africa and you have a medical cover! Lucky you. Today you get to cheat death. But for the mwananchi whose lifeline is that public hospital that is close to 400Km from where they live, death comes even faster when the doctors of that hospital are on strike.

You don’t have good roads; if any in the first place, the security in your area is questionable if not non-existent and by the time you finally get to the hospital three days later, the doctors are on strike? Before you leave your house it might be a good idea to leave everything “in order”. You may be gone a little longer than you think.

Merv Griffin's headstone at the  cemetery in Westwood Village, Ca, Splash

If you are a Kenyan citizen, well, how do I put this; get ready to lose your phone a couple of times. That’s not all. Get ready to lose more than just your phone. You might lose your car to car jackers at gun point and after they have cleared the little life savings you have in bank account, they will probably not see your use any more so they will shoot you and no need to pray for a good Samaritan because they are only good with your goods. If they take you to hospital well you will die in a “safe environment”.

Car jackers are angels in comparison to what kidnappers will do to you if you are their target. Apart from denying you your basic human rights including food and water, some of them might rape you and after they have their ransom, you will already be dead! That’s not all. Meet the new face of terrorists. They are young and driven, passionate about their cause. But they are also desperate and frustrated and finally found someone who knows their value. Well, you never get to meet these ones if you do at least you die together. The rest will “throw death” at you from a distance in the name of a grenade. If you survive, remember the doctors are still on strike.

The main mode of transport in Kenya is road. You are likely to meet your death on this avenue too. The “certified” un-roadworthy vehicles operating as public service vehicles are driven recklessly and despite having speed governors, the speeds are literally “out of this world”! If you think you are safer on a motorbike otherwise known as bodabodas well think again. The helmet is filthy and you are always tempted to think that you don’t have time to wear it since you are not going far. That’s your first mistake and your step in the direction of your death door. Well there are many wards specifically for motorcycle accidents so you won’t be lonely. But then again remember doctors are on strike.

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There are many other ways to die in Kenya. You could fall into an uncovered man hole around town break a few bones before an ambulance comes to your rescue and dashes you to hospital… oops you just got to your death faster! The high cost of living will definitely not be your cup of tea especially because it might raise your “sugar level” and we don’t want that for obvious reasons.

For you who have clean water to drink every day and even flush your toilets with it, you don’t get to die today but for the majority of Kenyans who have to walk miles every day to get a gallon of dirty water, every day is death day. That’s not the only “death wish” they have to worry about. They have leaders that they voted for who should be “eliminating these death traps” for them. Sadly, they will only get to see these leaders after five years – and that’s if they will be alive.

So today, when you are alive, before you meet one of your a thousand ways to die, don’t you think it’s time you “fought for your life”? I can point you in the right direction but unfortunately it’s all I can do because I too have my a thousand ways to die to deal with.The way to stay alive today, begins by you using your right and power to choose the right person to be in power.

The power is in your hands. Use it wisely. Tic toc.


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The Exit Strategy

I am often surprised at how attached we get to “our things”. 

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Even mad people, and trust me I would know, have their own level of attachment to their things, Try and grab anything a mad man is holding. You try. 

If you are a parent you know “this madness” starts quite early in life. Your own kids will pull tantrums for you if you take away a toy that you bought them. Try withdrawing certain privileges that you have given them and see their reaction. Utter Madness! Who gave them that right? Its your money. You chose to buy the toy for them without asking them and here they are now, owning it.

I tell you madness is in the heart of every child! My mother possessed a different kind of madness; if you disobeyed her because of something she bought you, she would take it, break it and then “break” you. I would never allow my mother to chose a wife for me. Never! Am I mad? No really, am I mad? 

So lets talk about this “ownership madness” disease that infects every child and refuses to respond to any sensible medication including growing up. Sadly, no vaccine has been developed so far that can prevent you form getting infected by this disease. In fact it gets worse as you grow older. I have evidence.

Lets take it from the top or rather from the beginning. Unless in very rare situations, you are born with nothing, naked. They slap your behind maybe to punish you for bringing yourself into this world. They should anyway. You should have known better! That notwithstanding, you begin your journey. 

Somehow this “ownership disease” manages to convince you that the world revolves around you. So you cry when you feel like, poop immediately your diaper has been changed, wake everyone up because you cant sleep, make grown ups stoop as low as to forsake their language to talk to you in strange sounds ( a goo goo goo goo) just to see you smile. One would think that sun wont rise if you don’t smile. Despite all these efforts, you still cry.

It gets worse, you become a teenager. You think you are the first of your kind to exist. You think the rest of us were born adults. Everything now is dependent on how you feel. And you often don’t feel like a lot of things most of the time. When asked why you did or did not do something, your well thought out answer is… “I don’t feel like” Oh and you think “Just” is a complete statement worth giving as a response. Let me break it down a little so that you can see how deeply this condition runs in you.

Mum: (your mother who carried you around for a good 9 months) Davie, why dint you take out the trash? (I have to admit even as a mad man that at times she means why you (the trash) did not leave the house and not why you did not empty the trash bin, trust me – a mad man – they will never admit it).

Davie: (Feeling as if that’s the hardest most intrusive question anyone could ever ask especially as you watch your parents TV seated comfortably on their couch): Just!

I rest my case.

You think the disease wouldn’t affect the grown ups right? Wrong. Its worse. Our toys are different. Salaries, accomplishments and image take over. Your toys; bigger cars, newest gadgets and the prettiest ladies. Nothing wrong with that? I agree. But lets take a closer look for a moment.

You take a loan to buy a car so that you can be like the rest of your friends while your family struggles to make ends meet. You leave your husband and kids for another man because  “You think you made a mistake”. You live a lie, to fit in! You want what everyone else has at whatever cost and you are ready to compromise anything to get it. You cant see what you already have because you want what you don’t have!

You get ulcers, you get high blood pressure, you get a stroke and your heart finally stops. It cant take it any more. We who are left, behind talk of the amazing toys you left behind. While you, you wonder if it was worth it after all. All moments you missed chasing after the next “new thing”. All the energy you spent gathering and protecting what “you owned” none of that matters anymore.

And there, as you lie there. It finally occurs to you. This is the same way you came. With nothing. There is nothing you can do. None of your toys can be traded for more time or more life. Nothing. Your kids say good bye to the stranger who lived in their house for a really long time and was kind enough to buy them a couple of good things. All you can take with you in exceeding measure is “what ifs”. 

That,s not the end of the disease. Far from it. The rest of us go back to our toys and soon enough we are back on the fast lane. Looking out for number one. Acquiring the news gadget at the expense of the real deal; family, friends, societal impact. (Yeah that’s  so 1912 right?)

What is madness I ask. You see it everyday. I do too. But what do I know anyway? I am just a Mad Man right?