Once upon a time I used to be the only daughter in my family. Wait! I used to love reading stories that started with that line. Now I pretty much read anything that starts with whatever. As a tiny girl and before I was blessed with two beautiful sisters, my grandma spoiled me silly and took me everywhere she went . I was her balance.
I accompanied her to the farm, picked whatever she directed me to and in most afternoons she called me to take her to her friends house. That was our routine. I was very proud that this no-nonsense woman chose me. Almost always.
Towards the end of year 2005, I was about to sit for my KCPE (Kenya Primary School Education) in boarding school, and we happened to have a prayers day just a few weeks to writing this major exam. Our parents and loved ones were allowed to come and visit and we anticipated this day because of the food, Snacks, family and fun that was attached to it.
I remember prior to starting the term I had requested my dad not to come alone but to take along my brothers and mom too. He had agreed. I was very excited. The day came and from where I was sitting sneaking and peeping to see whether anyone I knew was coming, I saw him. This man in a jungle green suit and no tie, holding a newspaper on one hand and the other empty.
I instantly stood up and tried to search behind him, my dad to see if there were other familiar faces. No one! Me and my emotional self I shed a tear. Literally. First question I asked him after shaking hands was,”Where are the others?” He said,”I came alone.” I said a firm but disappointed fine. Being a lover of food that I have always been, I asked, “where is the food?” He innocently replied with a little confusion in his voice, “It’s a prayers day, and I didn’t think we we were supposed to bring food.”
At this point I was almost fully crying when he said to give him a few minutes to go to town and bring something for us. He left and brought the best chicken ever.
I was too caught up in wanting to be pleased to notice how sad he was. I felt he took me for granted and didn’t care much about me. See, I think at a certain age we are obsessed with ourselves. It’s just me me me. The dangerous me mentality. While we were eating is when I saw through him. He was particularly sad and I can almost bet his eyes were clouded by tears.
I asked him whether everything was fine and why he came alone for my important day. I wasn’t letting go. He told me that mum was receiving guests at home because my grandma, his mother was sick and hospitalized. It didn’t make sense to me. I mean why would guests be coming to visit grandma at home when she in a hospital? So I pestered more. My 13 year old self was smart.
From how he was answering my questions I knew something was very wrong. I could see he wanted to tell me but was also trying to hide something. We went back and forth but he never hit me with the truth. He made it worse by saying that I should go home next Thursday because my cousins will also be there to see grandma.
I didn’t need to hear more. Deep down I knew the fearless woman I and my little sister were named after was no more, although there is that part that still wanted confirmation. I spent the next few days crying. My pals urging me not to expect the worst. But when you know you know!
Fast forward I’m on my way home all by myself. I reach halfway and pass by my uncles place as I was directed to do. His elder daughter,Carol tells me nothing. But they are all going to shop for clothes. I take a chance and ask the younger son.”Karagu, what’s happening?” He blurts out,”Si ni mazishi ya cucu” (It’s grandma’s burial). I get weak, but I’m not about to pass out in town. I don’t know where I got the strength but I did. I stayed calm but deep down I was very sad.
I’m finally home welcomed by tents and hundreds of people. All those who knew how close I was to granny came to comfort me. This was the second time I lost someone very important to me after my mum in a span of about 4 years. My elder brother saw an obituary of grandma on the newspaper. He asked for permission to attend the burial and came home by himself. The courage and strength he had was to envy.
During this burial is when I saw my dad cry for the second time in my life. First time he did was at mums burial. It is okay for men to feel vulnerable and even cry. Even in public. They should be allowed to be human and express their feelings the way it will make them feel better. We laid grandma to her grave. I mourned her rightfully but I have never told her story like this before. I could write a whole book if I was to write about her. She was a woman to look up to and she was funny. Maybe one day I will go into details.
Maybe I wrote this because writing helps me remember, cope, deal and trace my personal growth in different aspects of my life. Also to show someone out there that we all go through stuff, some similar and in this case, loss. And that everyone griefs and mourns differently and everyone needs to understand and respect that. No one can teach any one how to grief. It is personal. There is no right and wrong way.
As you have seen with my dad, it is very difficult to break out such bad news to relevant people. Most might argue that death news are better broken out by close and attached people. I agree because it subtly gives the person on the other side some comfort of togetherness and not being in the loss alone. It is very difficult for the one breaking the news but it is necessary if the person trusts they can find the words to do so.
When my mum passed away, her sister is the one who took my brother and I in a room and broke the heartbreaking news to us. And in the same house were other relatives. We all broke down but auntie managed to hold us together and told us she lost her best friend, her sister. We calmed down eventually succumbing to the fact that all of us in the room had lost an equivalently important person.
I’ll finish by saying that I hope our departed loved ones are tirelessly dancing with angels(if they exist ) and that they look down on us and feel proud of us. And if you are like me who has lost to death, I pray for you to find a way to cope and deal and know that it gets manageable day by day even though that hole never gets refilled and will never be the same.
Ps: We all have an appointment with death. When you realize that, you will live your life the best way you can. Let it be on your terms.
Till we meet.
Do you have a similar or relatable experience to the above and would like to share with me? If so feel free.