Well, sometime back. my father and I had a father- son conversation. It was a story of his mother, my grandmother. The one who went away prematurely. I was so heartbroken that I slept thinking of the best grandmother who I never had. Perhaps I will meet her someday. Perhaps her life still lives in me. I had to write her story just as I Dr. Nyamongo had narrated it.
I now celebrate her. Much more, I celebrate my father who was my age now when all this happened.
Kenya has been an independent state for over three decades. We have just seen Mzee go just like that. A flamboyant young president is now at the helm. He has successfully quelled an attempted coup that had threatened his sovereignty. He now rules with an iron fist. Joke and you will literally be swept off your feet never to be seen. You will be last seen at the Nyayo Chambers Basement probably being corporally punished. A whole man being caned.
The world has also seen a lot happen. Margret Thatcher has established herself as not only the first prime minister of Britain but also one of the most outstanding one. She has just won the war between England and Argentina. Ronald Reagan has just made critical steps to ensuring the United States wins the cold war against USSR. Ukraine is an independent state now. So is Romania. Soon, Yugoslavia and many more…. USSR will be no more….
Let me not bore you with my analogy which an average history student already knows. Technology is fast advancing. Radios are now readily available. VOK is fast broadcasting its signal to some red boxes which are only available to the rich. There is one owned by the chief in my village.
Recent developments have also seen me advance from a totally humble background to a class of the elite students in Nairobi. I have just joined KEMRI and man, my dreams are on the verge of being fulfilled. As I report to school and eventually settle in my hostel ready to pounce on the flamboyancy of the City, I cannot forget to give gratitude to God.
6 years ago, I needed a scholarship to gain access to the high school of my dreams. Cardinal Otunga High School. I had been a trickster in getting the aid. You see, the school was at its peak. Being considered a worthy competitor of Alliance High School was no joke. The wazungus were still in charge trying to form brothers out of boys. These brothers would probably go on and become priests, some cardinals and some, who knows, The pope.
Well, for one to be granted a scholarship, he had to accept the faith. I was a Christian. A seventh Day Adventist. My mother had taught me well and I had been baptized into my church. So, when I was being given that condition, it clearly became tough for me.
So, I resolved to my trick. They are Christians. I thought to myself. Why would they deny a very poor boy from studying regardless of his affirmation and faith? I managed to convince my dad who by that time had retired from the Ministry of Agriculture to accompany me. The instructions being clear: He would dress in a manner like a beggar. Tattered clothes were not hard to come by. And so, we headed to see the wazungus.
The trick worked out so well. I had the scholarship.
But then I had seven other siblings. My dad, having retired was never going to give any money to our aid. He not only had my mother but also had my other mother who he loved as well. She had 10 kids in addition to my siblings. Clearly we were too many for him to manage.
Living in a polygamous home was quite a challenge. Being condemned as the lesser family also served to worsened the matters. I remember being told to graze elsewhere by my other brothers. I remember being slapped just like that for nothing. I remember being insulted. Were it not for my mother, I would have probably erupted firing missiles back. But I did not. All because of her.
The little I remember of her was her surety in life. She had been married off quite young to a rather older man- twice her age. She had not objected. After all, it was a taboo to reject a marriage proposal from a renowned man. She was forced to hold the second position in the home. She was lucky to have a me as her first born son and when the second was a girl, hell became a reality. Another attempt led to a girl, and five more led to five beautiful sisters until eventually, a seventh bore fruit to a son.
She was unemployed. Virtually illiterate safe for the fact that she could read basic bible verses which she ensured we memorized in ekegusii. She was an ardent believer who held fast to the promise. Despite the fact that she had been an illiterate, she understood the value of education.
All she ever told us was to ‘work hard.’
Truly, as we grew up, we excelled so well in school. Our brilliance startled our teachers. Our excellence really made her proud. I for instance remember a one term when we all had top most possible positions in our respective classes. All the 5 of us who had enrolled. I remember so well how we gathered outside our hut as we gave her our report forms. She was all smiles.
She ensured she had money for our education. This she accomplished by selling porridge and Githeri. In the area we grew up, her name became mama erongori – (mama uji). Unfortunately, my father would forcefully convert the ownership of the profits at times to suit his own convenience. This being joining other retired men at the local drinking den.
But she never relented.
She had a dream that one day she would build a god house for her kids. She dreamt that one day her kids would graduate from university. She envisioned her kids not having problems in their lives but would simply be happy. Being happy. She would be happy all time. God, I really never understood how happy she was despite the condition she was in.
We as the younger house were definitely limited to the smaller home. A hut that stood out is what we called home. A hut that housed goats, hens and at times (when it rained), the family cow is what we called home. Added to this misfortune was her health condition which had been worsening day in day out.
Hospital visit after hospital visit, doctor after another ,.. She would never get well. She would attempt to control her diet by putting into halt of various delicacies but this too would not help. She was often in serious pain. By the time I went to high school, she had virtually become a vegetarian. By the time I finished high school, eating would be a problem to her. Pain in her gut would ensure we sought further help from doctors. No one seemed to know how to help her.
It is due to this inadequacy in Nyamira that we land in Kitui.
This very year has seen me report to KMTC. In an attempt to raise my school fee, I have saved to buy a camera. My work has been to capture memories of my classmates as they provide sufficient consideration. Thus far, I have been doing well.
My mother, back in Nyamira is not doing so well. She has been condemned to death but there is a glimmer of hope. At first I brushed off the idea of visiting Kitui to see the herbalist but with repeated suggestions from my medical teachers, I head home and breakdown my plans to her. Money has to be found very fast. I run to may various uncles and aunts but get little or minimal help.
Land has to be parcelled out and help out as a security from a guarantor who aids us with the transport. Then the journey begins. My ailing, weak and tired mother accompanied by his 23-year old son are headed to a world unknown. From Nyamira, we have to travel to kisii first as it was the hub of the region then. Once in Kisii, obviously late, we would get two yellow Akamba Buses. All full but one passenger left in each of the buses. We are forced to be separated from my mum as we begin the long tedious journey to Nairobi.
Once in Nairobi, we would take another vehicle to tackle yet another long tedious journey to Kitui. Sure enough we finally arrive there. Sure enough we finally find the herbalist and sure enough, a deal is struck.
She would commence her medication as I head back to school to dig into my second semester. I would check on her after two weeks to see her progress. The plan was that once she gets well, we would go back home with her feeling quite happy. You see, no one except my sisters knew where I had taken her. No uncle of mine knew of her whereabouts as they had not been concerned anyway. She had been a burden to some having spent most of their money in hospital. But to me, she was everything. Hope drove me. Hope for a better future.
I would soon be summoned by my dean of students to go to his office. I would find police men armed. He would say that they had a message for me. A signal from Kitui. A telegram from Kitui Police Station that read- “Come Fast.”
My poverty would curtail me but a quick fundraising facilitated by my lecturers and classmates would ensure I have fare to Kitui. I would leave immediately. On that very same day, I would be there.
Inside the office of the OCPD, I would wait. My thought definitely troubled. “What has my mom done? Why am I here?”
When he finally arrived, trouble arrived too.
My mother had passed away.
She had been knocked down by a negligent driver of the police force of Kitui.
I was totally devastated. Totally dumbfounded. Totally out of words. Totally heart broken. Totally distraught. Completely heartbroken. The minutes that followed that moment were not real. I could not explain why. I could not imagine that this was happening.
I sunk into a seat as my mind ran completely out of ideas. I could not cry. I could not frown. I just sat there. Mourning from within as I saw the reaction of my sisters who had entrusted me with mom. I saw my father collapse. I saw my youngest sister, barely four asking for her mother with no success. I saw our home without mom. A dull home, filled with darkness. I saw tears. I saw divisions, I saw reluctance. I saw everything turning from good to sour. I saw everything bad until I was unable to think further. I sat down as I stared into nothingness. Blurriness dominated. I could literally hear my heartbeat as it sounded do hard.
I never heard the officer say anything but I remember myself in the morgue confirming the identity of my deceased mother. Sure indeed it was her.
How was I to transfer her body yet I had no money? How was I to tell my family? How was I to do anything? How was I to think?
News of her death would soon reach home. The news would travel as wild fire and the whole locality would know of the misfortune that had hit our homestead. But then, there would be a lapse in the communication. Where was I? People would ask. At that moment, all I could think of was life without her. She had been a pillar on which we stood. She had been the foundation that sustained us. My sisters would cry like never before.
In Kitui, the OCS knowing my predicament would quickly seek for a constable from my locality. They would quickly form a team that would ensure my loss is not borne alone. But later on, a case would be open in the Chief Magistrate’s Court Kitui. Daniel Nyamongo v The State. The evidence would so plausible. The coincidence and circumstances so fantastic to be rebutted. Later on, the driver would be held negligent and he would be at the fault to having caused the death of a civilian. Nut the case would remain open forever never to be closed.
You see, you are loved when you are born, you are loved when you die. In between, you just have to manage. Well, I can attest to this, I vividly remember seeking for money to aid my movement from Nyamira to Kitui. I remember how people blatantly hesitated to aid citing a harsh economy. My own very aunts would not aid. My own very uncles…. But news had reached me that a funeral committee had been set up and plans had been laid down.
The final journey of my beloved mother begun in Kitui in a GK vehicle and ended late in the day. She had traversed miles seeking medical aid but she met her death. Tomorrow, I would see her being lowered down and she would be no more.
The day itself was a sunny. Equinox was at its prime. A huge tent had been hired and for once, a generator had been seen in our homestead. I do not quite remember how all these things happened but then, they did.
The turnout had been so overwhelming. Everyone wanted to utter messages of condolences to the terror stricken family that now faced the ultimate uncertainty of life. I do not remember much of what was said by the selected speakers who were avid in reading out their speeches. Some said she cooked good uji. Some said she made the best githeri……I don’t recall much……In fact, I don’t remember how I felt. I kept glancing at my mother hopelessly hoping that she would get up and tell me to go read as her custom was. “My son, without education, you will not have a future.” She would say. How I hated those words then but now, I wished I could hear them again.
When the Eulogy was finally read and prayers offered, she was condemned to descend unto the depths of the ground. When the last song was sung and soil heaved on her, my heart literally broke into several pieces. Soon, she would be a feast unto the maggots who in our unfortunate misfortune had gained a fortune like no other. I watched in unbelief. My sisters firmly clung by me. Serious responsibility now beckoned.
That day, I realized that indeed, people act strange around death. There are those who talk about everything but the person who died. Those who talked about only the person who died. Those who try to cheer you up. And those who can’t help but make you cry. And then there are those who say nothing at all because they don’t have to.
Gradually the crowd begun to diminish. The reality that now seemed so real, we would be alone now. My sisters too, knowing that the dead are nothing also begun to wander away numb. But for a time I stood still. Staring fixedly at the spot where my beloved had descended.
The future was so dark, so blurred, so unfathomable, so unimaginable… How was I to make a step to face my new status?
Distraught. Heartbroken. Lonely.,.. I stood still.
A familiar tap would finally bring me into reality. Then words that would emanate from her would bring in a glimmer of hope.
“I am sorry for your loss Dan. I know it will be hard for you but we have a future to build.”
My mother had met her a few weeks before and she had been endorsed. My future wife. My dear Jane.
A warm hug gave me a relief that I had yearned for a long time.
“Indeed. We do have a future. But it will be hard. The future is for the living.”
“Don’t worry, I will be with you wherever you go. Your family is now mine too. Your burdens mine too and your sorrows mine too. If God wills, three kids will be born out our union. I have a feeling the first will be a girl. Her name will be Bwari. Among the three, one would be a doctor. No ailment would ever bring our family down like this. Another would be a lawyer, no case would we ever loose. Maybe, he would retrieve the lost file from the CM’s court in Kitui and finally end the suit against the killers of our mum. Then Engineer will ensure our home has electricity. Hush, do not worry, we have a future.”
As we left the site, the coldness had vanished and I could feel a sense of peace that had slowly begun reigning.
A future without my mother would begin and I would brave it strongly.
But my kids would miss her. They would hear stories of her being narrated by me as they gain momentum in life too. They would wish they had met this pillar. This cornerstone. This lady who inspired me to study and bring light to a forgotten, despised and ill-treated family. They would respect her when they learn that they study all because of the motto that had been imparted in me….“My son, without education, you will not have a future.”
Her name was Bwari Sophia.