Hi Mum. It 14 years since you left. 14 long years. 14 long damn years. They said that time heals. They lied. Believe you me. We never healed. It still hurts so much. It still disturbs us why at 34, still young and full of life you had to die.
14 years without using the word Mama…The loveliest name, word, term on earth…It lost meaning long time ago…Mama, how did you expect us to get by without you? The bond we had formed the three of us was the tightest, yet you chose to go…That was unforgivable. That was embarrassing. Being an orphan at 11 ain’t funny. You should have known better…How were we to answer to fellow pupils and students at school when they asked what our parents did for a living…
C’mon being an orphan, everyone looks at you suspiciously. How unlucky can a kid be? How did they die? An accident, some could ask…And when they learn it wasn’t an accident, they run out of options and unsatisfactorily keep quiet, wishing they could know more but what can I tell them? That you fell sick on a Thursday and died on the following Wednesday?…Some I can read their minds. They mentally question…AIDS?But they can’t bring themselves to ask. AIDS is still a big deal. Some blame it on witchcraft, but I have always had my reservations.
It is difficult mum. So much that I spent nearly all my time talking about my foster mother…to which I consistently felt that I was doing a great disservice. Most of my friends have come to know my unenviable status rather late, when I could no longer be embarrassed and full accepted your permanent departure from this place they call earth.
14 years. How time flies. The day you went is clearly etched on my mind. It was Wednesday. Market day. Ordinarily you were supposed to join the hordes of women traversing the dusty road that always came to life on Wednesday as they went to sell their wares in the open market, arguably the largest in those sides that brought the Luos and the Kisiis together.
But on this day, 29th January, 1997, you kissed the world good bye. Why. They came to pick me from school at 6.57 am. I had scarcely settled for the morning prep when the teacher we had nick-named Makweri( coincidentally Kisii plural deaths) came for me and handpicked me yet we had never interacted. I knew something was incorrigibly wrong.
I carried the wooded box that you had just bought for us, a sign of prestige in the mundane village and walked the few yards towards home. I couldn’t cry. I was too young to understand, but I knew things were never going to be the same again. Tears dried up in my glands. I gave up. The sight of people rushing to our compound weeping, mourning, crying was too much for me to bear. They looked at me with those pitiful eyes. In deed mum, I must have been pitiable. Your lone son, no father or mother to look up to…
I was helpless. Hapless. I was defeated. I was down. I still fault you dying at dawn. I mean, you should have gone in the evening if you had to go so that the night will at least absolve part of the pain. That was the longest Wednesday of my life. The relatives wept. Friends cried. The community mourned. They all loved you. You were one of a kind. And to us one in a million. The community adored you. You exemplified humility and proved the value of hard work. You were widowed when you were too young but you could put two and two together to get four. You gave us the best. Taught us the best. Mum.
The last day we had conversation, you were too sick and going down. You insisted that you cook for us, Ezinah’s insistence fell on deaf ears…Like intuitively you knew that you won’t be with us for long. That Wednesday evening. On Thursday you lay prostrate on bed the whole day. You didn’t even raise your head once. I was young yet I knew that something was exceptionally wrong. In the evening, they checked you into Kendu Bay hospital. And that was the last I ever saw of you.
Mum, the next time I saw you, you were bundled in some wooden box that they use to carry mortals to the other world. You looked bitter Mum. Why. You looked sore and sour. Why. You looked eager. Why. It is like you died before saying something very important…Show me a sign please Mum. We surrounded the coffin and the piercing cry was too telling. It was too sudden a death. They hurried your funeral. The bitterness was too palpable. Flagrant. Your brothers and sisters were bitter. They wanted out of that place as fast as possible. It looked foreign. Strange. No peculiar is strong enough.
Mum, I thought that I had been left to fend for myself and I had a blue print with me. How I was going to tend to the farms and be a real man. After all, I had been circumcised and much was expected from me. At 11. After the mourning period, people only passed to say Hi and console me and my sisters. But how do you console an 11 year old who doesn’t understand what death is…
Later, Irene and Ezinah did come for me and we bade a place we had called home for 5 years bye, and it seems forever.
So Mum, I’m sure you would like to know how the 14 years have been.
Well, I know you have the time, lemme try as much as possible to put the record straight. The 14 years have been uneventful, eventful, dramatic, frenetic, frantic, quick, slow, happy, sad, bad, good, ugly and all that. Your brothers and sisters did pick us and gave us all the parental love as humanly as it is possible. To the best of our abilities they educated us, took us through good schools and have invested heavily in our education. I will be finishing campus this year and I’m inviting you to my graduation. Mum, haki si you can sneak in?, I did it for you. Ezinah too should be seated by me…What a wonderful day it will be?
We have had our disagreements as expected. Sometimes we could be chased to nowhere. Sometimes we got unfair treatment, but we learnt to live with it. The incompleteness. Sometimes we looked up to the sky, crying searching for someone to call Mum, but you were nowhere to be seen. Sometimes we nearly gave up. I must confess, twice I wanted to commit suicide. Twice I wanted to walk away to God knows where, but it took Rosaliah(I believe you have met her there) to seat me down and whack some sense into me. I was young Mum, you should not be offended.
Many a time, I pulled my hair in vain. Many a time I lost my cool, but I kept my eyes on the Prize. I passed my KCPE and KCSE respectively. I know you would have loved that…won’t you? In campus, I hope I will make it. For you I will. Mum I will. Take my word.
Your brothers, especially Ken and Richard sacrificed a great deal to ensure that I was in school. Even when I didn’t get the correct marks, Richard dug deeper to ensure that I go through University education. Ken too has been like the father I never had. Lovely, caring, funny to a fault, always wishing me all the best. But it is your elder sister who has played the role of Mother. She has scored well. In retrospect I give her 99 %. She has been supportive and her wisdom has been phenomenon. Lately, I can’t seem to do anything without her approval. She is such a lovely woman.
And her husband?Whoever said that angels don’t exist? He always believed in me. Always had the best of intentions for me. He never spared the rod and constantly reminded me that only University education could save my ass.
When I was in class six, the first term’s mid-term break, I was position 5. He held my head and told me, “Gisiora, you don’t belong to position five.”Mum that is one of the most touching statement in my life. I had been in the boarding school for just a year and my self-esteem was at its lowest. It must have God, for the next examination, I was position one and I stayed there and I strived to be among the best. Smile for me Mum…Please.
My cousins have been exceptionally good. Shylock inspired me to work hard and follow his footsteps. Wycliffe has always taught me how to be a man and often a believer of my scribership. The rest have equally been supportive more than you can imagine.
But more importantly, my two sisters have been the shoulders that I have always leaned on. In my campus life, Ezinah performed your role just perfectly. She is the one I often turned to when I ran broke. The one I have often cried to when the going got tough. A wonderful woman she has been. Irene got it a little tough and rough but she will be fine.
I went into writing, hence this long treatise. You will proud for me. I broke, literally into all the major media houses and I have been published in many enviable spaces. I have God to thank for my beginner’s luck. It has stood me in good stead grace. My first book will be dedicated to you. Your spirit fuels my life daily.
But there many things your death taught me. People are actually afraid of death and many do not know how to handle death when he visits. Some are shocked beyond recovery. Some do not understand the unfair selection of death. They call him the grim reaper who reaps where he didn’t sow. Some have never understood the timing of death. It is always ill. Many have never understood how to comfort or console the bereaved. Some think people like us are jinxed. Some deem us unlucky. Some think death is self-inflicted. Some even poke fun at death. How callous? Those who lose parents who are bread winners, almost invariably lose their marbles. It becomes the end of the road. The clichés have been overused. But we learn to get along with them.
I miss you like crazie. Come Saturday it will be 14 years. Kids named after you are now big women. Every time I have tried endearing them,calling them fondly the way our old men used to do it, it falls flat, for they do not know the sentimental attachment I have to your name Norah…
But we all big now and we can make…We only ask a little favour of you…keep on smiling down on us…we like it. We cherish it. Say Hi to the folks already there. Miss you MUM…