We never understood why Kwaru never ate ugali, he did not use milk, neither sugar nor salt. He would take rice instead and took black sugarless tea. I do not know how he hacked it but it was his lifestyle. Our innocent questions were met with same remarks, Kwaru was not well. So this December marked the agony we were to face in the subsequent months. He would be rushed to the hospital in a critical condition and would always come out healthy. He was optimistic and amidst the pain, he wore his angelic smile.
He hid his pain for long but it was evident that he was nolonger the strong man I knew. He would be confined in his bed as he was weak and had to be put on bed rest. His skin tone had changed and he turned very pale. You could actually see how his veins were aligned. We looked forward to having his old self back. Our Kwaru was a charismatic and jovial man. He knew how to make us smile and being around him was always fun. His sickness took a great toll on us. So he was in and out of hospital.
April of 1996, his health deterriorated. He was rushed to the former New Nyanza General Hospital(Russia) now known as Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Referral Hospital. He was admitted in Amenity ward seven under the care of his physician Doctor Oburu now the late. He had tubes in his nose. He was on drip water and could barely support himself. Oh, my grandpa was in so much pain. He was emaciated. I missed his old self. We prayed ceaselessly to God to heal him. He actually did! Kwaru got better and was discharged from hospital. He came back home to us. We would visit him in his room one at a time and he would hold our hands and encourage us often. He maintained his usual demeanour. We were happy we had him around. One evening he called for his children and their spouses. My dad and mum were there beside him. He managed to mention my siblings and I by names and pronounced blessings upon our lives. He asked our parents to take good care of us. It was indeed a sad evening.
Our happiness was short lived. Kwaru was rushed back to hospital. All this while Dani was by his side. Nursing him day by night. Atleast we managed to visit him in the hospital accompanied by our parents. It became a routine for our mothers to releave Grandma from hospital as they spent the night in hospital one at a time to take care of Kwaru. Dani would be there during the day or one of our aunts and at night someone watched over him. We would still manage to play but always looked forward to seeing Kwaru drive into the compound and to assure us that hard times were indeed behind us. We would pray for his recovery and wished he came back home sooner than soon.
On this particular day we did our duties as usual. Darkness would soon engulf. Mama was busy preparing the evening meal as we tried to hold a conversation. This particular night was rather strange. It was very dark outside and the silence was deafening. So some few minutes after eight in the evening, mama set the table and welcomed all of us to share the meal. My dad was also home early this particular day.
Back at my grandpa’s house the phone suddenly rings….”nnggrrrrr” I know most of you are aware that phone calls during such difficult times such as sickness always pushes one to think negatively. A phone call at such a time was rather awkward. “Hello”
“Hello…(pause…sobs) Kwaru has gone to be with the Lord”
We had served food and when we were about to start eating we heard a loud scream from outside. We looked at each other and knew that it must have come from Kwaru’s place. My father being the first born son, he had moved from grandpa’s place to have his own home. Our house was a few meters from Kwaru’s place. You know how Luos mourn and the shout of “mayoo” would send a message that someone had passed away and would be joined by others on receiving the news to mourn and condole with the family. I felt a tight notch in my stomach and knew the worst had happened. My dad became restless and had to leave with mama for Kwaru’s place. We were instructed to lock the door and take our supper they would be back shortly. How could we even manage to eat with the uncertainty that reeked the environment. We could hear the mourning getting intense. We were sobbing too not knowing what would happen next.
My parents came back and confirmed to us that indeed Kwaru had gone to be with the Lord. It is not like it was the first death in the family, it was actually the third but it felt like the first time all over again. The agony that our little hearts went through crying for our beloved cannot be put in writing. We cried our hearts out until we could nolonger cry. Our hearts ached so much. We had lost our support system. We had lost our bestfriend. He had Leukemia.
I remember this day like yesterday, it was the 18/04/1996. I was just ten years old and this marked the beginning of a phobia im learning to overcome. Phobia of losing a loved one. I am much stronger now and learnt to cope with the death of a loved one. Even as I reminiscense of our life with Kwaru, I am smiling as I know he is in a better place. I will stick to the joyful times we spent around him. May you continue to rest in peace Kwaru. Till we meet again.
May everyone that has lost a loved one find closure.