Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Embracing Vulnerability: Things I want to remember.

10 years from now I will say 'I lost my mummy 10 years ago' and it won't have the same sting  as it does now, although 10 years is a long time.. Will I still be standing? 
Maybe I will have  a couple of babies and too preoccupied with breastfeeding and  PP2 Graduations .
I will not be too turned inwards as I am right now. But I don't want to forget that on the day we went to pick my mother's body from the morgue, I came out to faces of friends and family who came to mourn with me. 
I had not decided whether I would view the body or not. And Mama King'ori holding tightly to me was saying you don't have to a cucu wa Kangemi was saying you need to and I remember asking for Munyeki to hold on to and collapsing into a chair and being led out, being asked to sign here and sign there and please keep this safely and do you want to sit down?

Then I came out and Lydia of Passion Fashions was standing outside  in skinny Jeans and a pink Jacket. My cousins Maina Kabutu and Mwangi wa Pia came forward at the gate saying - Gathoni, tumekuja. And my late uncle's kids. 
There were there and I didn't feel 

I don't want to forget that when we were discussing what kind of dress to put on mummy I said please don't buy anything pink. And my aunt went and had a green dress made, my mother's favourite color. 
I can only imagine if my mother heard Jesus voice and came out in a pink dress. I'm sure she would rip it off, then we would have to look for a leso or some leaves.
Well, at least we know she will be happy she got up in green. She will look at the material and probably say- this one looks like Riveroad material-

I don't want to forget that 
on the day we went to have the post mortem done,
 my uncles bought me lunch. 
It tasted like sawdust.

Then we stood outside the gate at Outspan to wait for the doctor to come out of a meeting.
They smoked five packets of cigarettes as we waited. They were nervous. I was not, at the moment. I guess they were more nervous about me seeing my mother's body being cut up. 
They smoked some more.
I bought some yellow passion fruits and cracked  them open, one after the other and read a Watchtower.

I have a way of being calm in emergencies,
 my mother used to say maybe
 I'm not understanding, but I do. 
I break down after.

My distress is private.

In this respect I am Scarlett O'hara. I can tell my mind and body- don't panic now- panic tomorrow- or tonight at 2a.m everyone is asleep and I start sending them messages (I have priceless friends. They call back and calm me down or just listen) or I get up at 3 a.m coz I have remembered I forgot to put an apostrophe in a word in my will. 

I'm composing an article about what to expect when you lose a close family member. From my own experiences and from the research I've done in the last one month.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Grieving 101: Packing Up

Packing up my mother's things was the hardest thing I've had to do this year.
First, it didn't feel right going through her things, opening up boxes, drawers, handbags.
I felt like she was gonna come in anytime and ask -why are you going through my things?-

My heart felt heavy, weighty. I knew I needed to do it but I needed help.

Some ten years over ago, my mother's sister got sick and died. I wasn't told until the day I finished my KCSE exams. 
(Though a classmate who had finished her exams earlier and knew about it had had the brilliant idea to send me a condolence card with a warning not to open until my exams were over. Of course I could see the words sorry for your loss as plain as day through the envelope. I know I made a mess of my remaining papers but oh well, it was well meaning.)

My aunt was very beautiful. Among my shushu's daughters I thought aunt Wangeci was the most beautiful one and it didn't help that she was a beautician and knew exactly which brand of ponds to use. When I was small I would stare at her until she shouted at me to stop it. 
Aunt Wandia, Aunt Wangeci, My mother

After a stint in South Africa she came back and a few years later she fell sick and died.
When I came home, to the house she had shared with my mother, I found a pile of clothes dumped behind the house.
Her death had disoriented the family so much and I guess no one thought much about her clothes.
Her clothes.
She had beautiful clothes. 
She wore silks, and now they were in a pile. Rain had soaked them through, then the sun had created streaks of stains across the once expensive fabric.
I remember thinking, death takes away someone's dignity.

This was the thought I had when mummy died.
So I wanted to preserve her dignity.
I wasn't going to bleh bleh until one day I would come back to the house and find perhaps a 
strip of a favourite shirt of hers flapping against the gate.
Or perhaps a note she had written 
Or worse, her furniture soaking in the Tropical rain.

When stuff happens, that's when you really know the kind of people you need around you. It's the people who show up. 
I rang a friend and she came right away and we created a system.

Things to take to Shushu 
Things for me to keep
Things to give away
Things to burn
Then Malembi came and made us lunch and my little cousins who are not so little any more came and helped unscrew beds and burn trash. My mother's cousins came too and I didn't  have a moment to be alone.
It was three days of pure fatigue, but I was grateful that when I needed volunteers Jehovah sent them. 
I cried a lot saying goodbye to the house that has been my weekend getaway since I came to live in Nairobi.

I have always imagined I would leave that house as a bride. My mother would be in a peach colored dress, the fussy neighbours would ask if we could afford a fancy wedding. 

I guess that's not happening now.

What I have learned: 

1. You never know how a particular death affects someone until it happens to  you.
(I feel really bad for friends who have lost parents in the past and I just said pole and moved on with my life)

2. If someone I 
know losses a loved one, I will have to be there with them, physically.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Self Care: Gratitude releases positive energy

John 13:34,35

I woke up feeling grateful this morning.
The last four days I've had people stay with me in shifts.
I sank last week, I was angry.

But the rescue team arrived.

Each with a band aid for each part of my heart that was aching.
I recovered my sleep.
Someone came and cleaned my kitchen
Another cooked for me
Another brought me apples
I woke up surrounded by bread.

Others washed my floor
A little girl sat with me in sign language meetings
Then an avalanche of mixed company arrived with bags and hugs
And I felt like I'm gonna be okay.
Not 100% but I fully know that my creator is aware of my wanderings.

I am not an insignificant organism roaming the earth unattended.
' with someone loyal you are loyal.'
This evening I am happy.

When you are grateful, good things keep coming.

This morning I received a text from my mother's opposite neighbour. She comforted me and said she wanted to send me cash. She sent the exact amount I needed to pay off my November rent. 
Then I got another call.
'You don't know me but I was your mum's friend. I owed her some cash, Now that I have your number I will send you. Keep strong.'
And she did.
'With God everything is possible.'
I know my life is not a waste of space. I know Jehovah cares about me.
I will tell my mother the things people did for her.
That she had not been a waste of space as well.
Her good deeds follow her.

I have no reason to be angry, 
or be too anxious, or try to find comfort where it's non existent.

Now that I realise real love is not forced. 
It is easy and comfortable. And it knows exactly what needs to be done.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Irene's Army

I woke up enraged.
I felt the heavy weight of injustice on my head and I was very sure I wasn't going to settle until I had done everything in my ability to ensure my mother's days of going without lunch, rainy mornings trying to catch a train ride did not vanish without an explanation.

I guess my heart started burning when after going to her work place, I realized the magnitude of injustice I was tackling , but then I realized I wasn't alone.

We are sitting in this office with people who worked alongside my mother every day, 5,10,20, years and they are telling me
"If you want us to turn Twitter for Irene, just say. "

I am not much in person but I have never been unable to write.
So I sat and composed a letter that would have made any raised eye brow raise both.
It made their ears ring as well I'm sure.

My article about the issue received the highest views for  my articles this year and I decided to pull it down from Facebook.
To give the raised eye brow a second chance
But the comments kept coming and the phone calls.

People ready to close their offices to go with me wherever I need to go today
People getting up at five to go to my house and bring my wallet because I forgot it in my other bag
People picking up calls for me because I'm not aware the phone is ringing
People holding me tightly at the morgue in case I collapse, until my sides hurt

Justice was served, although post humously
But one thing I wasn't gonna sit around and allow is
' they defrauded my mother when she lived, but not when she was no longer around to speak for herself.'

It hurts to think of the sense of loss she must have felt.
The lack of trust
The shock
The helplessness
The fear
And the thought she had before she died, that her life's efforts had been completely burned up in a fire.

I will tell her when she is resurrected, I fought for you, though
With trembling hands and repressed tears.
And I Had an army behind me.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Guest Post: Tribute to a Dead Tree

I know a dead tree. It is dead for most of the year. Sometime in September it blossoms. This is the first step towards the growth of plums. After the flowers, come the leaves then the plums then at some point it returns to looking like a dead tree.

I know a "dead tree". For most of the "year" - she looks like she needs to be cut down - she is "a waste of space". She would be better off as "firewood". A certain rough season comes and she blossoms.
She is exactly like those trees that are still standing after a hurricane ripped through an area. The hurricane season is her season to blossom.

Most of the year she looks dead. Easy to ignore or dismiss. Only after the hurricane does it become apparent that she had deep roots. She has resilience. She has staying power. This is the definition of endurance. It can mean "stand one’s ground; persevere; remain steadfast..."

Hurricane season is her season.

I went to visit this dead tree as she was "blossoming".  This is what I observed.

  • She loves her God. He also didn't hide his love for her during the "hurricane season".
  • She loves her family. Her family loves her. You should hear her laugh from way deep down her stomach when she is with them. She is so relaxed and carefree with them.
  • She brandishes a machette or a panga effortlessly while in the shamba (farm). She chooses and cuts (more accurately harvests) maize (corn), cabbage, onions, pumpkin, grass you name it. It is not a weapon but a tool in skilled hands when she uses it.
  • She is so generous
  • She loves animals. There is a dog called Tom - who had not seen her for months but follows her wherever she goes. When she disappears in the corn farm , all she has to do is call him and he appears. She told me what they have is "true love". :-) 
  • She is a bully. No one is off limits. Not even her cucu (grandmother)
  • She really does stop to smell the flowers. Every plant worth smelling. She stopped to smell. I got a chance to pick some eucalyptus because of her.
  • She skips. Yes. She does. :-) When we went for a walk - she was skipping as we went down the hills.
  • She enjoys simple things. I like simple things. I like her. Good conversation overlooking a waterfall and singing. What more would you want?
Without the hurricane season - you would not know she is not a "dead tree". She has deep roots.

I love you my "dead tree". Keep "blossoming".


Efficiency, why we must learn to be.

 There are no schools that you will sign up to to learn how to be efficient. Most will teach you a profession or a skill and it's up to ...