That video is characteristic of this blog sometimes….so way off topic that it’s sensible [maybe]
I went to my uncle’s funeral on the 30th of last month. Hence the title…as it was a police funeral…
My trigger is Psalm 23…the priest [my (maternal) family is Anglican] read it out and all my sadness came spilling out. All the tears I hadn’t cried since the ones I had cried when I called my mum across the country on the day he died (March 24) and cried as I walked in a mall…
Psalm 23 (New King James Version)
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD
Loss, ag. Loss is hard, it’s painful, it’s like that itch you can’t scratch but you can’t stop thinking of. Loss is listening to words of condolence & not hearing them. Loss. Loss is wanting the person you love to call you so you have someone to cry to and not being able to call them yourself because you don’t know what to say when they pick the phone.
I told X these things on Saturday (the 10th) but I’ll say them here:
My uncle was my mum’s older brother and he was there for me from the time I was little…including listening to my advice as a 2 year old: ‘Mama — wendo wa cash money ni hatari'<<Kikuyu phrase I’d picked up on radio that roughly translates to ‘The love of cash money is dangerous’, ‘Mama’ being the Kikuyu word for Uncle, specifically maternal uncle, as a paternal one is called ‘Baba'(father) like you would call your own. The things I didn’t listen to as a child…. 😀 Or believing in my ability to be a great driver…and praising my skills to anyone who’d care to listen…even when I needed his help to go up a hill in my manual transmission car…
My uncle…who let his children drift away from him for ages till my mum practically strong-armed his ex-wife into suing for child support…and who, surprisingly, took up the task like he had been waiting to be prodded. My uncle who had big dreams for his sons. My cousin who was informed of his father’s death by a motorcycle taxi rider because his mother, my uncle’s first wife, was waiting for him at home….waiting to tell him face to face. My cousin who’s now fatherless, bereft of the father that was my uncle.
The man who was HIV+ (I shall not sweep matters under the carpet for a second longer) and told no-one. NO-one….when we would have been here to support him. He died from menengitis, an almost-always definite killer for those with the virus. Oh, what for lack of telling we suffer. The man who my uncle, his last born brother, was scared to tell, “Go get tested,” because he was always larger than life….even when he was ravaged by the virus.
This man who went back to Police College to get promoted, who made an idiot of all those who stereotype the Kenya Police. He read books (‘The Constant Gardener’ at his death), he never stole (and trust me, not for lack of opportunity)… This man who put family first even though he faltered sometimes.
My uncle who I thought I knew yet who made me realise that in death your not-knowing is that much greater. My uncle who sacrificed to make sure his siblings went to school at a time when my grandfather was going through a rough patch. He that looked, and acted, so much like his father, my grandfather. A man of honour, a resilient man, a man of quiet strength.
The man who, even though it would have been easy to resent my mother for her child-support machinations, always treated her with respect. So much respect that he was one of the first of my mother’s people to embrace my father; a man from another tribe who had put his sister in the family way…because he saw my father’s honour would not allow him to let me grow up fatherless.
My uncle who saw the end coming and called his first and second wives to his bedside-to make peace. My uncle whose first wife used to peel my cousin (his first son) and I plums during plum season & pears during pear season when I lived at my grandfather’s place as a child. My aunt, his first wife, who was the first person who was an aunt to me; my mother having been brought up, like me, sisterless. My aunt who made me a doll with buttons and cloth that I swiftly discarded at the birth of her first son…because I preferred a real baby 🙂 My aunt who has always loved me like her own…who would never have come into my life without my uncle.
My uncle who showed me and my mother how much he loved us in his distinctly African way. With actions, actions, actions. Who looked out for my aunt L & her family even though they were not his kin (by blood, or choice-as they are mine), who looked out for us during post-election violence; who spirited his sons to safety during that period.
I could go on forever….but this is my tribute to a great man. I hope no uncle of mine dies on me in this fashion again…with me having been silent on him…not letting him know I love him in words; not knowing all the dimensions to him. My uncle who showed me how fleeting life is…who didn’t live to be 50, or see his son go to college. Who made me rethink the way I treat the people I love [Ah, you know I love you], who made me realise how isolating death and loss are. My uncle whose death has made me more forgiving of others (like my friend whose father died on the 5th of this month and was buried today, who had not told me he was dying of cancer….before my uncle’s death, I’d have been wounded by her not-telling….but when I think back to MY not-talking about his illness…..) who died to make me love people more fiercely.
My first police funeral was of a man I deeply respected. As I leave you with this song by The Script, all I can say is….as the song says…..the truth of these words is terribly immense:
When your heart breaks, it doesn’t break even
There are all these little bits to put together….but we shall survive.