Memories of my father’s sudden death still linger in my mind, like it was yesterday.
Exactly this day, two years ago, my father Mr. Charles Gimode left without any goodbye. Without any last word. Just like that. And life has never be the same again.
The 28th May 2019 remains etched in my memory with an indelible ink.
On that day at about 8.30am, I received a call. It was from my dad’s handset. I was used to his calling me early mornings to get to know how I had woken up in the city, and of course, to get to secure some goodies from me whenever I was in a position.
On that day, it wasn’t him on the other end of the phone. My mother was Rose was. She was distraught. She was weeping uncontrollably. I could barely make out what she was saying. But in the din of noise in the background, she told me, that my old man was no more. He was 65.
Just imagine. Somebody who hadn’t been hospitalized in a long time. Hadn’t been in an hospital in the recent memory. Then you are told, out of the blues, that he is no more.
The news jolted me like a thunderbolt. It was unbelievable. How do you even reconcile this kind of news? How do you fathom this?
It’s been two years down the line, and today, I find the courage to write, the terrible loss of my dad and the fact that we shall never see him again.
After that eerie phone call, everything blew up. I couldn’t reach my mother anymore as she was inconsolable. The phone was in the custody of another uncle of mine who kept updating me of the proceedings.
I was helpless. My mother was 370 kilometres away. I was in Nairobi. It was painful. It was shocking. Yet I wasn’t there at that juncture to console her.
So, in the office, I went to see my immediate boss then. I told her what had befallen me. She was empathetic. She prayed with me. She told me it was important that I immediately make arrangements to go home. I have never forgotten her kindness.
I reached out to my siblings. I notified them of the sad turn of events. They were heart broken.
I was confused. I did not know what to do. By then my dad had been taken to morgue nearby, the Kimbilio Funeral Home, in Uasin Gishu County. This facility is run by the Living Room Ministries International, an American based religious, charitable, non profit corporation.
I was told he was initially rushed to the hospital, but was dead by the time of arrival. The doctor said he had succumbed to high blood pressure.
My mother was there when father died. She witnessed it first-hand. It looked like a gory movie. It was fast. It was furious. There was no time for goodbyes. He was no more.
A friend at an unusual time
I didn’t leave for home immediately though. I needed time to reconcile and absorb my new reality. I sat at my desk in the office. My mind was in tailspin. A few of my colleagues got wind of the sad news and were soon commiserating with me.
As I sat in my office distraught, at about 1 o’clock, a received a call from our main office gate that I had a guest who wanted to see me. I wasn’t expecting anyone that day. I was put through to talk to the guest only find out it was former college buddy seeking to see me. It had been a while since we last spoke.
He came to my office. We talked. He told me his dad had been hospitalized for a while now, and needed to undergo some emergency surgery to save his life. He had done all he could. He had exhausted all his resources. But it was him the family was looking up to salvage his old man’s life. He needed some money urgently.
But that isn’t the story. He had walked on foot from Umoja Estate, some 25 kilometres away, to come see me in Westlands, Nairobi, where I work. The previous night he had gone to bed on empty stomach. On that day he hadn’t put a thing in his belly.
I could see his shoes bore the mark of a long trek. He looked fatigued from the long distance. I was lost for words. More so because of the timing of his coming.
‘’My brother, if you don’t help me today, I don’t know what I will tell my mother. She is expecting that I will go back with something to salvage my dad,’’ he said amidst teary eyes.
Wow. I looked at him at said, ‘‘I feel you brother, but as we speak now, I just lost my father.’’ He slumped into his chair upon hearing that. He was crestfallen. He couldn’t believe that with such a devastating story, I still had energy to even speak to him.
He then looked at me and quipped, ‘‘You must be very strong. Your father is dead and you are still here talking to me?’’ I told him the die had already been cast and there was nothing much I could do about it.
I promised I would do whatever was in my ability to help him. I did it a few days later, in the midst of my grief. After all, what are friends for?
A week of sorrow
That evening, my brother and I left Nairobi for home at about 6pm. We drove the whole night, arriving at home about 1 am. Throughout the journey, we relished my father’s memories, by playing his favourite songs from YouTube, and reliving his life. He had instilled in us the love for music, and in me, he planted the seeds for my journalism career.
When we arrived home, we found my mother waiting for us. She burst into tears. We sobbed together. It was heavy. It was emotional.
Our arrival marked the beginning of a long week that would culminate in my dad’s burial on Saturday, 8th June 2019.
In the interlude, a lot was happening. Villagers and all who knew my dad trooped to our home every day. Everyone had an anecdote about him.
The most important part of this planning process is actually having in place a burial committee that coordinates all aspects of the burial, to the end. I was picked the treasurer for the committee.
It was hectic. I don’t remember how many times I actually put food in my mouth that week. Not because it wasn’t there, but because I was probably too busy or my hunger pangs had been numbed by the immense tragedy at hand. For most time, I slept for just two or three hours a night.
The most memorable time this period was the transfer of my father’s remains from the morgue to home. On Wednesday, 5th June 2019, in the company of some elders and my siblings, we went to Kimbilio Funeral Home to select the coffin that would be my father’s eternal bed. We did the selection. We identified a befitting suit. Then we went to see the morgue attendant, a Mr. Nzioki, to clear any other pending issues.
We cleared the hospital bill. All was set for his burial now. Mr. Nzioki showed us what I called the ‘‘book of death.’’ In it are names of all who have been through the morgue on their way to the land yonder. I don’t remember what number my dad was, but he was about somewhere in the regions of 3,600. Mr. Nzioki was a good man. He was professional. He did his job well.
I called Mr. Nzioki recently to say hello. I reminded him who I was. He could recall me. I told him I would see him soon, to thank him again, for taking care of my father at his loneliest moment.
An astute policeman
In my Maragoli community of Western Kenya, we believe that if someone dies well, that is they have exited the world peacefully through no machinations of another human being, they leave behind a trail of blessings. This can be in form of sudden rains even in periods of extreme drought.
Conversely, those who die through the connivance of other, whether killed or otherwise, they die with pain in them and may exert vengeance on those alive, as can be witnessed through destructive phenomena such as heavy thunderstorms that destroy property or even lightening strikes that may cause untold destruction. Those who have a hand in someone’s death are guaranteed never to know peace in their lifetime.
On that week of my dad’s death up until his burial, it rained heavily. The crops in the farms were almost flowering.The elders concluded he had gone in peace and left behind blessings of rain.
Many people from far and wide who knew him, showed up. The homestead was full to the brim. The groud was soggy, but this did not deter people. They eulogized him. They spoke well of a man of the people. We laid him to rest at about 2.30pm.
My mother, now a widow, is a strong woman. She has remained so since my father died, swiftly stepping into my dad’s shoes and into a role no one prepared her for, soldiering on with life. It has never been easy for her, I must admit.But she has faith, like we all do, that we shall meet dad again.
When my dad died, we had not experienced death in our nuclear family in a long time. That was something. For a man who had been a policeman for 26 years and fit as a fiddle, his death was a terrible stroke of bad luck.
His was a man of the people. No one can deny this. His death manifested the power of cultivating networks in the society.
After his retirement from the police service in 2004, my father kept himself busy with many community activities. He was a chairman of Parents Teachers Associations (PTA) of several local primary and secondary schools. He contributed immensely to raising education standards and general infrastructure for schools where he served. His track record there speaks for itself.
My father joined the National Police Service in 1980 as a constable. He rose through the ranks to the level of a Chief Inspector of Police at the time of his retirement and served as a Officer Commanding a Station (OCS) in a number of police stations.
My father, coming from the humblest of backgrounds in the deep recesses of Mwakibagendi in present day Kisii County, was a diligent worker.
My father’s exploits in the Police Service were admirable. In the days when he knew no god father in the city to hold his hand, my father found favour at every point in his career, especially the admiration from his superiors. All his career progressions were purely on merit, nothing else.
An uncle of mine told me that my father was a natural policeman. He loved the job with passion. He did it with exceptional zeal and finesse.
He was a leading parade commander during several public holidays in Western Kenya in his heydays, courtesy of his booming voice and authority.
He was a natural leader. He mentored many within and without the police service.
He helped mend many families that were on the verge of tearing apart, due to unending squabbles over various issues. These conflicts would on most occasions land at his desk as an OCS for preliminary arbitration.
One man who I met at my father’s funeral went so far as to tell me how my dad helped him when he was being disinherited of his rightful share of land.
A loving father
But to us, he was just our father. Even though as a policeman, we naturally revered him whenever he came home for his annual leaves in December. That was always a weeping ceremony. We diarized it.
It was time for our mother to read out the long list of every mistake we had committed throughout the year for ‘‘enhanced’’ punishment.
That is not to say that she hadn’t already worked on us thoroughly throughout the year. But bringing up seven energetic young men and two lovely daughters was no mean feat. It required some stamina to contain characters like me who were well known for notoriety. She needed further reinforcement from my dad. It always worked that way.
Our father knew how to balance sanctions and rewards. Amidst the showers of the cane that we would experience in the period, we knew it was also time to savour some goodies that he always brought along.
I am a father of three young children now. I feel the weight of parenthood. I can only imagine what my parents must have been through in raising the nine of us. My siblings all attest to this fact.
My father sacrificed all for us. He forewent many personal pleasures to ensure we all amounted to something, amidst the numerous constraints he and mum faced in caring for us. He ensured we all got the education we needed to become better people in our lives.
Today, looking back, we appreciate his struggles the more, and the great lengths he went to see us grow into the gentlemen we are today. He instilled in us the values of hard work and the fact that if you have to succeed in anything, you have to show up and go for it.
My father’s death also gave me a first hand experience of what solidarity can achieve. The overwhelming support from the family, relatives, colleagues from work, friends and acquaintances from far and wide stood with us every step of the way. They supported us both morally, spiritually and financially at the hour of our need.
Without this support, the burden would have been unbearable. In a world fraught by many challenges from all corners, where people care more about themselves than others, it is rare to find people you can count on.
To date, we remain forever indebted to all who stood with us.
It’s been two years now since Mr. Charles Gimode took his sudden bow. We are lonelier without him, but we are certainly better off because of his sacrifices. His values of hard work, fortitude,forbearance,sociability and above all,respect for humanity, remain to us, his most cherished legacy.
It’s unfortunate that many of the grandchildren will never see him again and may never know the love of a grandfather. But in the race of life,we all have our entries and exits. My dad took his exit early, for good.
In his death, just like in life, he inspires us to soldier on and be the best we can in life. We shall never forget. May his soul continue resting in perfect peace in God’s bosom.
We shall see him again, in the land of paradise, where there is no surprise. No sorrows. No worries at all, as the song below assures us.
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