31

Can you sniff 2017? I know I can. Once I begin inhaling the fragrance of Christmas, the year’s end is often the next thought.

Last night I was at a vigil when the mother called in tears. I could barely make out what she was saying but I quickly figured it was news of another death. I went silent.

It feels like this year, I have attended more funerals than celebrations. When it isn’t a beautiful young soul who was just starting out, it is a parent leaving behind innocent little ones or even ‘unfinished business,’ which I feel like we all have. On top of all the salty seas that have constantly had to dissolve, this anguish has greatly affected how I think, how I feel and how I live. Fortunately, some of the outcomes have been positive.

While I have for the past few years been a great advocate for ‘leave whatever job, relationship or other situation which brings you more sadness than joy,’ my conviction has developed by leaps with each sudden farewell. The fleetingness of life increasingly affects my decisions and I find myself imposing these ideals even on poor unsuspecting victims.

A couple of months ago, I found myself ‘lecturing’ Carol about her choices, giving 150% to a job that only milked her, stole her sense of self-worth and lowered her self- esteem. It was only on my way home that I realised I had only met her once and should probably have found a more neutral topic of discussion, climate change? I shrugged it off as ‘motherly instinct’ and consoled myself in the knowledge that I did it in good faith. Last week she sent me a Facebook message explaining that she had suffered a breakdown and her doctor attributed it to her working environment. Carol has since tendered her resignation.

Unfortunately, many young people I interact with have convinced themselves that they should settle for less. On the surface they seem confident, ambitious, happy, and vivacious even. However, they are in bad relationships because “all women/men are the same.” They work crazy hours for little pay and no potential for growth because “it is the same everywhere.” Sadly for the latter, even I have to advise cautiously because I understand that the unemployment burden is very REAL. I also know that we can’t have passion and dreams for breakfast and dinner.

While it is unlikely that you will love people into changing their world view, it is also important that we support our loved ones. We need to take it upon ourselves to reignite their flame when we realise it is burning out, to have the courage to speak out even when we know the truth will sting.

I know there is a thin line between meddling and some of us might prefer to keep silent and ‘keep the peace’ but in my opinion, that is stealing a portion of what we need to give our loved ones.

 

What would you have loved to see/hear when you were younger? Did you (not) have someone holding your hand and showing you direction? Did their presence, or lack thereof affect the person you are today?

What happens when our would-be mentors in the work place are the biggest source of negative energy? What is the expected outcome when our parents tell us we are worthless and/or compare us to siblings/other families without giving us a chance to shine in whichever path we have chosen? Where do we turn when our partners, our friends who were meant to be our biggest cheerleaders become the greatest source of darkness?

Hurt people, hurt people. Can we think about this the next time we inflict pain on others or feel like we too have been wounded?

Many a time we go through life like we are immortal, other times, like we are untouchable. Once in a while, we acknowledge that we might be gone tomorrow but quickly forget and go back to our old ways. I know how guilty I am of this. While we don’t know the day or hour when we shall say goodbye, we do know what makes our hearts smile. We know what it feels like to be broken, betrayed, unloved, alone, forgotten, alienated..ashamed. It is because we know and have felt all this that we should not inflict such pain on others, and yet we still do.

dessert

The year seems like it is already over but in reality we have plenty of time. 31 days.

31 days to

love yourself

pamper yourself

remember yourself

teach yourself

31 days to love others, unashamedly-

31 days to say

I am sorry

I was wrong

I forgive you

I will change <and mean it>

31 days to let go,

Of that which steals your light and shine

31 days to chase

That which brings you joy, even if you don’t catch it <now>

31 days to be that person whom you wish you had in your life.

 

I can’t promise what the outcome will be, but I hope it will help you with a fresh start, or better still, a happier journey that will flow into the new year.

Xx

 

fear

 

 

 

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Footprints

For the first time in 4 years, I shall not be able to celebrate Easter in the 40-40 way. For a few minutes, that is the only line I actually could write in this post but I shall try to continue.

When you think about it, it seems pretty childish that missing out on a few hours playing, eating, laughing and dancing can tag at one’s heart so bad, and yet here I am, asking myself many questions. Did they reach safe? Did ‘new people’ join us this time? Will the children have fun? Will they remember this day years from now? I spent the most part of my morning looking at old photos and watching videos with deep sighs. I know later, when the photos from the do start pouring in, I will contemplate flushing my phone down the toilet. (Thankfully, it has been giving me trouble so we shall pretend I was just putting it to rest) Where did all the time go?

For 4 years, the Easter weekend has been transformed into our living, breathing definition of Christ’s love. Out of design, his design, we were led to a mission, a mission to make his children’s lives better. It was indeed Jesus who said, the kingdom of God belongs to the little children. Their presence is blessing enough, but that we are able to make a small difference is a huge plus:

For the first time, in years, I saw many adults in one place sob silently in a gathering that was not a funeral. For the first time, I saw men who had sworn they did not want anything to do with children, run around, get dirty, make funny faces and act even more child-like than the kids themselves. For the very first time, many of us took a step out of our ‘comfortable’ lives, away from family and friends whom we are ‘conditioned’ to love and shared our hearts with new families that we hitherto did not even know. For the first time, Jesus’ death and resurrection was more than just a story, more than a tale which belongs in church or the Bible. It was 40 meaningful days culminating in the greatest of all gifts, love.

That was the Easter weekend of 2012 and we have not stopped since.

If there is a week(end) when I contemplate life and my journey now and the future, it is definitely this one. Even the readings in church, conversations and last thoughts before I go to sleep, change. I am constantly aware of what this season represents for not just me, but the 40-40 family in all its breadth; our choices, our paths, our footprints.

FOOT

 

4 years ago, 40 days brought together people who may not otherwise have met; 4 years later, we do not only have ‘over 40 smiles,’ we have what seems like a lifetime of beautiful memories.

Today, of all days, I celebrate everyone who has kept us going, in your respective ways. You would be surprised how even a simple text message to say “thank you for making the children smile” gives us a little more strength to hold on. The amazing team that holds the fort daily, the volunteers who come in when they can, each and everyone of you who supports with a word of encouragement, or those trips to the mobile money agent :P, the family we have grown which prays for us, our ambassadors all over the world,everybarrreeee, THANK YOU!

It is a great honour to be part of a group of passionate, dynamic people who genuinely believe they can impact the world positively and go a step further to actually do it.

The glory goes back to God who has been with us every step of the way, who has watched us fall so he can pick us up, let us cry and assured us righteous tears are never in vain. He started this work and it is evident that he will continue to see it to his fruition. Truly thankful that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we got an opportunity to do more. While our sacrifice is nowhere near grand, HE who inspired it, sacrificed enough for each of us, for all eternity.

May you remember and meditate on Jesus’ love this Easter.

jesus

A glorious Easter to you and yours.

Xx

Less talk

For the past couple of weeks, I have had a love-hate relationship with social media. Actually, that might not be entirely accurate. It has been mostly hate-hate.
I am not quite sure what kick people get out of being the first to type “RIP” thus killing people the moment they find out they have a terminal illness. It is bad enough that as a celebrity, you give your life to others but do they have to lurk in the shadows ‘anticipating’ your death too?
It is quite appalling really. On top of sharing incorrect information, we cannot wait to make a connection to the deceased. “He died before giving me that last interview, RIP.” How is this even important? Amidst all this drama, there is an actual fraternity who know and love the said person. A family that is struggling with pain as it is but has to keep assuring the ‘world’ how their loved one is still alive. But do we care? Why, when we can type ‘RIP’ and go on with our lives? Argh!
While we are still on the topic of sharing bad News, what kind of sadist shares images of someone that is at their lowest without the consent of their family? Once the story ‘forcefully’ comes out, we begin to complain about the fundraising for this person’s medical bills? Are our lives so sad that the only way we can feel ‘better’ is if we know someone else is suffering? Do we absolutely have to say/type every crude thought that comes to our vile minds?
I am not even going to use that line of what if it was your sibling or parent. They are human beings and that is all that should matter-regardless of your relation to them.
I am quite perplexed by this desire to ‘excitedly’ share bad News and then find a conspiracy theory soon after.

“To do nothing is the way to be nothing.”

Children lose their mother in their presence, cold blood- and it is suddenly a bad thing that an individual would like to raise funds to secure their future? These innocent children will probably be traumatised for a very long time. That is not our problem though, we can just sit at our desk and use office internet to criticise the brains behind such initiatives. Ask yourself. What have you done for someone other than yourself? Did anyone tell you which cause to back or step away from or was it a personal decision?

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

Poverty, illness, natural calamities are not exiting our world any time soon. We can continue to simply talk about them and point fingers at the powers that be or we can do what is possible to make a small difference right NOW. Criticising people who are making that difference is not a good look on you. You want to remain relevant and a few retweets might help your ego a bit but quite frankly, you are simply a disgrace.

light
It has been quite difficult for me to read or watch anything about the Garissa attacks. I can’t fathom what those families are going through. One week later and the pain is still fresh. I wish I could do more than pray or somehow wave a wand and bring those young souls back to life. Unfortunately, I can’t.
However, instead of sending our love and support to Kenya, we are concerned about which international News channel is giving the story the attention it deserves. I am sorry, what?! Do they determine what your emotions are or does their opinion give validation of this massacre?
Hundreds of people all over the world are holding vigils for the students that passed away and that solidarity is what the world needs. You want a March similar to the one world leaders held to honour the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack? By all means organise one.
If somebody at CNN slept on the job and let the screen show Nairobi, Nigeria and this causes an uproar louder than the security issue that is before us, the lives that we keep losing, then frankly, we need some help. A lot of help actually.

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

Fare thee well

Viv sent me a link yesterday. I decided to wait till I was ‘free’ and comfortable before I could read it.

Little did I know that this blog post here, would change everything.

I sobbed pretty much through the entire thing.

It was deep, painful and I repeat, painful.

I don’t know if it was because I could relate to this numbing pain that outwits the mightiest of painkillers or the fact that someone was going through it, in real time.

Maybe it was Mbugua’s unwavering faith and the strength I could feel oozing from him as my shaky index finger scrolled to unveil a new paragraph.

Perhaps it was the fact that I was in a bad place myself and was suddenly guilty of not being thankful or even worthy enough.

Whatever it was, the post broke me into so many pieces and before I could recover, I sent Viv a message telling her all the things that I felt.

Her reply was “I just felt that you could relate and appreciate it. Must have been God speaking.”

I told her she was right and that I planned to read all his blog posts. She cut me short with the heartbreaking news that my newfound hero passed away on Sunday. The horror!

She cut me short with the heartbreaking news that my newfound hero had passed away on Sunday. Oh the horror!

I was almost  mad at her for giving me a good thing, then taking it away. If I felt like this, what about his family, his friends?

As if things could not get any worse, I found out he got better along the way and even proposed to his girlfriend who has been by his side the whole time. Now he was no more. Whyyyyyyyy?????!

“Lucky” for me I generally have trouble sleeping so I had plenty of time to mourn, pray and ponder life in all its complexity.

I was both humbled and convicted by a paragraph within his blog post where he dared to ask the question “Is all this pain worth it?” I have to share this.

To answer the question of whether it is worth it to go through this painful experience: If by this pain I have been a witness to the truth and glory of Christ; if by this pain I have strengthened and encouraged a believer; If by this pain I might have pointed someone to Jesus and caused them to desire a personal relationship with Him, Yes, it is worth it. My body will probably disagree, and it is expected, but I choose to side with my spirit and soul, which vehemently affirm.

Whether you are a believer or not, I am convinced each of us has a role to play, an innate ability, to inspire others even  in the slightest of ways.

We may not all be eloquent or confident  enough to stand tall and speak of God’s goodness but that we are alive is enough. For what better way to testify than to live your life? e have no excuse for simply existing because every minute is an opportunity for us to be a living testimony for everyone we encounter.

We have no excuse for simply existing because every minute is an opportunity for us to be a living testimony for all the people that we encounter along life’s path.

I visited the late Mbugua’s facebook page,  A prayer for Mbugua that has been open throughout his illness with updates and so many uplifting words of comfort and support.

It is evident he touched so many lives through his strength, faith and words.

I might have gotten to ‘know’ him at a time when he was saying farewell but he has impacted my life too.

The hospital bill was cleared as an emergency finance so that the family could leave the hospital in India. If I remember correctly, Mbugua’s body arrives in Kenya today.I got this number from the facebook page 0706551777 for contributions via Mpesa. At least the family can concentrate on mourning, knowing the financial burden has been lifted. Do support if you can.

Death is a thief and it takes those whom we feel most deserve to be with us but there is comfort in knowing that he who is no longer with us gave us great memories, and in Mbugua’s case inspiration too.

I did not know this graceful gentleman who lost his battle to cancer, but from the little I have learnt in the past few hours even I have a story to tell.

Rest easy Mbugua, may your memory continue to inspire and bless the ones you left behind.

verse

The fault in our stars

That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.

When Raymond gave me the movie “The fault in our Stars.” He warned me that there would be lots of tears involved.
It is for that reason that I put it very far from me, waiting for the ‘right moment.’
They say ‘misery loves company’ but I find that when I am at my lowest, the last thing I need is to find out that someone else is in pain.
I had been having one bad day after another and as a result, I did not need any pain inducing movies or activities.
What I needed was a few happy endings and perhaps a chance to be invisible for a while. *Didn’t happen*

When I realised things were not changing, I decided to give the movie a chance and it is from it that I heard the phrase “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.”
Not that this was an epiphany or anything but it perfectly summarised what was going on inside.
Ever been in a place; where you did not want to hear phrases like “It gets better,’ or ‘Hang in there?’ Have you had to pretend that everything is okay when in fact it is the exact opposite.
Are there times when it was your ‘duty’ to be strong and so you did precisely that even if you dealt with fear after fear?
Did you ever need to turn to someone only to find they were not there?
It happens to all of us, at some point.
It is in these moments that self pity might creep up and you seek every ‘portion’ you can find that will bring even a speck of positive vibes, if only for a minute.
Although the movie mainly centred on victims of cancer, it was beautiful in so many other ways. Yes, it had me unashamedly wailing like a little child.
The tears might have been induced by the characters, but deep within so many emotions were aroused.
Aches from the thought of death, the real victims I have encountered who have lost the battle to cancer or are still struggling with it. The families, friends and care takers who are learning to adapt albeit sorrowfully. It was pretty devastating.
It ended. I meditated. It stayed with me.
Fast forward, to a few days later.
We were all set for Akiba, ready to pain the house, put up playing places and material for the kids who are struggling with cancer and make merry.
I was excited and restless.
The skies seemed to have other plans and I began to anticipate the “It’s raining, I can’t make it’ messages. A few of them came in but I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up despite the terrible weather. The kind of loyalty you do not find everyday.
We played indoor games during the downpour and it was so much fun 😀
When the tea arrived, it was just what the doctor had ordered. A huge ‘tumpeco’ (mug) all to myself 🙂
The cleaning, painting, building and at time demolishing (ssshhhh) finally began. People were like worker bees. I have not seen that amount of dedication and team work in a long time.
They did not even want to have lunch before the work was done.
My heart was just all kinds of warm and fuzzy watching all this.

akiba paint

akiba washing

paint 2

One pose then back to work

One pose then back to work

I had to run and give a talk at a women’s conference but I felt like missing even a few minutes of the ‘Akiba pimping’ would kill me. I know. I know.

Akiba with kds
You know how a young mother can leave her son with a sister or even her own mother and call to check almost every 10 minutes? Even if she knows the little one is in safe, experienced loving hands? Yep. That is the best way I can explain it.
Immediately after the talk, I rushed back to see what was happening. Not before a young lady, Daphne* asked for my contacts.
I shall share an excerpt of the email she has sent me.
Thank you so much for what you do to bring a smile to children in Uganda. Growing up as an orphan made me go           through various challenges but luckily, I was able to study and graduate.
I have no stable job but believe I don’t need a lot of money to help the less fortunate. I believe I can volunteer with you and bring a smile to some children.
I therefore request to be part of your team and look forward to changing lives.
After reading this email, I was reminded of what 40-40 is all about.
It is not easy or painless but it is certainly worth it. (Also, pain demands to be felt so we shall have to accept these demands, no?)
The feeling of joy in my heart from the experiences this journey has brought me is almost palpable.
It is also quite evident that I have been blessed in more ways that I ever could repay.
Related: Christmas is here 🙂

baby Jesus

Life has to end, love doesn’t

I have been unable to write for a while now, not for lack of time or words but mostly because many events that have unfolded have turned out to be more than I can take. Everything begins with a step so here I am trying to get my ‘groove’ back.

Last week a couple of friends planned to come over and visit mum on Independence day. I was happy when I heard the idea at first but of course I secretly worried about the financial implications that would affect all those concerned, mostly because I have a fairly good idea how the wallets are looking and uhm…it is not very encouraging. When I told ‘Chief Afande’ the plans, she had 21 questions. I asked her to just be available and leave the rest to me. She reluctantly obliged.

Monday morning had me in high spirits as is usually the case for me when a new week or month begins. I went to have breakfast and Monica told me to call mum ASAP. I did. She was sad. We had lost a family friend (who later turned  out to be a relative) and he had passed away shortly after being rushed to hospital that morning.

This Mzee was  my late grandpa’s close ally and I had met him countless times. In fact he was seen as the last remaining male elder on mum’s side of the family. He had lived with my aunt for several weeks but only felt ill in the wee hours on Sunday night. He was rushed to a clinic close by and later moved to Rubaga hospital because the condition was critical. It was there that he breathed his last. Coincidentally, my grandpa had also been ill at our home for so long but also left this world peacefully in the same hospital.

Independence day found us on the road to pay our last respects to this gentleman. I could go into details about the journey or the conversations before and after but I would like to focus on the eulogies.

flowers

His family was(is) mostly estranged so much so that the burial happened at mum’s village. Perhaps the Lord wanted him to be laid a few metres from his confidant. It could also be argued  that the cost implications and complications that would have been involved for the body to  be taken to Rwanda were immense and therefore this made more sense. Either way, it happened as it did for a reason.

The daughter: She tried to hold it together for a while. She explained that she had got a strong sense to check on her father for about a fortnight but kept ‘believing’ he was okay and being taken care of. She shook the feeling aside. She heard about him from the sister, first to explain that he had been admitted and a few minutes later to announce his departure from this world. That is how her story ends.

“Two weeks. Everything you love, own, and cherish, can be gone, liquidated, and lost forever in two weeks. Give or take a day.”
― J. Lincoln FennPoe

The son: He lives in Rwanda and came for the burial as soon as he heard. I had noticed from the moment I reached the village that he was shaken and needed support. In fact, I doubted that he could speak. The MC even gave him the option not to. Obviously broken, he profusely thanked my aunt and husband who had taken care of the deceased and the family for extending their welcome so his father’s celebration of life would be memorable.

What struck me the most, however, was his next statement. He had planned to take a trip and let his dad know he had found his soul mate and planned to spend the rest of his life with her. Sadly, he did not get to share this News.

My own father was sitting next to me in all this. I wept for a family that lost their superman but mostly, my heart went out to children who had left so much unsaid and were now empty and unable to turn back the clock.

“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.”
― Mitch AlbomFor One More Day

So here I am, a few days later, contemplating life and all its intricacies. More questions than answers, praying for those with us and those that have departed, I guess all I can say is, live when you can. No differences should be so strong as to be left un forgiven, for to hold a grudge is to die slowly.

“Life has to end,’ she said. ‘Love doesn’t.”
― Mitch Albom