Deep in the heart of Nairobi’s Central Business District there is a thoroughfare called Waiyaki Way that runs all the way beyond the Westlands suburb to join up with the Great North Road. That highway is named after Waiyaki wa Hinga, a great freedom fighter who opposed the British colonialists in the late 20th century. That Waiyaki was my great-grandfather, my mother’s grandfather. Although it is a documented fact that the British captured and killed him, nothing much is known about his death; but my mother told us that he was buried alive, head down.
During the war for independence in the 1950s (popularly known as the Mau Mau Uprising) my mother joined the fight and she also was captured by the British. She was brutally tortured and among the many things she told us the British did to her, was to string her upside down and flog her mercilessly.
After she was released from detention she met my dad, a Tanzanian ‘expatriate’ working in Kenya – he drove a milk delivery truck – who moved her to Tanzania to escape the threat of further capture by the British. They eventually got married in 1959. My mom’s father first came to Tanzania in 1962 to receive the dowry and he died a few years after going back home. During his visit, he blessed her.
In those days people lived non-nonsensical lives and soon my mother started the serious business of bearing and raising children, to which she would eventually give birth to 9 of us. I was born third in line, and I literally witnessed the birth of many of my younger siblings which was done mostly at home, right there in mother’s bedroom. Of course, our joy at having a new-born brother or sister was short-lived because soon we older children’s lives would be turned into a living hell as we became the bona-fide baby-sitters and had to carry out all the gory and hellish facets of child-rearing as well as the house chores.
My dad and mom were into other aspects of caring after the family.
In death as in life, mom was a tower of strength. Mom had a heart, and a BIG heart of faith. Many of the people who attended her burial were pastors, men who knew her since she got saved in 1978. During her burial yesterday, speaker after speaker had only one thing to say about her: her deep faith in Jesus Christ, and her incredible spirit and zest for life. Pastor Amas who presided over the funeral, spoke of how he would often go over to her house and sometimes he would find her undergoing an extreme bout of flu or something, and he would tell her, “Mama, let me bring you some medicine”, to which she would reply, “Pastor, if you preach faith, let us believe Jesus for my healing.”
“I’d be left praying for God to give me more faith!” exclaimed Amas.
Another brother said, “Whenever I’d feel low in the spirit, I’d wander over to Mama’s place because she always had a word of faith to encourage me with.”
As the clods of earth hit mother’s coffin, the reverberations of mom’s life could be felt all around. I have witnessed many burials and after the final prayer the mourners simply pack themselves into their cars and leave. At mom’s burial people were simply unable to leave the gravesite, engaging themselves in small groups and discussing all about what they knew about mom. The atmosphere was one of camaraderie and goodwill rather than sorrow.
I was amongst the last group that left her graveside, probably a good two hours later.