My father died last week. Tuesday November 5, 2019 has joined a list of dreadful dates whose memory will bring sadness of loss and the unfulfillable longing for another glimpse of a loved one. Yes, he had long run out steam and had been in steady retreat for several years. The vitality of one of the most energetic men in the land, had yielded to the ravages of time, with a most oppressive silence.
As I stood at his bedside on the evening of July 27, 2019, the professional in me understood that the Sun had set on this wonderful man’s day and the darkest night of dreamless sleep was inexorably approaching. When I hugged him goodbye, I knew it was the frightening final one that I had relegated to the deepest recesses of my brain even as I had watched his steady decline. Leaving his bedside for the final time ranks highest among my most painful experiences since my mother’s death in 2013.
However, the son and friend that I was continued to hold onto the hope that the old lion might just awaken to roar one more time. Irrational, I know, but had he not overcome so much in his long life? Yes, even doctors find it very hard to be detached and objective in such circumstances. Which is one reason why we are forbidden from ministering unto our own relatives.
My father was very lucky to have had a loving family that did all they could to ensure his comfort and prolong his life. His doctors and nurses had done extraordinarily well in according him the care that he had given others in his many years of distinguished practice as a medical assistant. But his venturesome life, like that of all of God’s living creations, had a fixed beginning and end whose reality was one of the very few certainties. The life of Ezra Kisigo Mulera began at least 102 years ago. We do not know his exact date of birth. However, with due diligence and meticulous research, we believe he was born around 1917 in Kahondo ka Byamarembo in Kigyezi to Rakeiri Keiramibwa and Rukooko rwa Misango ya Bareegire ba Rutahweire rwa Mabindi ga Kangabo ka Butanda bwa Kahurubuka ka Ndahuka ya Byamarembo.
He was Omukonjo w’Omutenga wa Nyanga, a sub-clan of Abasigi, one of the clans of the Bakiga. His mother Keiramibwa was Omuzigaaba whose parents had immigrated from Rwanda to Katenga, Omundorwa, Kigyezi. Keiramibwa, a very beautiful woman of grace and kindness to all, was the youngest of Rukooko’s three wives. My grandfather was a farmer, cattle-keeper and medicine-man. He died when my father was about six years old.
Orphaned, poor and living in a valley far removed from Western education opportunities that had only recently arrived with the Europeans, Kisigo Mulera acquired the traditional knowledge and skills of the Bakonjo ba Kahondo. However, his fortunes changed when Chief Yafeesi Kyarukara arrived in Kahondo in the 1930s to administer the area on behalf of the British Protectorate government. Chief Kyarukara took an interest in the young Mulera, now about 20 years of age, and sent him to school at Kizinga Primary School in 1938. It was a life-changing decision. Already an adult, with a clear purpose and plan, Mulera transferred to Kigyezi High School in 1940, where he joined Primary Three and began a journey under the tutelage of teachers like John Bikangaga, John W. Lwamafa, Festo Kivengere, Lazaaro Katakura, E. Karunganwa, Y. Kikombe, E. Bungeri, Zabuloni Kabaza and Y. Karemeera. Photographs of the time confirm that Mulera was as in the same age group as his teachers. He was financially supported by the Rev Ezekiel Balaba, a Muganda priest, who treated him like a son. He was also financially assisted by the Rev Semu Ndimbirwe, whose generosity Mulera would recall, many years later, as a key determinant of his success.
His age and experience were an advantage that made for excellent academic achievement and outstanding sportsmanship. He became the soccer team captain and brought honour and trophies to the school, along with other great sportsmen of that decade like Bushuyu, Kababa, Kataama, Minyeeto, Nzamukwereka, Zaribwegirire and Ziine. He was the school’s head prefect in 1946, his final year during which he sat for the Junior Secondary Three examinations. He was offered a place at King’s College, Budo, but his financial circumstances did not allow him to join that school.
Instead he joined Mulago Hospital, Kampala where trained as a medical assistant, graduating with the Class of 1949. He practiced his profession until 1964 when he entered Makerere University to study Social Work and Social Administration. He dropped out after one year and resumed clinical practice until 1967 when he was appointed speaker of Kigezi District Council. The military coup of 1971 ended that job. He resumed clinical practice at Mulago Hospital in 1972. In 1975, he accepted an opportunity to establish an employee health service unit for the Uganda National Housing and Construction Corporation, which he did until his retirement in 1984. He then returned to Mparo, Rukiga, Kigyezi where he operated a private medical clinic until he hung up the stethoscope in 1997.
Baptised in the Native Anglican Church as a young boy, Kisigo Mulera married Prisca Nyamijumbi, a Roman Catholic Mukiga woman in 1950. Theirs was a traditional marriage – really an elopement - that was censured by both religious denominations. Unrecognised as a married couple, the colonial State considered their offspring illegitimate. It was not until my mother converted to Anglicanism that they “cleansed” their marriage in 1960. They were blest with four biological sons, four biological daughters, and an adopted son and daughter.
Though I feel a deep void at the moment, I am full of joy and thanksgiving for a most venturesome life whose challenges and triumphs we shall share at the celebration of his life that will be held in Kampala on Thursday, November 21, 2019 and at his burial in Mparo, Rukiga, Kigyezi on Saturday, November 23, 2019.
I am very sure that my father is in his glory now, newly admitted into eternal life because he was saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he accepted in 1959 and in whom he especially found great refuge and comfort in his last decade of life. That is what gives us the confidence to say: It is well.