Fare-thee-well Daddy, my friend

Family time. Kalebbo with his granddaughters. Photo / Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • My hero. My father  had a special relationship with each of us. I cannot count the number of errands he run for me, writes Charity Kalebbo.

July 6, 2022 will mark one year since I lost my father. It is unbelievable that my father died just like that, under very unclear circumstances, and after doctors initially consistently reporting that he was responding to Covid-19 treatment. The doctors had said he was stable and responding well, for two weeks, then suddenly on July 6, 2021, they told us all his body organs were shutting down. It was confusing how he was fine and about to get out of hospital and then suddenly, he could not make it. It left us with so many questions.

For a start, my dad never suffered from any known chronic illnesses, and he rarely fell sick. If he caught a flu it cured within a day, perhaps because he loved eating oranges. He kept up a healthy lifestyle, exercised, and had a good diet based on local foods.  All the medical records I have, that the hospital produced while he was on his death bed and those that his personal doctor has from tests she carried out, a month before his death, show a clean bill of health.

So what killed Daddy? 

A few weeks before he died, he had driven himself from Kampala to Budaka comfortably. So the details just do not add up. To make matters worse, the hospital he was admitted to when he fell unwell, had some of the most insensitive set of doctors I have ever met in my life, which dimmed the work of the few good ones there.  Getting information from some of the doctors, was almost impossible. They would pass by me and even when I stopped them to ask, they would say “We are busy, hold on”. A few returned after an hour to debrief - a far cry from other hospitals where doctors brief patients’ keepers regularly. Then there was the doctor who asked my brother what difference his going into ICU to see daddy would make, all this while we paid millions daily to keep him alive. It felt like our father had been snatched from us and held captive. Ohhh that hospital!

Our hospital bills always had a name of a physician reflected on them, but never did this physician go in to see dad, even after we made a formal request for this service. We got to a point of suggesting we find a visiting physician.  The pain! I live with these ugly hospital episodes daily and they often play back in my mind. 

My hero

But today, I want to celebrate my father, my Nelson Mandela, my Martin Luther King, my Patrice Lumumba, my great star - Stephen Dison Kalebbo who  in my eyes was one of the greatest men to have walked the face of the earth. My father had a heart larger than a huge football pitch. He believed in people and he loved wholesomely. It was always so warm around him. He gave pricelessly. He believed in the Lord Jesus and wanted to emulate him in all that he did. Most certainly he was almost as perfect as Jesus was, but he ran a good race, he fought a good fight.

My father believed in all his children and had a special relationship with each of us. I cannot count the number of errands he run for me, to enable me attend to my office work. Words alone cannot express the void I feel. I have told my mind all sorts of lies, just to come to terms. My father was a jewel, he was a gem. He believed in positive thinking, he was pragmatic and never gave up on anything or anyone. He was resilient, he was pregnant with hope all the time. His outlook to life was great.

He reeled numbers off his head and often boasted how he did not need a calculator to figure out any mathematical problem. “QED,” he would say meaning Quite Easily Done. He was faithful with money, incorruptible. He believed in justice and fairness.

Loved  all

His heart was moved by people who were less fortunate. He prayed for orphans daily. He prayed that God would love each of them. Those whom he could support he did without complaining. If anyone asked him for something and he had it, he gave it away without thinking twice.

He believed in his family and also embraced people from all walks of life. He opened his doors to everyone. He was kind and generous. He was grateful for every little thing anyone did for him. Oh my father, I miss him and I miss his words of wise counsel. I miss his prayers and the celebration of seeing me whenever I visited him. If I entered home he would run outside to meet me and in an elated tone announced to whoever was present, “There comes… Charity” or at times he said “Kalebbo’s daughter…”

He loved his grandchildren and had a special relationship with each of them. He loved my mother, he loved her parents. He embraced people from all walks of life. Little wonder his friends across the globe sent financial and moral support all through the time he was in hospital.

I begged God, I pleaded with Him not to take my father. I prayed day and night with friends and my siblings, but he still did not make it. My faith was tested, heavily tested. I thank God though, that even when it looked so bleak, He reached out and taught me some profound life lessons.

My father did not settle for mediocrity, he loved hard working people and those who would adjust to any form of life. He loved fast thinkers. He also loved literature; he always said his mzungu teachers made him fall in love with the English language. But he also loved his Lugwere in equal measure and was proudly one. When my sisters and I were getting married, he insisted he did not want bride price because no amount of money could equal the value of his daughters. He encouraged his sons-in-law to only do one thing, love his daughters the way he loved them. His relatives in Kanungu and his in-laws across Uganda have not stopped talking about him this past year. I praise God his legacy lives on and I am convinced that every single prayer he made for me and my siblings will be answered.

He taught me to always mind my business. He said it was important to always keep focused and attain your goals without paying attention to the unnecessary noise around you.

His slogan in life was that, the richest man had three things, friends, God and family. He did not quite believe in money controlling one’s life, he believed that individuals should instead control money. Little wonder even when he was a Principal Accountant in the key ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Works and Transport, he was entrusted with billions of shillings but never once plunged his hands in the bowl, for self.

He listened a lot and if he had no quick answer or solution to the problem at hand he always said, “Let us pray about it, God will give us an answer.” He believed in Jesus, he believed in miracles, he believed in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

May God, the Father, Son and the Holy spirit whom he so believed on earth keep him eternally.

I will eternally be grateful and July 6, will always be a moment to celebrate a life well-lived.

Adieu, my special daddy - Stephen Dison Kalebbo.

Celebrate

But today, I want to celebrate my father, my Nelson Mandela, my Martin Luther King, my Patrice Lumumba, my great star - Stephen Dison Kalebbo who  in my eyes was one of the greatest men to have walked the face of the earth. My father had a heart larger than a huge football pitch. He believed in people and he loved wholesomely. It was always so warm around him. He gave pricelessly.

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