As if Covid weren’t bad enough,  2020 was a year of terrible grief

As years go, 2020 has managed to stand out by defining itself emphatically. Disease, death, economic collapse, fear. Across the entire world. 

Lockdown. Curfew. Sanitiser. Social distancing. Face mask. It has been a long year to be long remembered.

Lockdown. That was quite something. We all had to stay put except for a few essential workers. Home became sweet home by government fiat. Lockdown was an experience of a lifetime for many, I believe. 

Curfew. Now, this curfew thing is still in place in Uganda as we enter 2021. We will not celebrate out and about beyond 9pm. The fireworks at the stroke of midnight on December 31/ January 1 will feel different. No night prayers or concerts, except virtually.  Lest I forget, the bars are still (officially) shuttered. 

Up close, it was a torrid year through and through. On April 16, Uncle Ezera (read Ezra), my father’s younger brother, passed on. I wrote about him then in this space. “It was a construction-related accident that took his life. 

He died deep in the hills of Rukiga (Kabale). Deep in those hills he was buried. A vast majority of us who needed to be there were not. A lonely send-off for a grand old man.” It was lockdown time.

Two months later, on June 17, Aunt Isabel died. She was my mother’s older sister. She was quite a matriarch, my aunt. Her no nonsense side (a wimp doesn’t get to raise eight children, I suspect) came with an endless spirit of generosity.
The other thing about her is that she was meant “to be there”. You know, she was one of those people you have all your life, and then she goes when you are in your mature middle age. 

This creates psychological confusion. “But she is there, let me call her, let me drop by.” I saw her last on Christmas Day 2019, possibly an appropriate day to see a beautiful person. Her lungs were in a bad way but she was cheerful.

Thanks to Covid-19, the burial was rushed. The police were on hand to chase us away the moment the body was lowered. My cousin Mary and her family followed proceedings via Zoom from Australia, when it was deep in the night over there. Watching her eulogise her mother, not in person but via Zoom, was tear-jerking.

A month later it was the turn of Marilyn Jeffs, my partner’s close family friend. A grand old charming woman. Another very generous human being. We followed proceedings, in all their Jewish solemnity, via Zoom. Zoom again! They were in the university town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. We were in Kampala. The pandemic could not allow travel.
And, finally, almost two weeks ago, my friend Samuel Kizito Mulwana (Kizai) died.

 He was in Nairobi, where he had returned to live in 2018 after a sojourn of a few years in Uganda. He posted something on a common WhatsApp chat group at 10:09pm. He was dead the next morning.

A very knowledgeable guy — not since David Mafabi of the President’s Office had I met someone with keen knowledge of the intricate politics of South Sudan and the personalities shaping them. Only that Sam had an always eye-raising twist to it all. 

The prominent and landed families in Uganda and Kenya? He knew everyone who needed to be known.  Sam had lived quite a life. Now, things could have been different. He was trying to look to the future. 

No matter. Let me stay with the memory of April 28, 2018. One of Sam’s friends organised a small birthday thingie for him at a boutique hotel in Bunga, Kampala. An intimate affair. We were five people present. We ate cake. We ate choma. We drank booze. We got happy. 
Hamba kahle, all you souls.

Mr Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala. [email protected]