The news from home has been especially dark in recent weeks. Not that death is new or unique to my motherland. However, the deaths of people with whom one has shared life on one’s Earthly sojourn hits a soft spot with devastating power and pain.
Clearly, I do not know what it must feel like for the nuclear families of those who appeared healthy the other day and then are gone in a flash, so to speak? Everyone’s pain and response to the irreversible loss is unique and private. That is why I never tell a bereaved person, even my own siblings, that I know how they feel. I don’t.
My heart goes out to all whose loved ones have been taken away by death. The vast majority do not come to public notice. For understandable reasons, we tend to hear about the deaths of newsmakers.
However, that does not mean that their loss is greater than that of humble Gamanywenda, Galabuzi, Gabula, Gidudu or Gore. As we mourn those known to us, we should spare a moment to lift up in prayer all those who are facing this accelerating nightmare.
To list the names of the recently deceased that I knew risks omitting some. The numbers have been that overwhelming. The last week alone has left me cold. The death of Mariate Mulenga of Kabaare on Monday last week was shocking. She is said to have appeared well as she nursed her sick husband at Kabaare Hospital. Then she was gone.
A very good woman taken from us, her great spirit of community service extinguished, her family’s heart ripped out and humanity poorer as a result.
Then we learnt that Stephen Solomon Nabeta had died that same morning. Covid-19 cut short the life of a man for whom I had had unqualified respect and admiration since we first met in high school.
He was in Senior Six when I showed up for Senior One. His distinguished career as an ambassador and a permanent secretary had not altered his easy-going manner.
Just when we needed more like Stephen, the pandemic took him from us. I cannot imagine the pain that his wife Betty and their family are enduring. My heart goes out to them, with prayers for God’s grace and protection.
Then there was the news of Ezra Bunyenyezi’s death after a long struggle with his health. Ezra was one of those people whom one expected “to always be there,” if you know what I mean.
Besides his goodness of spirit, Ezra’s work and generosity had become part of our lives. His indefatigable drive as a businessman had marked him out among the great entrepreneurs of his generation. Now he is gone. Very chilling.
Dr Dennis Patrick Mpwereirwe, my classmate and colleague who devoted many years of his life to the Blood Bank in Mburara, Ankole, was buried this past weekend. His wife had died a week earlier. Mpwereirwe was one of those happy, brainy men who, even in the darkness of life, always found reason to lift one’s spirits with a joke.
He occupied a part of my life that is reserved for those with whom I shared five years of university life and education. I am sure that I speak for all my classmates when I say a part of us is ripped away whenever we lose a colleague.
To the Mpwereirwes and to my classmates, my condolences.
As I was still trying to make sense of the news from Mburara, one of my nephews texted me from Kasese to report the death of my cousin and dear friend on Friday morning, exactly six months after his sister’s passing.
Rukeijakare rwa Kakitaahi ka Butamanya bwa Nyakasheija ka Ruhuuma rwa Mugasha wa Byamarembo was my paternal cousin with whom I shared a passion for our history and traditions.
We had spent countless hours talking about our ancestors, their exploits, our traditions, our myths and legends and, above all, our origins. We had formed a partnership on a project that had already established the true identity and origins of Abakonjo ba Kahondo ka Byamarembo.
Like me, Rukeijakare had no training in history. He was a retired agricultural officer who had served Uganda in that capacity for 35 years.
He loved choral and other classical music and served as the music director of St Adolf’s Catholic Church in Kasese until his death. However, his greatest passion was the pursuit of our identity.
Our long-distance conversations were a joy, not only because of the great knowledge he invariably imparted to me, but because of his beautiful baritone voice and very infectious laughter. It was Rukeijakare who first informed me a few years ago that he had established that Abakonjo ba Kahondo were not Abakiga at all.
Rukeijakare had encouraged me to study the literature while he did the primary research in Uganda and the Congo Free State. My extensive reading of solid historical literature from the Great Lakes Region had tallied well with Rukeijakare’s findings.
When I last spoke with him a few weeks ago, he was very pleased to inform me that he had completed the first draft of his book and was looking forward to its launch during the celebration of his 75th birthday on July 13, 2021. We agreed that as soon it was safe to travel, I would fly to Uganda and join him on a journey to retrace our ancestors’ footsteps.
Then two weeks ago, Rukeijakare, a man who spoke, walked and worked like one 10 years younger, became acutely ill.
He was admitted to Kilembe Hospital. On the morning of Friday December 18, that great voice was silenced, his eyelids shut forever, his great mind removed from our midst. I am now reading the draft of his book, a legacy that few have bequeathed to posterity.
To Rukeijakare’s beloved wife, Angelica Kyarimpa, and to my nieces and nephews, I share your grief and deep loss of one of the best people I knew. A part of me is gone.
To all the recently bereaved across the land, my best wishes for grace and healing through Jesus Christ our Lord. To all Ugandans, the danger from the new coronavirus is greater today than it was yesterday.
My appeal to you is that we all forgo the festivities and gatherings of Christmas and the New Year’s. We have lost enough great people already. Pray for us as we pray for you.