Death of a Neighbour
A True Story
on Dec 26, 2019
After attending church last Sunday, my father came home with the news that one of our neighbours called Mrs. Karemeri had lost one of her sons. Upon hearing the news, I asked my father in Kikuyu, "Is it the son who runs a shop?"
"I don't know," my father replied, "but I don't think he is the one."
But alas! When my father called a family friend on the phone to inquire about the death that had struck Mrs. Karemeri's family, he was told that the son who had passed away was Harun. And Harun was the one who ran a shop on a section of his family's land adjacent to a tarmac road. He had ran that shop for as long as I had known him, ever since I was a small boy in the '90s. To borrow the words of the Desiderata, he had kept interested in his humble career as a shopkeeper, which must have turned out to be a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
I was surprised to hear last Sunday of the death of Harun because in the course of this year, I had waved at him as I passed by his shop. And in the last few days, I have found myself recalling the times I interacted with him. From those memories, I have remembered him as a friendly man who could get tough and assertive at times. Okay, let me tell you of a few interactions that I had with him.
When I was running for a political seat in the 2013 Kenya's General Elections, I went to Harun, gave him a copy of my campaign poster and requested him to glue it on his shop. He took the poster and promised to stick it somewhere in the shop at his own time. A few weeks later, I met a friend of mine who informed me that he had seen my campaign poster at Harun's shop. So it seems Harun was a man who kept his word.
Then at another time, I went to buy something from Harun's shop. While serving me, Harun started talking annoyingly about a dog. And when he noted I wasn't replying to his words, he asked me whether I was paying attention to what he was saying.
"Oh, sorry!" I apologized to him and then told him in Sheng, "I didn't know you were talking to me."
Then I quickly pieced the situation together and learnt he was complaining about our dog which had followed me to his shop without my knowledge. Not wanting to annoy Harun more, I assured him that I would keep the dog at home next time I was to visit his shop.
But the interaction I had with Harun that I recollect most fondly was on one evening earlier in this decade. That evening, I was feeling very excited as I entered Harun's shop. Perhaps because of the excitement boiling up in me that evening, I was in a talkative mood. As Harun attended to me, I began telling him how his shop was the Nakumatt of our home area. (Nakumatt was a leading supermarket here in Kenya at that time; it was renowned for having in its stores everything a customer needed.)
Harun interrupted my chatter and said to me in Sheng, "My friend, you are making fun of me and I am not enjoying it."
I must have bought a soda and a snack at Harun's shop that evening because I recall sitting down at the shop to eat something, and then suddenly realizing Harun had given me less change. As soon as I was done eating, I went to Harun and brought to his attention that he had short-changed me. Harun then blurted out in Sheng, "Umekuja hapa na pang'ang'a mingi mpaka nikachanganyikiwa! (You have come here with a lot of nonsense till I got mixed up!)"
That evening was probably the first time I was hearing of the Sheng word "pang'ang'a" because it sounded so funny to my ears that it had me reeling with laughter. I have found myself saying that word aloud to myself at times just to try it on my lips.
As you can deduce for yourself, Harun was indeed a friendly man who could become tough and assertive on occasions. When I learnt of his death last Sunday, I asked a friend of mine I met in my hometown of Kiserian that same Sunday what caused Harun's death. He replied that he too didn't know and went ahead to apprise me that Harun had passed away on Tuesday last week and would be buried the following day (that is, Monday). So it turned out I had learnt of Harun's death rather late.
I didn't attend Harun's funeral but my father did. And in the pamphlet issued during the funeral which my father brought home, I noted that an eulogy of Harun was not written on it. All that was in the pamphlet were a programme of the funeral, photos of Harun, tributes from family members and lyrics of the songs sang during the funeral. So I am yet to know what led to the death of Harun that caught me by surprise. But at least I got to know from the pamphlet that Harun was born in 1969; he thus passed on at the age of 50 which I find rather too young to die.
Harun's untimely death has helped me realize how quickly the ones we love can be snatched from us by the cruel hands of death. The people we are interacting with today could be dead and gone in a few months' time. I have therefore resolved to treasure the ones I love and to appreciate each day because I never know what tomorrow may bring. So help me God.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story about the death of a neighbour, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Thinking About Death". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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A Season to be Jolly
A True Story
on Dec 24, 2019
Yippee! The festive season is here with us again. For many people all across the world, even for non-believers, this is a time to reconnect with loved ones and feast on sumptuous dishes. As for me, I have chosen to use this season to reflect on how my year has been as well as strategize and plan for the year that is to follow.
This year, I continued with my policy of taking God into working partnership in all my problems and activities. Before retiring to bed at night, I have told God all that I want to accomplish the following day. And every time God has answered my prayer, I have thanked Him. For this is what St. Paul advises us in one of his epistles: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers."
Yes, the Lord - my great and awesome God - has answered several of my prayers this year. Thanks to Him, I have become a more consistent blogger this year than in any other year in the past. And the quality of my writing must have improved because I have received some donations in this blog as well as feedback messages from my readers around the world in the course of the year.
I also managed to produce three songs this year, thanks to God. Although the songs weren't as beautiful as I would have loved them to be, they were an improvement compared to my songs of yesteryears. And I valued the experience I had in composing and producing the songs.
Of course there are some of my prayers that God didn't answer because it's a fact God doesn't always fulfil all our desires. Chief among my unanswered prayers this year was not meeting my soulmate, or rather my future wife. I have a list of the qualities I would want in my future wife. And this year, I added two more qualities to that list: that is, tolerance for my foibles and compassion for others.
Adding those two qualities to the list of traits I would want in my future wife has made me worry that I am reducing the chances of ever getting into a relationship. But I have this belief that there is a woman God intended for me, and that I will recognize her the moment I see her, even without knowing whether she possesses the traits I want. That is to say, I believe in love at first sight.
There have been times this year when I became horribly impatient in meeting my soulmate. As a result of that impatience, I have spent much time on the internet searching for "The One" but my efforts have bore no fruit. I am now thinking that I should heed an advice I once came across on Facebook. The advice went something like this, "Don't spend your time looking for a soulmate; just focus on doing what you love and the right partner will find her way to you."
This year, I also didn't get financial breakthroughs from my hobbies. That has been another unanswered prayer. But I will continue working on my hobbies while praying until something happens. One of my heart's desires is to have my future children observe me earn money from the things I love to do, God willing. And the things I love to do are writing, gardening and producing songs.
The other important prayer of mine that God didn't answer this year has not been experiencing a never-fading sense of inner peace. There have been days in 2019 when I felt plagued by neurotic guilt. The guilt has led me to withdraw into my room on some days. I will continue praying for inner peace while striving to think well of myself. And hopefully, I will have a more peaceful 2020.
All told, 2019 was a wonderful year for me. I enjoyed good health. (Imagine I didn't even come down with a cold or a cough.) I didn't lose a loved one either. And I grew in wisdom, courage and knowledge. For those blessings which I owe to God's grace, I am eternally grateful.
Enough about me. What about you, my dear reader? How has you your year been? I hope you also learnt something from the blessings and challenges that came your way.
Having said that, let me wish you a blissful festive season. No matter your belief, may you find renewed strength this season. And if, like me, you will in the next few days look to a manger and claim the promise announced on a Holy Night of peace on Earth and goodwill towards all men - from the bottom of my heart: Merry Christmas!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on a season to be jolly, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Prayers God Didn't Answer". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.