Death of an Uncle
A True Story
on Mar 18, 2023
At around 1.20pm last Thursday, my Dad received a phone call. As he went to pick it, I silently hoped that he wouldn't hear any bad news. But alas! When I heard him repeatedly say "Oh, sorry!" in Swahili to whoever he was talking to, I instinctively sensed something tragic had happened. And it was probably about his brother Julius Gatonga.
My instincts turned out to be right because soon after Dad finished his phone conversation, I overheard him inform Mum that his brother was dead. He had breathed his last at 4.00am on Thursday morning.
I was a tad too shocked when I heard of the death of Uncle Julius. But I had seen it coming. Over the past one year, I would hear that he urgently needed money for dialysis and chemotherapy. Apparently, he had cancer and kidney problems.
Although I never bothered to find out which type of cancer Uncle Julius suffered from, I had asked God not to call him home soon since I feared his death might interrupt the disciplined daily routine I have been subjecting myself to. Too bad that God didn't answer that prayer.
After I learnt of Uncle Julius's demise on Thursday afternoon, I processed the bad news while seated at my desk. I wondered how my Dad was feeling for losing a brother he grew up with. Was he sorrowful? Did he feel like bursting into tears?
Surprisingly, I didn't note any change in Dad's mood as the Thursday afternoon wore on. He calmly continued with his work in his home office, while occasionally making calls to his other relatives to relay news of his brother's death. How stoic and worldly-wise my Dad is!
Uncle Julius was the only blood brother of my Dad. He was a humble and soft-spoken man who used to work as a primary school teacher before he retired when he reached the retirement age. His immediate family must be devastated to lose him.
As for me, I will miss Uncle Julius: his presence, his humility and his wisdom. I will also miss his encouraging voice. Back in 1999 when I was in primary school, he exhorted me to work hard in my studies so that I could excel in academics like my immediate elder brother Paddy.
Besides his encouraging voice, the other thing I liked about Uncle Julius was the way he turned up for our family affairs. He attended the wedding ceremonies of my brothers Paddy and Bob Njinju in November 2012 and April 2014 respectively.
At the end of Paddy's wedding in November 2012, my eldest brother Joe Kagigite offered Dad, Uncle Julius and I a lift in his car. Joe was grumpy that day. He refused to drive us all the way home. Instead, he dropped us in a town called Ngong. As we walked in that town, Uncle Julius kept asking Dad where we were.
Then on the day of Bob Njinju's wedding in April 2014, I travelled with Uncle Julius to and from the wedding venue. Uncle Julius was quite slow on the uptake that day, probably because he wasn't used to travelling in a busy city. I had to guide him to our destinations.
Uncle Julius last visited us in 2016 when he came home to fetch some important documents he needed from Dad. He looked much older than Dad even though he was younger than Dad. And I noted he still had that passion for reading newspapers that is characteristic of men of his age.
In December last year, I heard one of his sons was graduating from a local university called Rongo. The Sunday before the graduation ceremony, Uncle Julius phoned Dad to beg for money for travelling to Rongo University. Dad came through to his aid. And that marked the last time I heard him converse with Dad. His health went downhill afterwards.
I will miss Uncle Julius for shizzle. And his death has inspired me to pursue my passions with greater zeal while I still have breath in my nostrils because in the grave where we are all headed, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Till we meet again, fare thee well Uncle Julius Gatonga!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the above story about the death of my Uncle Julius Gatonga, you might also enjoy another one on "Bidding a Friend Farewell" that I wrote more than four years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Cracking Clean Jokes
A True Story
on Mar 13, 2023
Let's be honest: jokes make life interesting. Don't you love being around people who are funny? I guess you do because funny people brighten our lives and make us forget the troubles that prey on our minds. And I guess you also desire to be hilarious in your interactions with people because of the good feeling that lingers in our souls long after we have told a rib-cracking joke.
As for me, I must admit that I haven't been as humorous as I would have wished to be. I attribute that short-coming to the way I had a suppressed childhood, a childhood that was characterized by constant beatings and criticism. Due to that suppression, I grew up as a shy, timid and confused teenager.
Even when I was at Starehe Boys' Centre, a prestigious institution in Nairobi where I had my high school and college education, I wasn't that outgoing. Imagine during my more than five years at Starehe, I remember cracking only three jokes. Only three. Let me tell you about one.
Back in 2005 when we were sitting for Music practical exams during our final year in high school, there was a metal plate placed outside the building where we were having the exams. On the metal plate was an instruction that read as follows:
Of course the calligrapher who wrote that instruction on the metal plate intended to warn passers-by not to trespass into the building where we were having our Music practical exams. But I interpreted the instruction to mean that we, the students sitting for the practical exams, should not pass the examinations.
DO NOT PASS
I shared with Mr. Matthew Brooks, a talented white man from England who was then volunteering as a Music teacher at Starehe, my interpretation of the instruction while pointing at the metal plate on which it was written. Mr. Brooks burst out laughing. For me having tickled a white man, that joke remains one of my proudest high school achievements.
Although I had a suppressed childhood, I was brought up as a disciplined and morally-upright boy thanks to the teachings I received in church as well as the beatings I endured at home and in school. I therefore never cracked off-color jokes in my teenage years. None of the three jokes I remember punning during my years at Starehe were dirty.
It wasn't until I was a young adult at the university in JKUAT in 2008 that I started telling dirty jokes in my endeavor to be humurous. And the first dirty joke I recall cracking was when I was admitted at Thika Nursing Home after I was apprehended following my errant behavior at JKUAT.
Well, there was this lady who worked at the nursing home but wore a uniform that was different from that of other nurses. I could tell from her physique that she was about 55 years of age. Curious to know her role in the nursing home, I asked her at one time what her duties were but she didn't answer me for a reason I am unable to remember.
When I persisted in asking the lady what her duties in the nursing home were, she finally replied, "Just observe what I am doing. Watch where I am going and how I am doing my duties."
After she paused to see whether I had understood her reply, I inquired, "Even when you go to the toilet?"
My weird question made her turn her head towards me. And written on her face was an expression that clearly showed she was like, "What's wrong with this young man?"
Over the years since I was discharged from Thika Nursing Home, I have cracked even dirtier jokes which go contrary to biblical principles. And I had the temerity to share some of those dirty jokes with the choristers I used to sing and worship with at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi during my university days.
Some of the choristers who read my coarse jokes may have thought I was brought up as a spoilt kid. But, as I have said, I was morally-upright during my teenage years. The warped mind I seemed to have by sharing coarse jokes was a recent change in my behaviour in my endeavor to be humorous.
My experiences with endeavoring to be humorous have taught me that dirty jokes are very tempting to crack, for they seem to elicit the most laughter. Now that I have matured in my Christian faith, I have had to resist the urge to pun dirty jokes in the past four years. These days, I only crack clean jokes that don't offend anyone, both in my interactions with people and in the stories I share on this blog.
In his best-selling book The Secret of Happiness, evangelist Billy Graham wrote that off-color jokes shouldn't be uttered by believers. So, my beloved reader, I encourage you to avoid coarse jokes. Don't let your desire to be funny overshadow your responsibility to reflect God's character to the world. Be hilarious but for heaven's sake, crack only clean jokes. That's all I am saying.
NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update three days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new hymn titled "Fulfill the Desires of My Heart". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the hymn.