Fare thee well Fidel

Nothing makes you question the meaning of life faster than an untimely death. Death is unapologetically cruel.

Years ago, I was part of a group of women who had lost family members to cancer. Among us was one woman whose mother had passed away 10 years before.

She spoke about the period of her Mum’s illness, the absolute devastation she felt upon her passing and the vulnerability of being a girl in a family of boys without a mother’s love and protection. She started off strong but halfway into it, she broke down and began to weep.

It was so discouraging to imagine that even 10 years down the line, the pain of losing a loved one could still be as fresh as the day they died. But that’s a reality that those who are left behind have to come to terms with.

Death deals a body blow and inflicts the deepest kind of wound. With time, the wound begins to heal. But every so often, when you remember something they said, see a picture or recall a past event, you scratch away the scab and discover that the pain never really left. It just became a part of who you are.

You become a new creation when someone you love leaves you forever. Your old persona passes away and you begin to view the world with a freshly minted sense of purpose. If there is one thing death will teach you, it is that life is short, no matter how long you live.

Anyone who has lost a friend or family member will tell you that they you do not remain the same. The road ahead suddenly makes a sharp turn, but if you persevere through the heartbreak, it will lead you to places you would never have gone if things had not changed. Places where you will start to understand that everything happens for a reason. And every wo(man) has their own path to follow. Some of those paths lead to the other side of eternity faster than others.

I interviewed Fidel Odinga and his ex-wife Veronica Ng’ang’a eight years ago, when the social and political scenes were abuzz with news of their impending nuptials. I remember Veronica as a pleasant young lady, with the sweetest smile and the aura of a woman who believed she had found her Prince Charming. She seemed happy and very much in love.

If I had to describe Fidel in one word it would be unassuming. He didn’t seem to have any airs or graces. He was also reserved, never saying more than he had to, to make a point. Looking at him, one got the impression of a man whose feelings, thoughts and aspirations run deep. And yet, when he smiled, he also seemed to have a cheeky side.

I was not his friend and I never met him again after that interview, but since that brief interaction, and despite all the rumours about his exploits and adventures on the social scene, I have always remembered him as a gentle soul.

Hon Raila Odinga, Mama Ida, Rosemary, Raila Jr and Winnie; I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard this must be for you. It is the most painful thing. But I do know this – it will get better. One day, the sun will shine again.