My grandfather died earlier this week, following a period of illness. That’s me being as safe as possible, being as i don’t exactly know the details of his passing. He was 80, and he was in home care suffering from prostate cancer… I don’t know why exactly, but his death really hurt. Probably because his death was the first direct death in my family, like here was a man who was there but is now gone, and he is directly related to me… practically all the deaths in my extended family have been some distance removed, so the impact was not as serious, but this was someone I knew, someone that meant something to me.
And now he’s gone.
I remember my grandfather from quite a while back. He was an interesting man. Always made a point of being understood, even speaking in Swahili so that I wouldn’t miss out on what he was saying. Granted I didn’t really know him much, but he had the coolest (in my juvenile but still rather fickle) opinion. Granted I was caught after having stolen his chicken’s eggs and claiming that ‘we were given’, and that he seemed to do things rather arbitrarily, like get married again after his first wife had died 30 odd years ago… He was still an awesome man. Like we went out to play one day when he was there and we ended up running around the village, singing something that made no sense, child’s play. But he obliged us, that is the part that has stuck with me. He let us be the children we were.
With time we saw less and less of him because the visits to Embu got fewer, and we only got to see him when he came to Nairobi for family events. Now it’s proving to be a revelation of how close my extended family is… Weekly meetings, flights from wherever, infinite days taken off… He will be given a good sendoff, I am sure.
The funeral was earlier this week. On Tuesday actually. involving a road trip and sun. It was sad, yes. Viewing the body and the reminder that he was really gone… I don’t know what struck me most, the outpouring of emotion or the fact that here was a man who I was named after and he was no longer there, so to speak. Life suddenly changed from the infinite path we all follow to a waiting game, where the end was the end, no returning.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
And there was a lot of dust. Fine red dust that coated everything. Shirts and pants and faces and hair… The old man was laid to rest next to his wife. She was waiting for him someplace, if the Priest is to be believed…
So the heavy, hot day retained its dignity, the burial going on with enough emotion to last for a while. And the old man was loved. Lots of people came by with stories. He was a popular choice for best man amongst his friends, it seems. Conversations generally trended towards how he was such a good man. And he was generous. And he was strong… But his last couple of years, since the cancer diagnosis that is, had been particularly sapping. His strength went down day by day until he could not go about his daily routine… It was touching, fleshing out the details of the old man’s life… And finding out things, like he had never gone to hospital until when he had to be admitted, with the diagnosis proving to be end-stage cancer. There were a number of revelations, like my grandmother died of ovarian cancer, my great uncle also had cancer and my mother had fibroids before she had me, meaning I’m at risk… Not the best sort of news…
In the end, I learned that my grandfather was quite a man. He was loved, he will be missed. His passing has left a hole that is hard to fill, but like the slow, steady march of time, we have to move on. Life is, indeed, like that.