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Friday, May 13, 2011

Goodbye Ma'

This is the Eulogy I wrote for my mum. It's not exhaustive, but then again... It was written in those sleepless, confused, busy, and emotional days of the funeral.

If I managed to pull it off, that is, if it sounds nice and reads well (My cousin Brenda insisted that it does), then well and good. If it is a poor job, well, I was the writer and the editor, so the mistake is entirely mine.

But, seriously, why am I being hard on myself. Just read, if you knew her, well and good, if you did not, then too bad. It's almost a week since I left Nairobi and I think this should be the last of the blogs in which I talk about her death.

As journalists, I have been told here in Mexico, we need to talk about life and so, well, I will talk about her life --not endlessly and not in an annoying way, but in just the way that I remember her. But meanwhile, here is what I felt then, about my dad, losing the love of his life. It was a blow, at least to me, so I won't speculate how hard a blow it was on him.

"When you have to talk about a person that you’ve been married to for the last 30 years, the way Stephen has been married to Theresa, until a week ago, it’s difficult to decide between what you have to say and what not to say.

Her children too will no doubt find it difficult to truncate the life of their loving mother into a few words, but somehow, they have to quickly share how they knew her.

Many of you reading this or listening to it being read knew her in several special ways. She was simply ‘Theresa’ to her friends, ‘Aunty Trizah’ to her nephews and nieces, Namwasi to her kinsmen. Her sisters called her “shimwenyi” because “she was ever smiling” and “nanzekho” because she laughed a lot. Her colleagues called her Terry.

Well, for a woman with six children, the smiles have been around for a long time. Jeremiah the first born, and Alphonce the second born are now earning a living in Nairobi. Eunice, the third born and the eldest daughter, is a fifth year at Moi University’s School of Medicine. She is the one who helped Mom understand the basic facts about the liposarcoma strain of cancer that she had been fighting.

Wycliffe Mchujo is a finalist at Masinde Muliro University, now winding up his university education. He spent a few moments with mom a week before her death. Hopefully, mom’s willpower will see him through successfully, despite the tough hurdle of having to mourn her death and study for the exams.

The lastborn twins, Richard (Maseno University) and Susan (Egerton University), must surely be hardest hit by her demise. Mom fondly called Richard ‘Resident Nurse’ because the lithe youngman, who is a decent cook by the way, spent most of his time with her in hospital over the last two years, with Dad and Eunice as the helpers. They were very close. The saddest bit is that Mom died two days after Richard came back from campus. -Susan too was that close to Mom. Whenever she called Dad or any of her brothers at home, she’d insist to speak to Mom. Susan too is sitting her exams and hopefully, she’ll draw from Mom’s reservoir to pull through.

As her children, we know she was the best cook we’ll ever have: her fish stew, her drop scones, her cakes, her chicken stew and her mushroom stew were just out of this world. Sweet! That’s all gone now, but Richard, Eunice, Wycliffe, Susan, and Jeremiah have taken after her and spring up surprises in the kitchen.

She had many nieces and nephews who loved her and most were distraught with the news of her death. Life happens. Her sisters Felistas, Angela, Brigitte, Rose, Schola, and Mary, together with Joseph, their only brother were profoundly crushed.

The relatives and friends, many gathered here for that final goodbye are equally sad –it’s humbling to the family to know that all of you knew her personally, some indirectly through her children, and most met her during her extension work with Kenya’s Government Ministry of Agriculture.

For those who didn’t know her that well, here comes a little of her life story.

Theresa was born on the Christmas Day of 1956, thus the name ‘Shikuku’. That she died on Easter Sunday, viewing it through a Catholic lens, provides a lot of hope. She was the 7th child in a family of 9.

Her lower primary schooling was at Itete Primary School and later at St Anne’s Girls Primary school for her upper primary. In 1971, she joined Mukumu Girls High School in Kakamega and cleared her O-levels four years later. In 1975, she joined Bukura Agricultural Institute for a certificate course. After Bukura in 1976, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Cotton Research Station, Kibos, Kisumu from 1977 to 1979. She then went to Egerton College for a Diploma in Agriculture Education and Extension, which she successfully completed in 1982.

She was posted to Mabanga Farmers Training College as a Deputy Principal, a position she held for seven years until 1989. She was promoted to be the Principal of Bukura FTC in 1989 and stayed at the helm of the institution until 1993.

Thereafter, she was posted to Mumias Divisional Agricultural Office as a Crops Officer. The job involved training of farmers all over the Division (now District) until the illness forced her to retire in 2006.

In her retirement, she focused on dairy and mushroom farming at her Mumias home, with general crop farming at her rural home in Itete. She was also appointed to serve in the Board’s of Governors at Indangalasia Secondary School and at St Martha’s Mwitoti Mixed Secondary School.

Theresa, was also a keen member in the St Peter’s Catholic Church Choir, Mumias and a member of the St Vincent Christian Community in Ekama and St Paul’s Christian Community, Itete parish. She’s been a member of several women groups for development.

We’ll miss her dearly. She was the best mum, wife, sister, aunty, friend and colleague one would admire to have.


THE ILLNESS

When she was at Bukura FTC as Principal in 1989, Theresa started feeling intermittent pains in her lower left lumbar region. A series of ultrasound scans and CT scans didn’t reveal anything, although there was a slight swelling.

In 2005, the swelling finally showed up in the ultrasound scan, revealing a tumour. Two years later, she underwent surgery to remove the tumour from her abdomen. In 2009, the tumour recurred, forcing her to go back to hospital to have it removed. In 2010, it again came up, forcing a third surgical operation.

After tests in independent clinics in Nairobi, at Kijabe Hospital, and in a South African Consultancy, just before the 2010 surgery, the oncologists were unanimous that the malignant growth was liposarcoma – a cancer of fat cells in the body. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy didn’t work, and the tumour came back and consequently killed her in the wee hours of April 24, 2011.

She has been to many hospitals from St Mary’s Mumias Hospital to the Aga Khan hospitals in Nairobi and Kisumu. She’s also been to Mater Hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital and to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.

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