Family relives pain and hope as Laboso battled cancer

Edwin Abonyo (third right) husband of the late Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso addresses mourners during the funeral service at Bomet Green Stadium, yesterday. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Stoic in the face of death, and with the casket of a beloved one by his side, a husband chronicled the painful end for his wife as the low and the mighty fought back tears.

For Edwin Abonyo, it was 28 years of joy and then anguish as his wife Joyce Laboso, battled cancer in utmost humility and resilience characteristic of a woman of many firsts.

To thousands of people who thronged Bomet Green Stadium and the millions who followed the event on live television yesterday, it was the story of triumph of love over adversity, the horror of a disease that has shattered myth of class but also awakening call on frailty of human life.

Even with access to the best of doctors, back and forth trips to three continents, presidential support and the encouragement of family and friends, the woman of many firsts could not be helped.

Confusing moment

“In UK, the doctors told us it had spread, and if they were to proceed with the kind of treatment we needed, she would not live any quality life, so... go home! You can imagine being told to go home, and you are in UK,” he told mourners.

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Interspersing the tear-jerking narration with joke, Abonyo carried on.

It was a confusing moment, even at State House. While President Uhuru Kenyatta, perhaps heeding doctors’ advice had already dispatched a team to bring her back, his Deputy William Ruto was not going to accept this.

“William called and said there is no way you are going to bring her back,” he added.

Instead of coming back home, the family headed to India to try their luck as, in Abonyo’s words, Indians were quite the risk takers. These were desperate times but they were to find, there was no respite either:

“They also told us they cannot do anything. That is when we knew we had reached the end of the road.”

Carrying with them nothing but hope and prayer, the family trooped back to Kenya, with their loved one in utter pain. And then the night vigils at Nairobi Hospital began, her situation now a matter of chance, intercession and prayer.

Excruciating procedures

“We spent the last one month of her life with her in Nairobi Hospital,” Chief Administrative Secretary Rachel Shebesh told the mourners.

For their sons Edwin and Brian, it was a story of selflessness, patience, perseverance, humility and discipline. Edwin said their mother fought her illness bravely and endured so much.

Brian narrated how her sojourn back from Australia transformed into last moments with her mother and during which he cared for her.

“In our home, you were the soul and it is hard to imagine life without you. You painfully and bravely went through the excruciating procedures of treatment. Be rested!”  their father said.

Earlier on, Bomet town had come to a stand still as dignitaries, politicians and people from all walks of life thronged the stadium to pay tribute to their departed leader.

It was an act reminiscent of a similar feat two years ago when the President and his deputy joined thousands at the stadium to witness her swearing in as the second governor for Bomet County.

In sharp contrast to the swearing in ceremony, a mahogany coffin bearing her remains and draped in the national flag lay at the front of more than 10,000 people who jammed a mega tent erected in the middle of the stadium.

This time around the gathering was sad; some with tears flowing freely from their cheeks, as family members, the president, his deputy and ODM leader Raila Odinga paid glowing tribute to Dr Laboso.

Speaker after speaker described her as humble, loving, peaceful and insightful, a natural leader, diligent worker who faced challenges with grace.

Leaders described Laboso as a servant and and leader who inspired many.

Bomet Deputy Governor Hillary Barchok said Laboso inspired them all and having selected him as her deputy it meant Laboso had believed in him

Barchok said Laboso will be remembered for her tremendous peace and promoting unity among warring communities in the  region.

He called on leaders at the county to assist him realise the late governor’s dream.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen on behalf of other senators, said Laboso never dwelt in her sickness and always wanted to know the country was doing.

Most importantly was on the relationship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said in the casket lay a great leader whom he wished many to cherish and emulate.

Council of Governors chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya said they had lost one of them and had no word to express the loss.

Continued support

On behalf of the council, he thanked the President and his Deputy for their continued support.

Oparanya called on Bomet Deputy Governor to pick a woman deputy in honour of Laboso.

“We will follow your footstep, to the deputy governor, you better pick a woman deputy in honour of Laboso,” said Oparanya.

ODM leader Raila Odinga described Laboso as a humble leader. He recalled how him and his wife Ida encouraged Laboso to join politics when her sister Lorna Laboso who was Sotik MP died in a plane crash alongside former Cabinet Minister Kipkalia Kones in 2008.

Others who attended the funeral service were National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Governors Samuel Tunai (Narok), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho) and Uasin Gishu’s Jackson Mandago among others.

Also present were Governors Ann Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter.

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