April 6, 2014 is a day that will forever be etched in the mind of Njeri Kaberere, fondly referred to as Njesh wa Qabbz. On this day, she lost the person she describes as the love and pillar of her life - her husband Peter Kaberere.
The news of Kaberere’s death sparked great sadness to many people who loved and valued his music which ministered to them in many ways.
And for his young family, the period following his demise has been the most difficult even as they struggle to come to terms with his death.
Just like any couple, Njesh and her husband looked forward to a bright future, a family life filled with happiness. Unfortunately, all their dreams were cut short when death struck.
“Kabz was a good husband and father, one that any woman would wish to have. He was a real dad, a provider, a protector and a good cook. When he was still alive, I prayed that God doesn’t take him away early. But He had his own plans,” says Njesh.
The mother of two who works as an administrator at MoSound Events, recalls that fateful day as if it was yesterday.
“On that Sunday, Kabz had woken up to prepare himself and our son Ulani for church. I stayed back at home since I was so heavy with my second pregnancy. They later came back from church and we had lunch together,” says Njesh.
“After lunch, he requested that he goes to wash our car at the car wash so that he could come back home in time for us to arrange the baby room. When he left for the car wash, I was left behind with Ulani and we spent time playing and watching TV. Somehow, out of the blues, I asked myself and wondered, if Kabz died today, what would I do?”
When she was still deeply immersed in her thoughts, her phone started ringing.
“It was my boss. He asked me where I was and once I told him I was at home, he hung up. I just thought he was looking for Kabz. I tried calling Kabz, but I couldn’t reach him and just told myself that perhaps he was busy,” she says.
In a span of about ten minutes, she received two more calls from her colleagues inquiring where she was. It was then that her boss’s wife and a colleague arrived at their home but there was nothing to show that something was amiss.
“From our house, I could suddenly hear the siren of an ambulance. I asked myself what I would have done if my husband was in that ambulance.”
By that time, people started streaming into her house, but she had no clue what had happened.
She offers: “They were all wearing sad faces. I was called to the sitting room where I noticed there were many people. When I looked at my husband’s dad who had a teary face, I automatically knew that something bad had happened to my husband. I started screaming and running towards the back door. I was in a state of shock. There and then reality unfolded when his mum came in and broke the news.”
According to Njesh, she was told that his death was caused by an electric fault. Her daughter Njoki was born on the same day her husband was laid to rest.
She says: “My daughter was supposed to be born ten days after the burial. But our God works in mysterious ways. The funny thing is that I had packed my hospital bag before heading for the burial ceremony. Unlike Ulani, Njoki’s birth was a different experience considering that her father was not there to take us home and prepare good meals for me as I nursed my baby. But I am equally grateful to God because it was a smooth delivery without any complications.”
Njesh now says she does not mourn, but celebrates Kaberere’s death.
“I have my low moments but I know that God is in control. Kabz death is about God. It has not been easy, but I have learnt to count on God. He gives me strength to face each day and be there for my children,” she says.
According to Njesh, death has taught her many things, the most important being that we must always show love and appreciate those we hold dear to our hearts since we don’t know about tomorrow.
“It feels empty being without him, both at home and at work, since we worked in the same company. My son Ulani, always has this notion that his dad has gone away to work because when he was still alive he used to travel a lot for work-related assignments. But I am grateful for the love from family and friends that overwhelms me. I don’t raise my kids alone. I raise them with the support of so many other people including my family, nannies, friends and colleagues. I will strive to bring them up the way their dad wanted and once they are old enough to understand, I will tell them everything about him.”
She encourages anyone out there who is mourning the death of a loved one to grieve, but understand that one cannot grieve for long.
“Ask God for healing because He is the only healer,” she says. “Death is very painful. But there is more to life than death especially for the living, so make use of your time when you are alive. God is faithful enough to see you through that period.”
For Marion Amukuzi, life as a widow has equally not been easy.
When she got married to her late husband John Mutunga in April 2009 at a magnificent garden wedding in Nairobi, they both looked forward to a long beautiful life as a couple.
But as fate would have it, their dreams would not materialize as John’s life was suddenly cut short due to an accident.
“John and I met at Maseno University where we were both students. We were in the Christian Union (CU) and at some point, he was our patron. I held him in high esteem because of his position and never thought we could date. But one thing led to another and we grew fond of each other,” says Marion.
In 2005, Marion says they officially started dating.
“From our first date, we knew we were meant for each other and we were getting married soon after campus,” she says.
Marion says getting married to John was the best thing that happened to her.
“Though a few of his relatives and my relatives were not for the idea of a cross cultural marriage - he was Kamba and I am Luhya - nothing could separate us except death, which struck sooner than we both expected,” says Marion. According to her, they had never talked about death because they knew they would grow old together. Says she: “Almost three years into our marriage, we felt like we were still on honeymoon and life was just beginning. Ours was a beautiful love story and I don’t regret ever having married John.”
On January 11, 2012, the unexpected happened.
“We lived in Imara Daima Estate, Nairobi and on this morning, we left the house for work as usual. I was seven months pregnant. I asked John if we could take a matatu right outside our gate but he was reluctant because the traffic was heavy and so it was faster to walk to Mombasa Road,” she recalls.
She offers: “I can note that he was in a rather pensive mood. Just before we reached Mombasa Road, I suspect the matatu we were to board at the gate came overlapping. I can’t recall exactly what happened because we were walking on the pedestrian path when suddenly John pushed me and I fell on the side of the road flat on my tummy. I heard a loud bang and when I woke up, the matatu was on top of him. I thought I was just having a bad dream. I remember screaming at the top of my voice and asking the people around to help me take him to hospital and I couldn’t understand why nobody was not willing to help. One guy blatantly told me there was no need to take him to hospital because he was already dead but I was not convinced.”
In that confusion, thanks to a good Samaritan who was driving by and had witnessed the incident, Marion got some help.
“She put me in her car and called a friend to watch over me as she continued to call my family members and John’s colleagues. She made sure I did not get out of the car and my attempts to get her to take my husband to hospital did not bear fruit until I was told an ambulance had arrived to pick him. All this time, I was convinced he was still alive. I thought there was no way God was going to allow this to happen yet I had just lost my dad less than two months before,” she says.
The sad news was broken to her at Mater Hospital. By then, she had suspected all was not well when she saw her husband’s relatives at the hospital.
“I was in a trance and I couldn’t sleep the entire night even with several doses of drugs to help me sleep. I asked my sister to give me her Bible. I would open it randomly and all the verses I read the entire night told me all was well. I would hold my tummy and tell my baby it would be well. Only once, did I worry about how I was going to single-handedly take care of my baby but before it sank in, God assured me all would be well and I have not been worried ever since,” she says.
For Marion, talking about her life journey helped in her healing.
“My family, friends, John’s former colleagues, including his bosses, our neighbours and the church played a major role in my healing process. They planned the burial in my absence and took care of all the expenses and continued to support me way after the burial. I will forever remain indebted to them,” she says.
At some point, though, Marion says she lost all the confidence she had and this even affected her work.
“I had to go back to work when my baby Ethan John Mutunga, was just two months old because I had spent so much time away and my employer was not going to allow me more time. I contemplated quitting, but decided to hold on because I did not know what the future had in store for me. Eventually when I quit, God opened another door the very next day. Without God I would have given up a long time ago.”
She attests to the fact that it’s not easy being widowed at 31 and is yet to accept being called a widow.
“I have not known what it means to rest ever since my husband’s death. I have become independent. Insects no longer freak me out as they used to because John is not there to kill them. I fix things in the house and only call for help when it’s major. John’s death sort of awakened me from my slumber,” she says.
She terms her son Ethan as a calm, mature and responsible child, a replica of his dad.
“God took away the big John and gave me a small one who is trying so hard to fit into the big shoes. The best gift that John left me is Ethan and I know I have a big responsibility to take good care of him,” she says.
Though he is too young to notice the gap, Marion says when he comes of age, she is ready to take him through the process of knowing who his father was, and prays he will be glad to know his father was exemplary in character and he loved God.
So what next for Marion?
“I decided I will not linger in the sad memory but move on. God has enabled me to accomplish almost all the dreams we had in a miraculous way, which included going back to school for my Masters,” she says.
“Even though it hurts to lose a loved one, don’t linger forever in the anguish. Little by little, rise up and take the baby steps until you are able to walk strong again,” says Marion.