In March last year, during my wife’s third trimester of pregnancy, three weeks to the due date, we had dinner together like we usually did. However, she complained of a minor discomfort and so I drove her to hospital.
As the night wore on, it was clear the situation was critical but at no moment did I imagine it would be to the point of death. Watching the life of your loved one ebb away is beyond description especially when you’d been chatting casually hours earlier. It was a shocking experience.
She died of high blood pressure complications. It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life. My wife was not sick, she was alive and healthy and, in the blink of an eye, she was gone.
Coming to terms with it all was very difficult for me, it was horrible, so much so that after the funeral, I was hospitalised and went for therapy for three months. Sometimes you need help to accept what has happened.
My children’s grief
The dynamics of mourning when you have lost a spouse are very complicated. Mourning is an exhausting process. It’s not easy thinking of helping children through it when the presumed helper is also incapacitated. My children got quite a lot of help from people who could relate to their grief professionally.
I took my children for counselling, and they also saw a professional child psychologist. They listened to and interpreted their stories, simplified the same for me and then guided me on what to look out for. I would recommend that for any grieving parent.
I have three children; Bryon, 17, Amani, 11, and Daniella, 5, and they are each unique and have been touched by this loss distinctly.
In some touching way, each one of us takes turns being strong when the rest are overwhelmed with grief. So, I watch and listen to expressions of the void of losing a loving mother. Some days have seen more tears than others; on others, just a statement of a happy memory will do; on others still, the comfort of silence does its work.
I encourage my kids to still talk about their mother and ask as many questions as possible. In fact, recently, my youngest daughter was asking me why doctors were not able to save her mother.
However, at the beginning, it was difficult when they would ask me questions because I did not know how to answer them. But I have learnt how to answer. It is all about taking it one step at a time. There are no hard and fast rules to mourning as a family.
The main thing is to accept what happened, keep breathing in and out, get up and find something useful to do and regularly be present as their father. By God’s grace, we are growing stronger and handling each day at a time.
Who is Timothy?
I am the eldest of three siblings; a normal boy growing up among members of an extended family in Busia County, which borders Uganda. I studied marketing and communication and my work history includes working at Rollout Marketing, Touch Media Solutions, Screen Siren, Mnet East Africa and Multichoice. Then when an opportunity arose at Kenya Film Commission, I applied and was recruited by then CEO, Mr David Maingi. I joined and served in various departments which included marketing and industry development and here I am now.
I am a silent optimist with a clear focus. I am not afraid to stand alone from the crowd. I also firmly insist on things done well and in good time. If it’s worth doing, then just do it perfectly without wasting resources. I therefore ask questions, questions and more questions.
My best quality is consistency; it makes life easier all round. My favourite thing to do when not working is spending time with family or with my Bible study group, going for a game drive, reading motivational books, travelling and meeting friends...it all depends on the time and season.
Changes in me
When you experience loss, you can never ever be the same again, your whole perspective changes. I do not take my life for granted, I understand more than ever that this life is not mine, that a higher power, God, controls life. It cements the fact that life is truly ephemeral and that every moment is truly a gift from God. In fact, this experience has drawn me closer to God. He is my everything.
I also have a different attitude towards my responsibilities, as I now play both the role of mum and dad. I now have to adjust my schedules since taking up the roles that my wife played so effortlessly in our children’s lives. Example my wife would take our youngest daughter to school, and so although she usually goes with the bus, whenever I can, I take her to school.
Also, this experience has made me realise how finding one’s purpose is important because we are all on this earth for a reason. So, I do my best to continue living and still be passionate about my work. So, as the CEO of the Kenya Film Commission, I give it my all and do not take the opportunity for granted.
However, the vacuum that has been left is still evident. For example, the memory (of leaving the house only to get to hospital and then she was gone) is so fresh in my mind and as a result it was very hard for me to remove her things from the car. I almost felt like if I removed her shoes that maybe I was not being loyal to her or something. I tell you grief is strange.
Also, I have not bought anything for the house since she passed on. I would not even know where to start, I have not bought new curtains, or painted the house -- we relied on her completely.
I am, however, very grateful to the support system that I have. I have a good group of friends, also my prayer group meet every Friday in different houses and that has really helped me. I also have support from my pastor. I am very grateful for my support system.
Remembering my wife
My wife Caroline Chepkoech was special in every way. Her character traits and personality won me over. Her understanding, sincerity, concern, diligence, peaceable nature and sensibility paved the way and also kept us together.
She was firm in a gentle way. I miss that about her as well as her endearing smile and presence. With her demise, I lost my best friend, a great mother to my children, an amazing wife, my confidant and a comforter. We had great dreams together.
Life has never been the same, as I miss everything about her. I knew she was the one I wanted for a wife based on the fact that above all, we were great friends joined together by God the father.
She was beautiful, ever smiling, born again and a home maker. She was also, strong-willed and made decisions without wavering. She had a good sense of humour. I was always authentic and comfortable around her. She is truly irreplaceable!
To those in mourning
First of all, if grief has visited you, then by all means, mourn. Stories may be similar but the experience is never the same. Allow people to mourn with you. No two days are alike and with time one learns to adapt to the unpredictable grief cycle.
Take care of yourself. Don’t destroy your life because you are mourning. With time, extend comfort to others whose grief is fresh. You are likely to understand them better. Spend more time with the children, try as much as possible to answer all their questions and understand their feelings. Healing really varies from child to child and from person to person.
I must also say; I haven’t fully healed but the journey continues. Mourning is strange sometimes you think you’re fine, and then out of nowhere you find yourself crying.
Just the other day I found myself crying, and when I investigated, I put two and two together and realised that I had watched Bob Collymore’s funeral from beginning to end and it had triggered my loss. When that happens, I do not panic. I accept the pain. I do not avoid it because the acknowledgment of loss it is part of healing. It’s all about taking it one day at a time.
On being the CEO of the Kenyan Film Commission
I was appointed in February 2019 and it was a pleasant surprise. Kenyans should expect an empowered Film Commission, responsive to the stakeholder’s and industry needs, thereby all programmes at the Commission geared towards empowering the filmmaker.
I want to help create a more vibrant film industry. Key to this is to create opportunities for established creative professionals to exercise their craft while simultaneously mentoring the next generation. We want to do this by offering the critical link for many artists through many of the Commission’s programs such as capacity building, screen culture development, research, local film incentives, distribution avenues, business incubation and marketing among others.
Also, we want to provide support to the local filmmaker through empowerment arising from capacity building, infrastructure development, developments of markets so as to reposition Kenya as a major hub for film-making in the region.
Overall, it is my desire to deliver a more professionalised, networked film and television industry across Kenya, and an expanded community of highly-skilled professionals who are passionate about creating quality home-grown content that can traverse the globe.What’s the weirdest thing a guest has done at your house?