Kevin, you died not
By Jane Kaberuka
Kevin’s untimely death has left me numb and choking. There
is a permanent log in my throat; heaviness in my chest.
Tears that don’t fall, well up in my eyes, whenever I think
or talk about him. No one ever told me that feelings of grief or
sorrow can manifest themselves like those of fear; the same fluttering
and nervousness in the stomach, the same palpitations and dizziness,
the same restlessness, helplessness and hopelessness.
Since Kevin’s death I feel all these things, and much more.
Yet at the same time I feel numb! The world around me is surreal
- unreal. I am dazed and utterly confused. I see people going about
with their everyday lives, eating and laughing, and there is a ring
of disbelief in my soul. How can they behave this way? Don’t
they know that Kevin is dead?
I last saw Kevin on October 11. I had not seen him for three whole
years! But we talked regularly on phone. He came home that evening,
driving himself, only to find out later that he had just been discharged
I was happy to see him. He looked fine to me. He had even put on
weight. I teased him about his weight gain and how he now looked
more like a man and not a boy anymore. He smiled good-naturedly.
He was used to my banter and teasing. We sat talking as he took
some tea. Then I noticed that his left arm was swollen. When I inquired
about it, he told me he had been hospitalised and had been on a
drip, and was still in pain.
I was embarrassed for I had been complaining to him about my ill
health; yet he who was in so much pain than I and facing death hadn’t
complained at all. Typical of Kevin - always uncomplaining!
We must have talked about death or dying at sometime, for I recall
promising him for the ninth time that if he died before me, I would
write a tribute in his memory. It was one of those promises one
makes secretly, hoping that they won’t be held to it.
I was older and have been unwell for years, so I always thought
I’d die before him. How wrong I was!
As he left that evening, he told me he was leaving for the United
Kingdom the following day. I expressed my concern about him traveling
soon after hospitalisation.
He assured me that he would be all right. I asked him to call me
while away to let me know how he was doing. He promised that he
would and he did.
As I saw him off to his car, he stood a while, looking at me and
holding my hand. He seemed hesitant as if he wanted to tell me something,
but he didn’t. Instead, he raised my hand to his lips and
kissed it. I laughed and teasingly told him, “How come other
people get kissed in other places and I only get a hand kiss?”
He smiled shyly and said to me, “Until you start working hard
enough for special treatment, that is all you get.”
And he drove away
I had no idea - no premonition at all that that would be the last
time I would see him. Now I look back and wonder - had he known?
Had he come to say Goodbye? How is it possible that for three years
he hadn’t deemed it necessary to see me and yet just weeks
before his death he had felt the need to do so?
I first met Kevin in 1992 and I took to him instantly because of
his intellect and brilliant mind. He was younger than me yet he
was my teacher in so many ways, and in so many different subjects.
And now that he has died before me; I must keep my promise and write
a tribute but I am at a loss as to what to write or not to.
How do I write on less than a page about a friendship that spanned
13 years! How do I write about a mind?
So quick, and
How do I write about,
Such courage and brevity
That often left me speechless?
How do I write about such sense
Of humour that often left me in stitches?
Such a sense of generosity
Of words passionately spoken,
Of deeds of kindness lovingly dispensed
A sense of fairness and justice
Of such friendship and loyalty,
Such a passion for hard work
Such desire to make the world a better place
Such strong principles
Such a high sense of integrity, honesty and humility.
How do I write about being
A privileged recipient of so much trust and confidence
Of being held in such high esteem?
How do I write about those infuriating 3:00 a.m./early morning
phone calls made at the spur of the moment to tell me nothing much
except that SC Villa had won or lost a match!
Fare Thee Well gallant soldier of the pen. Sleep well beloved;
you died not. For in our hearts you are alive and well. We all will
miss you, especially your mum, your wife Liz, your two sons and
two young daughters Jojo and Tiny, whom you often spoke of with
so much love and pride.
Till we meet.
Rest in peace.