SPECIAL PROJECTS
 
24th November 2005
JOHN KEVIN OGEN ALIRO TRIBUTE

Kevin, you died not

By Jane Kaberuka
GUEST WRITER

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 from hospital.

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. Thanks Kevin!
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 masculine,

So lithe,

So quick, and

So brilliant?

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.