17 Sep Reflections About Life.
Today, the fallen General Aronda Nyakirima’s body lay in state, at Parliament – for the public to pay tribute to a devout servant of the nation. A friend, earlier had posted a picture of the General’s family. In the picture, the grief stricken daughter of the General leaned on her mother’s shoulder, while the son, gazed down, depicting a hopeless situation. A picture is worth a thousand words, there was a subtle message: behind the ceremonial pulse, the gunshot salutes and the army green, there is family that has been broken into pieces. Seeing this family made me reminisce what happened to me 12 years ago. A similar feat befell my family, when my father passed away. At the age of 11, what seemed to be a normal day in the life of a teenager turned into the grim of a cold long night.
On 30th May, 2003, in the evening at 5:00 pm while at Namilyango Junior Boys School, I received the news about the death of my father. The tabloids around the country covered the story on their cover pages, ” Basoga is dead.” As a child, I had no clue as to what his death meant. Since my father was a Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament, the immediate thought, was that he had sought asylum or was on one of those foreign missions, he so often took.
When I was driven home, it donned on me, that indeed my father had died. The vigil had already began; the beautiful stars seemed like a pale constellation. The groaning of sorrow in our sitting room was more vivid than I ever recalled, it literally felt like the angel and shadow of death had camped right there. Several luminaries turned up for the vigil; state ministers, legislators and my father’s colleagues all found our home to be the dwelling place for the night.
It was becoming clearer to me that I would never be able to sit by the window to wait for my father to return from work. I knew from then on, it was not a hoax, though difficult, I had to get to terms with the reality, he had died and was never going return: sadly, there was nothing my sorrow could do change about it.
The scenes the morning after are perhaps the ones I recollect the most. I was a part of the group that boarded a state vehicle and were driven to All Saints Cathedral in Kampala Diocese. The church was filled to capacity, with part of the congregation standing on the lawns. I could not think of any notable person in the country that did not attend the mass. My elder sister, Susan delivered the eulogy on behalf of my siblings. I recall the apparently cold tears gliding down her pale cheeks. I could not hold it too, I felt a lump in my throat while my eyes got heavier and sunken by the minute. My sister’s sobbing led me to inevitably give in, I sobbed and cried as if I had just come to the realisation that my father had died. I looked up to the ceiling and asked myself why God had taken away my father. Out of all the people in the world. What was the Lord thinking? Who would take care of us and support my mother?
The condolences, the wreaths laid on the casket (which were numerous) could neither heal the wound nor the void left in my heart. I felt like a hollow pipe, without water running through it, to give it a breath of freshness.
After the funeral service, my father’s corpse was scheduled to be taken to Parliament, for the Members of Parliament to pay their last respects. We traversed to the nation’s Parliament. We sat through the longest parliamentary session I have ever attended. I heard for the first time the narration of my father’s servant heart, his commitment to serve the nation, his accomplishments, his flaws and interesting opinions about his radical tendencies while a student at Makerere University. I learnt that he had announced his own Guild Student Election results after he had been notified that the candidate he supported had lost under questionable circumstances. I realised that my father was neither an ordinary man nor just a husband, he was a national leader, a servant of the people, a man who stood for the principles of democracy. It became more vivid to me that his life was much more than the words he said, but the blue prints he left on people’s hearts and several families.
We proceeded to the village in Namutumba Constituency, then a part of Iganga district in Eastern Uganda, where a mammoth crowd awaited. The majority of the crowd was wailing, while others were ecstatic(I still do not know why, the only logical explanation was, perhaps because most of them had never seen as many cars in one place). I heard an old woman say the, “the Lion of Busiki has died.” The President of Uganda then (who, 12 years later is still president) joined the mourners. He addressed the mammoth crowd and empathised with Uganda about the loss of a senior statesman whose commitment to service was unrivalled. How a man from a small village in Namutumba would cause such a national outcry is still spectacle of great inquiry (one which I hope to explore when I write about his life.)
So, when I saw the picture of the General’s family, my soul wept, I understood the depth of their pain. No number of gunshot salutes, ceremonies and black armbands will heal their pain. I identified with them, because I faced the same plight 12 years ago, and ceremonial bickering was the least of their concerns.
Death should remind us to live purpose driven lives. I read an article written by Oliver Sacks a neurologist who discovered that he had multiple metastases in his liver and cancer; he had this to say concerning his numbered days on earth, “death, whether sudden or expected should remind us of the importance of not merely existing, but of being intensively alive in every moment we are lucky to have.” For the statesmen I have written about, they lived a life of service and their names will forever be etched into the hearts of many. Quite essentially, we should be reminded by these deaths to make the most of this life. We should reflect upon whether our lives have been well lived.