People say that love and death are the two common and universal human journeys. There is a difference though; love is more powerful and lasts longer. A body can be taken only once but love can be given a thousand times. Ask how someone died, the answer is finite. Ask how they loved, the answer is infinite.
1st January 2019 rolls in, casually, smoothly, as if it knows just how special a day it is. People are jubilant. You are jubilant. Everything looks and feels new and exciting. You arm yourself with new resolutions. About how you will live more passionately, how you will love deeper and harder, how you will have meaningful relationships, how you will build your dreams.
At 3:00 pm the same day, you will receive a call that will shake you to the very core. A call that will shift your life and everything you thought you had figured out at 30. You will say that you had, you loved, you lost. And you will be so lost yourself, you will be sinking and looking for your high stronghold, but it is no more.
On the 30th of September 2016, you welcomed your first bundle of joy. He was so tiny. You wanted to pick him up, but you were afraid that you would break him, crush him. You called him Denzel: the wild one, the high stronghold. Njuguna wa Mwaura. He was perfect, he looked divine. You were a proud first-time daddy. You almost bored your mates to death with what your son did, what he said, how he acted. Every sleepless night, every wailing, every screaming, even the drooling all over your clothes, was so precious. You embarked on an adventure, as a protector, a playmate, a great love and father-friend to a boy, your boy.
Your heart stretched with love, with every small yawn, every small movement, with every little kick, even with the piercing cry they promised would be an irritating norm. You loved watching him, teaching him new things; so you caught him at his first step, you caught him when he learned to call you daddy, stuttering, ever so beautifully, you think.
Because his favorite show was the Teletubbies, you adopted it as your favorite. He was the Spiderman to your Batman, together you were to conquer the world, little hero and big hero. So the two of you were goofy, doing goofy guy things, like fighting off imaginary bad guys in an imaginary car.
When tragedy strikes, it often catches you off-guard. Like a sadist stalker who’s been trailing you, who strikes when you least expect it, when you are at your happiest and your most hopeful.
The freshness of the new year now tasted so stale in your mouth, the thought of living without your little wildness is unfathomable. So many around you go on as if nothing has happened, as if a little heart did not stop beating, as if the world did not just whirl and make you lose your true North. The earth should have stood still, the sun should not have set and definitely should not have risen to birth a new day, festivities should have been abandoned, people should have felt your pain, shared it, at least acknowledged that a fundamental part of this world was gone. That everything had changed for one man. How dare life continue in its even uninterrupted keel? You have so many questions, but the most dominant, the only one your brain can fathom, the one that keeps replaying in your mind, is, WHY? You question, you blame, you weep. Nothing matters without your little friend, without your great love.
He had such a hasty exit from this world. You flashback to the last time you saw him. His little wild playful nature contained, at the back of his Granny’s car, folded arms and looking down. He left without saying goodbye. He exited without a backward glance. It’s as if he knew, as if he knew it was time. As if he wanted to protect you, by exiting hastily, without saying goodbye. Because sometimes goodbye is so final.
You are so hurt that you never got to say goodbye, that life could be snapped out of such a small spark, like a candle blown out by the caressing of a soft breeze. You are hurt that you were not there when it happened, when his little body pummeled into the abyss of a deep well, when festivities for a new year were underway, when his little friends and his little cousins were pattering their little feet above ground. It took divers to brave the depth and the darkness, only to resurface with his little shoes, his body deep in the stomach of the well. As if the well itself wants to hold him a bit longer, longs to trade its stillness for his warmth. It takes over five agonizing hours in which your hear is breaking over and over again, in which you tear up and feel hopeless, helpless, feelings you would never wish on even your worst enemies. You long to dive in, perhaps to save him, or even to join him.
And this becomes your new norm. Even after burying his little body and saying goodbye. Even when everyone is passing condolences and saying they know how you feel. Do they really? Have they ever had and lost? Have they ever known a sadness and darkness so deep that it physically hurt? There are those who say the right things, who do things right, who genuinely care. You smile, if a slight and fake lifting of your lips can pass for one, and you lie that you are doing okay.
Then there are those who tell you to move on, to forget him, that he is gone, that life is for the living and the dead have no use for those alive. It makes you angry. How dare they tell you how to mourn? When to finish mourning? What to feel? When to move on? The say snap out of it, as if it is a faucet you can switch on and off at will. It is your pain, your lifelong pain, you alone know it, feel it.
The next weeks and months turn into agony. You think that someday you will drink enough to do it. Disturbing messages appear on your pages. People are concerned. Is it a cry for help? You don’t think so. They say people only cry for help when they feel there is help to cry out for. No one can help, there is no help to cry out for. You are on survival mode, even living one day at a time is a struggle, you live through an hour, then through another hour, until you drag your weary body and soul through a day, and you dread the dawning of a new day. What is there to wake up to? Emptiness. Darkness. Meaninglessness. Nothingness. Weariness. Suicidal thoughts. Depression, they call it. There were times in your life you thought you had reached rock bottom, well now you were sinking into an abyss, with no stronghold and with no will to fight, forget superhero mode.
But you are strong, you make it through a day, then through weeks, then through months. The pain may never end, and you are okay with that. Your high stronghold will always weigh heavily, like a wet blanket that keeps your heart from beating again, from sparking again. Someday your stronghold will weigh lightly, with fond memories, with a grateful heart that has come to terms with the reality of death, and dealt with it in the best way you could. You have to accept the finality of death, and faced its inevitability first-hand.
For when it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
Denzie, as he was fondly called, will be remembered lovingly, the apple of his father’s eye, the center of his universe. And for the 2 years and 3 months that his spirt was wild and free and young and strong on this earth, his father’s life was so entrenched in a purpose, so deep in love.
Denzie, this is an open letter from your daddy, because it was impossible for him to hold you loosely, to love you lightly. So he held you tightly, he loved you hard, he is still holding on and loving you, even beyond the grave. His broken heart is on a journey of healing.
“Denzie, right now I would trade places with you in the blink of an eye, I would sell my soul just to have one more day with you. I know you believed that I could protect you from anything and I am sorry I failed you. Rest easy my Love, Daddy’s coming home.”
Fare thee well, Michael Denzel Njuguna Mwaura, beloved son of a doting father.