My Annual Dose of Wisdom

 

It appears I have formed the habit of doling out wisdom on my birthday every year. While some may be of the view that such is unwarranted, let it be known that I do it solely for my own pleasure. It is true of course that there are those who may benefit from this annual random musings. I truly appreciate them. However, let it never be misconstrued that I write for them. Nay, I write for me. I write to make sense of it all, to laugh at myself, to bring myself back to the straight and narrow road. Once I am treading therein, then the ‘other’ benefits.  And since I have no intention of dropping this tradition, here goes.

You may be aware from my previous post that my wife is heavy with a child-a baby girl

[Long Pause]

I am terrified.

No one prepares you for this. You marry and everyone wishes you well. You go for your honeymoon, come back and settle into marriage. You no longer spend the evenings in a local restaurant sipping tea and watching news with strangers. No, you go straight home after work and reach around the same time with your wife. You cook dinner together and do the things that married folks do e.g. washing dishes, budgeting…and pinching your snoring partner while tugging at the blanket lest you are left in the cold (what were you thinking married folks do?).

It is all very well structured; regular times, movie night, and once in a while giving each other space.  Then a third one-forming in the womb-enters the scene. It is almost as if she is an intruder. A friend once described them as guests who never leave and are fully dependent on you. It shocks you-takes a while before it hits you. You then realize life is about to change forever. There is a slight resentment at all this. Then again, there is an excitement that cannot quite be captured fully in words. You are about to become a father. Nothing compares to it.

In relation to fatherhood beckoning, I also realise I have come of age. Go on, take a minute and laugh. It is true.

There are things I did back then, that I would not dare do now, like quitting a job without a plan B. Recall that time I walked away from banking after 37 days? Well, if that was now I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was young, hungry, with no care in this world and had a distinct distaste for routine. I still do-hate routine I mean. However, now I am forced to live with it. You know, so that I can still pay the bills and all. I take solace in the fact that I can shoot birds in my free time (with a camera of course) but even so, I get weary in my job.

Hence to the young I say this; live your lives. Let no one tell you what you can and cannot do. Stuck in a rut? Quit. Bored with your campus lectures? Take a road trip. Got a windfall? Shop till you drop. Frugal is not a word to be found in the vocabulary of a twenty-something-year old. Want to splash your new vanities all over the internet? Hey! Your funeral!

Live your life. I assure you a few years from today, you will look back and say, ‘boy, those were good times, we sure had fun!’

[Another long pause]

Well, it seems that is all I have to say.

I have my evening well planned out-pick up my wife, go home, freshen up, go for Bible study, come back home, sup, read one chapter of The Idiot, be in bed by 10pm. I intend to enjoy this structure while it lasts.

So long dear reader.

Fatherhood Beckoning

sunshine2

I vividly recall the first time my wife told me she is pregnant. It must have been in the evening. We had just come back from work and she was feeling a little bit off. We bought a pregnancy kit; you know, just to rule out that she is pregnant. Well, she took the test without me and informed me the next day that she is pregnant. I could not believe it. The doubting Thomas in me demanded to see the kit but she had already thrown it away. I just had to take her at her word. I did but the skeptic in me demanded to see proof.

This proof was provided later when we went for an ultra-sound. The sonographer ushered us in. He perceived we were first time parents and took the liberty to manage our expectations; it is too early know the sex of the child, it is crucial that we take measures to ensure viability if the foetus beyond the first trimester, my wife should eat well-no junk food, plenty of water (I avoided mentioning am a nutritionist) plenty of rest and of course, tone down on activities in between the sheets. I took this latter advice very seriously. I was ready to forego my conjugal rights for even a year as long as the baby is fine. However, I get ahead of myself. Let us go back to the ultra-sound.

My Sunshine was gently told to lie down on the high bed just beside the ultra-sound machine. A jelly was smeared on her lower belly and spread side to side with a mouse-like device connected to machine. The sonographer took us step by step as to what he would do next. He was quite reassuring. This was quite helpful especially since my dear had freaked out during an injection for blood works. She was still rattled and the sonographer must have perceived this as well. Anyway, I digress but you can tell I was really impressed by the professionalism exhibited by the guy.

It was still too early for the baby to have clearly distinct features. We did the scan at three weeks. We were able to see the placenta and a few other things that I do not vividly recall. Nonetheless, one thing remained with me-the heartbeat. My eyes moistened at the sight of that little beating heart-150 beats-per-minute it was. I believed.

Now most of you know am a man of words and pictures. I love creating stories through both avenues. Moreover, I have a distinct disinterest in photographing humans. This is because there is no randomness to the art compared to photographing wildlife. However, this one time I was enthralled by the image of the little one. At home, I kept leaving whatever task I was doing just to glance at the scanned images. It brought back that sweet memory when I first heard that heartbeat and it also drifted me into the future. What sort of girl would she grow up to be? Yes, it’s a girl, a fast growing girl.

By our last scan she is already 2.7kgs, and by all indices at 35 weeks even though by gestational age she is about 34 weeks. It is a great feeling this fatherhood. I have seen the joy children bring to their parents. Apart from going home to the arms of the one you love, it is immensely satisfying when there are children chattering about. It reminds you why you toil so hard and gives meaning to the whole 8-5 shenanigan. Furthermore, it is endearing to know that you have been tasked with that great responsibility to bring up a godly generation, one that knows Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and is untainted with the passing pleasures of this world. It is truly endearing and terribly horrifying.

My wife and I could worry ourselves to death over this little one. However, we have grown to be certain that the Lord gives life and protects. We have committed ourselves to raise a girl who knows what she is about; brave, intelligent, loves the great outdoors, loves people and above all fears God. It is a huge task, one which will take the hands of many to make it a success, including you, dear reader.

That’s all for now, watch this space!

 

 

My 2015 Favourite Movies

The ‘race’ word has been thrown around much in this year’s Oscars. While I can understand where those who chose to boycott the awards are coming from, I simply cannot understand why some movies missed out this year. Hence, I have decided to list the movies I really enjoyed for the year 2015. Some  such as Mad Max and Bridge of Spies made it to the enviable list but most did not. It may be inconsequential to the world at large but these movies were worth my while every Friday night.

10. Mad Max: Fury Road

Although I am not much into action movies, I happened upon Mad Max and I was hooked from start to finish. The action was not senseless and barbaric, there was a storyline, however simple and the imagery was surreal.

 

5. The Martian

Matt Damon and Chiwetel Ejoifor? A botanist in space? Oh, and making water from the elements? What was there not to love? This was one of the best feel-good movies I watched last year.

6. 45 Years

I looked for a word to describe this movie and all I could think of was sublime. The acting was superb; the tempo just right and the central them-regret-played throughout the movie.

 

7. Mr Holmes

I am not quite sure what endeared me to Mr Holmes, an old man and a boy as the protagonists or the many insights into human nature seen here and there. All in all, I enjoyed this one and would not mind watching it again.

 

6. Concussion

The Kenyan in me liked the fact that Nairobi is mentioned in the movie albeit once or twice. Nonetheless, If a black man was to be nominated for an Oscar, it would not have been Idris Elba for his role as a war lord in Beast of No Nation. It would be Will Smith for his role as a pathologist in Concussion-I cannot recall a single moment in the movie when his eyes were not moist.’Tell the truth. Tell the truth’ remains with you long after you have finished watching. I am not saying that emotion for its own sake is worth meriting with an Oscar but Will Smith indeed does justice to true stories.One taint in Concussion though- I do  not understand how a priest can ask a single man to house a single girl in the name of helping her settle down.

5. Woman in gold

How far would you go in pursuit of justice? This movie was all about a dogged determination of a fledgling lawyer to return a painting in the hands of the Austrian government to its rightful owner; definitely worth watching.

 

 

4. Suffragette

Ever since Calvary, I have held a soft spot for Brendan Gleeson. Herein, he acts as a police inspector mandated with quelling a riotous group of women agitating for their right to vote. Meryl Streep appears here and there but it is the courage of a few women that gives the movie an edge. Their sacrifice, even to the point of death, was something to behold.

3. Bridge of Spies

This is Tom Hanks at his best. An unflinching lawyer with great foresight, unappreciated at the time of defending a Soviet spy but much applauded after a while. ‘A standing man’ he was; very inspiring.

 

2. Brooklyn

Perhaps it is the story of all American immigrants. The land of opportunity beckons, a love is struck, tragedy hits back home, one returns…and is torn between going back to America or staying. No matter, this was a story beautifully told.

1.In the Heart of the Sea

I have often quoted Moby Dick in my writing. Hence, I looked forward to its adaptation with much anticipation. I was not disappointed. Perhaps because it was Brendan Gleeson that acted as the Older Ishmael that made it my number one 2015 movie or the rivalry between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne that was subtly captured in the movie. Whichever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would not mind watching it again and again.

 

 

 

Anthony Trollope; English best kept literary secret

You have probably seen it around town but you cannot vividly recall where. It stands at approximately one and half meters long and is cylindrical in shape. It is cast in iron. It is red in colour and if you look close enough, you will see the words POST OFFICE embossed on it. It seems to smile for it has a slash in its upper body through which it swallows letter whole.  Dear reader, it is called the pillar box.

pillar box

A few years back, before the advent of internet and subsequently the entrenchment of email, the pillar box was a pivotal piece in communication. We dropped letters inside it and hoped the mail-man would pick them up in due time. A week or so was given for the letter to reach its recipient, then another week for the reply to be received. Yes, it was essential to communication. Now, it serves as a relic of an era gone by and to the nostalgic, of a time when we really communicated. Nonetheless, today I am not so concerned with the pillar box but rather its inventor, a little known gentleman called Anthony Trollope.

Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope worked at the General Post Office in London where he invented the pillar box in order to make the collection of letters in bulk from far flung stations easier and consequently reduce the time it takes to send and receive a letter. Although he led a distinguished career at the GPO, Anthony Trollope was also a writer. I recently came across what many literature critics consider to be his masterpiece- The Barchester Towers.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of his novel, perhaps it is prudent to introduce its author properly.

Anthony Trollope was born in 1815, the third son of a barrister who ruined his family prospects by giving up law for farming. His mother, Frances Milton Trollope, supported the family through writing. She had fifty novels under her name. In 1834, Anthony joined the GPO workforce where he worked seven years for a pittance. In 1841, he was transferred to Ireland as a surveyor’s clerk, where he began to make good money which enabled him to marry in 1844 and settle in Clonmel. He tried his hand at writing but his first two novels which were devoted to Irish life were failures. In 1867, Anthony resigned from the GPO and spent his time travelling, fox-hunting, playing whist, socialising and of course, writing. He woke up at five thirty am everyday and wrote for two and half hours at the rate of one thousand words an hour. His average annual income from writing was £ 4,500. As elucidated in a foreword by Professor David Skilton, a professor of English at Lampeter University, his writing style was unique.

Anthony’s contemporaries such as Charles Dickens and George Elliot wrote of the world as they knew it a few decades earlier, and hence were able to draw on the enormous and fertile reserves of childhood and adolescent memories in themselves and their mature readers. Anthony Trollope, however, wrote about the world as it was around him at the time, trying to explain the functioning of the English upper-and middle class society in the very years he was writing. Furthermore, there was a proliferation of religious fiction during the time of his writing Barchester Towers. He could have maintained the status quo and gone on to deliver an excessively exaggeration of religion as other fiction writers were wont to do, However, Barchester Towers had its own comic ordinariness, which was found to be a breath of fresh air as was noted by the Saturday Review:

[Anthony Trollope] has the merit of avoiding excessive exaggeration. He possess an especial talent for drawing what may be called the second-class of good people-characters not noble, superior or perfect but still good and honest with a fundamental basis of sincerity, kindliness, and religious principle yet with considerable proneness to temptation, and a strong consciousness that they live, and like to live, in struggling, party-giving, comfort-seeking world. Such people are so common, and form so large a proportion of the betterish and more respectable classes, that it requires a keen perception of the ludicrous, and some power of satire to give distinctness to the types taken from their ranks by the novelist. Mr Trollope manages to do this admirably…

Now that we have a glimpse of who the creator was, let us delve into his creation.

The novel is centred on the question, who is to be the new Bishop of Barchester?’ Right from the first sentence to the last in the novel, this question looms large over the reader and the intriguing characters jostling each other for the position.

The Bishopric seat is left vacant following the death of old Dr Grantly who ‘died as he had lived, peaceably, slowly and without excitement’. His death marks the entry of other characters onto the stage: Harding, a man known for his stubbornness but good heart, Dr Proudie, an ambitious man of the cloth set to succeed the late DR Grantly, Mrs Proudie a no-nonsense woman who knew how to tug at her husband’s heart-strings to her favour, Mr Slope, Dr Proudie’s Chaplain and an intelligent slippery character whom all men of Barchester who considered themselves religious loved to hate, the hopeless Stanhopes, the intelligent but clueless about a woman’s love Mr Arabin…and of course Mr  Quiverful to whom the concept of family planning was dreadfully foreign.

Throughout the novel, the reader is treated to interesting twists and turns and is taken right into the heart of church politics. Of course, the characters stick to the script and do not resort to unholy means (read murder, sex, etc.) to acquire power such as their counterparts in Parliament may do. However, tensions rise and quite often, anger is expressed in the strongest of terms. Nonetheless, it does seem that there is an Unseen Hand that keeps matters from tipping over. Once in a while, the intrigues get to the press, and under the table arrangements are made to gain favour with the who’s who in Church leadership. These were all interesting but that really hooked me to the novel and reeled me in was the insight of Anthony Trollope on human nature. Sprinkled over the pages of the novel were gems of wisdom that were often delivered in a humorous, scathingly  tender tone that made me ponder awhile before resuming reading. Here are just but a few:

On lengthy Sermons bordering on falsehood

‘There is perhaps no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent, and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassionate eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips. Let a professor of law of physic find his place in the lecture room, and there pour forth jejune words and useless empty phrases and he will pour them forth to empty benches. Let a barrister attempt to talk without talking well and he will talk but seldom…a member of parliament can be coughed down or counted out. Town councillors can be tabooed. But no one can rid himself of the preaching clergy man. He is the bore of the age, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God’s service distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship; but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God, without that anxious longing for escape, which is the common consequence of common sermons.’

On persistence in creativity

‘There is no royal road to learning; no short cut to the acquirement of any valuable art. Let photographers and daguerreotypers do what they will, and improve as they may with further skill on that which skill has already done, they will never achieve a portrait of the human face divine. Let biographers, novelists, and the rest of us groan as we may under the burdens which we so often feel too heavy for our shoulders; we must either bear them up like men, or own ourselves too weak for the work which we have undertaken. There in no way of writing well and also of writing easily. Labor omnia vincit improbus- Persistent work overcomes all things. Such should be the chosen motto of every labourer.’

On maternal love and it’s permitted excesses

‘As a general rule, it is highly desirable that ladies should keep their temper; a woman who storms always makes herself ugly and usually ridiculous also…but if there be a time when a woman may let her hair to the winds, when she may loose her arms, and scream out trumpet-tongued to the ears of men, it is when nature calls out within her not for her own wants, but for the wants of those whom her womb has borne, whom her breasts have suckled, for those who look to her for their daily bread as naturally as man looks to his Creator’

On love and appetite

“Don’t let love interfere with your appetite. It never does with mine.” 

On holier-than-thou personas

‘There are such men; men who can endure no taint on their personal self-respect even from a woman; men whose bodies are to themselves sacred temples, that a joke against them is desecration and a rough touch downright sacrilege ’

I obtained Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers from a street book vendor, one of the ubiquitous common sights in Nairobi. However, the literary style and wisdom exuded during my reading of it have been anything but common. It has been a pleasure reading Trollope and I highly recommend him to any reader of English literature. It is worth the while.

 

I Did It God’s Way

Perhaps this is my most important birthday yet. At 32 years, I perceive I have truly come of age.

In the recent past, I was involuntarily unemployed. Now, anyone who has experienced unemployment knows very well how utterly frustrating it can be. There is no glory in sleeping in; nothing to wake up to; nowhere to go, nothing to do. I went through the motions of unemployment for quite a while; throwing a pity party here, taking all conceivable measures to avoid the public eye. I became a self-imposed misanthrope. I tried to fight it but more often than not, I was the one licking the dust while the shadow of unemployment gloated over me. Perhaps this was my fault. Several jobs came my way. However, they were all ‘arranged’. An invisible hand had played in my favour and somehow, a job was offered. These I turned away. I was not prepared to work under such arrangements. My conscious would have none of it.  Nonetheless, not every day was as gloomy. It is during my stay in this valley that I truly found myself. I am not certain when but as night slowly gives way to day, so it was I realised am not defined by what I do. Nay, I am not a human doing. I am a human being. Since that realisation, my worldview completely changed.

I took up writing once again, an art I thought I had completely lost. Now two short stories of mine have appeared in The East African, a newspaper with distribution in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda (The Morning of an Important man to be and Madness as a refuge from the world) Furthermore, I have started work on a novel. By God’s good grace, the manuscript should be ready by the end of this year.

I also became acutely aware of the beauty around me. This led me to try my hands on photography. I visited wetlands around my neighbourhood in an effort to take photographs of the birdlife around me. I could be seen in a pair of gumboots wading through long papyrus reeds for a closer shot of one or another beautiful bird. One photo has been considered for publication with the Kenya Birding magazine 2015. Indeed, looking back, I now realise that God was with me during those escapades. I felt His presence. In fact, the call from Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital confirming me for a Nutritionist position came through when I was birding. I recall standing for a while with an absent-minded look on my face after that call. I did not bribe for this job. I did not have a godfather greasing a few hands here and there in my favour. It was all the hand of the good Lord and the resignation of a tired son to His will whatever it may be. Yes, it has taken a long while but it has been worth it. I now work with the most brilliant minds in East and Central Africa when it comes to Children’s healthcare.

This birthday is also very important to me because I am now married. Lucy Wanjiku Kibuthi is her name and she is a pillar in my life. I shudder to think how I would have survived those days when I was at my worst. Depressed, melancholy, sullen…are just but a few words that she never used on me even though there were moments she would have been justified to do so. Some battles are never meant to be fought alone. I am glad that in this slough of despond called earth, I am not alone. God has given me a witty, compassionate friend with whom I can trudge through it and come out victorious at the finishing line.

And now to conclude this matter, I refer to Frank Sinatra. I enjoy listening to the man. One of my favourites is his collaboration with Louis Pavarotti in My Way. At 32 years (by God’s grace many more to come) this song pretty much sums up how I feel today. I have taken the liberty to make a few changes here and there to reflect my walk with God. Here it is in its entirety.

And now, the end is near [hope not];
And so I face the final curtain [of single-hood]
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full [almost].
I’ve travelled each and every highway [almost];
And more, much more than this,
I did it God’s way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it God’s way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it God’s way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it God’s way”.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it God’s way!

Yes, it was God’s way.

Rege and Irunya at Mama Pima

...they simultaneously lifted the glasses to their lips and knocked back the contents in one single gulp Illustration/John Nyagah

…they simultaneously lifted the glasses to their lips and knocked back the contents in one single gulp
Illustration/John Nyagah

It hit me again, that old malady better known as insomnia. Is it not Charles Dickens who once suffered under its heavy hand and described it as thus- ‘a disagreeable state of mind in which a sensation of bodily weariness in vain contends against an inability to sleep’?

It is seven minutes shy of four O’clock on Saturday morning. While most people are recovering sleep lost in pursuit of happiness through Monday to Friday, I am tapping away at my computer, all thanks to a few exceedingly nagging mosquitoes whose inner contents are now a form of miniature abstract paintings on my bedroom wall.

However, I am not mad at those tiny creatures for they have given me an opportunity to consider resurrecting two characters that I created and killed in the Mediterranean Sea. While on paper they died, in my mind they are still very much alive. They crave to roam the literary world again. Hence, I am obliged to raise them up. Whether they will meet death again in the Mediterranean Sea I cannot determine with certainty. Only the hands of time will tell the fate of Rege and Irunya. Here goes…

There in Kiplabai village, atop one of its ubiquitous green undulating hills, stood a mud hut roofed with thatch. Inside it, sat two young men staring at two glasses that held a clear liquid known to the locals as Mayek. Although they did not utter a syllable to each other, they simultaneously lifted the glasses to their lips and knocked back the contents in one single gulp. Thereafter, they wiped their lips with the back of their hands, looked into each other’s eyes and burst out in a long raucous laughter. Momentarily, the choir practise next door ceased. Rege and Irunya continued laughing.

Mama Pima did not know what amused them so much neither did she care. All she was interested in was the money Rege owed her. It had been three days since he last paid her for the many drinks he imbibed. She had made up her mind. Rege will no longer be a drinking resident at her house. She planted her bulky self at the door when she saw him approaching her hut. However, she could not resist his charms. The boy was blest with the gift of the gab. Whenever, he found himself in a fix, all he had to do is tilt his head slightly to the left, bend slightly towards his victim, smile broadly and open his mouth to let out a load of gibberish about how good his victim is and how his world would be utterly dull without his or her presence in it. It worked every time. More often than not, his debtors cancelled the debt. Unless it was maize harvesting season, Rege had no way of paying his debts. He quit high school. He figured his mother’s money would be better spent farming maize. His mother a staunch Christian washed her hands. She had seven other children to worry about. She left Rege in the hands of Jehovah.

While Rege esteemed not the value of education, Irunya held it in the highest regard. His nights were filled with dreams of exotic places. He longed to learn other languages and be known for his travels around the world. He craved the praises of young women in the village and the envy of the young men.Yes, Irunya was ambitious. It was the only reason one could explain his admission to the university in the city, the first in Kiplabai.

Mama Pima always wondered what Irunya was doing keeping company with the likes of Rege. He did not belong in her house. Although she needed money to take care of her siblings and her ailing mother, she did not like taking it from Irunya. He did not belong in her house. Hers was the house of men with calloused hands and wrinkled faces wrought not by the passage of time but disillusionment. Irunya was educated. He need not be here. He should be out there making his mark in the world. However, Mama Pima saw something in his eyes that she has seen in the eyes of every man that passed through her house. There was no mistaking it.

There comes a point in every man’s journey when the eyes no longer glint with wonder; when his heart is no longer restless with ambition. Beyond this point, men give themselves over to fate. They plod through life longing for the angel of death to knock on their doors. Many contemplate the means to hasten his coming but lack the courage to act on them. Hence, they plod on. They laugh when others do but with a hollow streak. They cry when others do but without emotion. Sometimes they have to be reminded it is time to eat, it is time to take a bath, it is time to do this or that, things of which come naturally to the everyday man but not to the utterly hopeless.

Irunya was not yet there but Mama Pima could tell he was walking on a slippery slope.

It is a mystery how the paths of men’s lives cross each other. These pages will not seek to unravel such profound mysteries, they are beyond us. However, the lives of Rege and Irunya are not and on these, we will dwell much upon.

A Tribute to a Queen

It finally sunk in. We denied for a while, but it finally dawned on us that Esther, nay Queen Esther, has given her last bow. She has exited the stage. While usually, the last performance of any great actor is received with much celebration and ululation; on this one, we were stunned. We were still seated perhaps in anticipation that the performance will be resumed shortly. Minutes evolved into hours, hours into days but nothing. Then slowly, as the sun receding at the advancing of dark clouds, the truth settled in. She has crossed over to the other side. Beyond the river, beyond the iron curtain and there is nothing we can do about it.

You see we always know that death will come knocking on our doors. However, we hope that when he does, we will want to open the door. Yes, we hope that when he comes, he will find our backs bent, our hairs grey, our teeth missing, our skins wrinkled and possessing a peculiar ability to hug tight to our brittle bones. Indeed, we hope that death comes knocking when we are done with earth and all its sorrows. So you can imagine the anger when he knocks at the prime of our lives; when our families are still infants; when our careers are on the take-off, when our children are still absolutely dependant on us. Oh, death, you rude interrupter! Momentarily, it seemed we were justified in shaking our fists at God. Yet, as we considered the life of Esther, we found that we had very little reason to do so.

Esther was a flower, a most tender flower. She was the kind that the Gardener paid special attention. Quite often, you would find Him pruning Esther here and there; removing the weeds around her and in their place, depositing nutrients necessary for her flourishing. And  flourish she did, so much so that there was no mistaking that she was the Gardener’s flower and not some random occurrence of beauty in the wild. Whoever saw her became glad of heart. Indeed, to those that dared come closer; her fragrances were tender to the soul. While some admired her and moved on, there is one who decided to spend the rest of his life with her-her husband. We can never for a moment, place ourselves in his shoes, unless we have experienced the pain of losing a partner in life. Perhaps, we can try and borrow from others before him who lost their dear ones. C.S Lewis comes to mind and in his own words, he felt shut out by God.

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?’ (A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis)

Yes, C.S Lewis felt shut out. Yet, he admitted that ‘the best is perhaps what we understand least’. We do not understand why the Gardener would uproot Esther from amongst us, denying us her beauty, her grace and her lifting fragrance. However, we do know that the Gardener is good and Esther now bathes in the eternal pleasures that come with His goodness. How selfish it would be for us to ask Him to bring her back. The best we can do is hope that when our lives are interrupted by that grim reaper, the Gardener will find us in full bloom as I am positively certain He found Esther.