We all agree the last few months have been nerve wracking. I am working overtime to remain positive in my outlook on life and my current reality. I was watching Nat Geo Wild on TV last Sunday. It’s my favorite channel because of all the animal programs. I get motivated to improve my photography of wildlife and landscapes. The program I was watching on Sunday afternoon was Ceaser To the Rescue. Ceaser is like a dog shrink of sorts. He helps dog owners whose dogs are not living up to their image, Man’s best friend.
In the program there was a lady with so much negative energy and tension within her. Her dog would feed off that energy and lash out at other dogs. It even attacked its owners. According to Ceaser the dog senses that its owner doesn’t trust it, so it becomes insecure leading to aggression.
Over the last week I have been feeling as restless as that dog. I’m struggling to remain calm amidst the continuing uncertainty surrounding us. The looming spike of the corona curve and the many adjustments we have been forced to make is beginning to take its toll. I feel like the universe is producing more negative energy by the day and I must admit that I’m struggling to remain on top of things. At least in my mind.
2020 is proving to be more difficult than I envisioned. First, I started the year eulogizing my buddy Jack Mwaura who passed away around New year’s. Then Covid 19 turned our world upside down. Just as I was adjusting on how to get through this pandemic in the best way possible, I woke up to a text last Sunday from my buddy Davy. A childhood friend of ours and a member of our campus gang had suddenly passed away.
I have lost a few peers in the past, but this was different. Paul Kihiu, my former classmate and friend of 20 years plus passed away on 26th April. I was more affected because his life journey was quite like mine. From shared campus memories to going through major milestones in life together brought it closer home. Paul was a year ahead of me at the Duke of York a.k.a Lenana School. We then met at Daystar University in 1993 and that is where we became pals though I can’t recall how that happened. I believe sometimes gangs form in school and in life, but the selection process is outsourced to forces beyond us. So, we found ourselves in the same gang in campus and continued doing life even after college.
Paul enjoyed good health over his life and was living as fully as he could. Then He started having some back aches recently that could not go away and decided to go for a check at Agakhan hospital. Doctors did some tests the week of 22nd April and to Paul’s (and his family’s) horror discovered cancer. It had spread in his body quite a bit sadly. They quickly met with his family to update them and agree on the next course of action. A day or two later Paul suffered a cardiac arrest and breathed his last in the early hours of Sunday the 26th April.
Once the news broke the class of 97 WhatsApp group started buzzing nonstop with messages up until Paul’s funeral on May 1st. He was laid to rest on Labor Day where he rested from all life’s labors. The chats on our campus group made me realize why I was so affected by Paul’s death. I thought the fact that we rarely interacted over the last several years would shield me somehow. Many campus and after campus photos of Paul were shared in that group and it was a vivid trip down memory lane. I featured in many of those photos and that is when it hit me that this guy was closer to me than I felt. We even own a property together with him, my bro and three other members of our campus gang.
Paul, myself and some pals climbed Mt Kenya in April 1997 and I remember Paul blasting our fellow climber and campus mum, Mummy Audrey when she said she couldn’t continue with the climb at some point. He made us all eat some tasteless energy biscuits to boost us to the top of Lenana peak which was our goal. That is how focused the man was. The biscuits worked and we did get to the top of Lenana.
I also remember his wedding day about sixteen years ago. I was in his committee with other members of the gang and gysty Paul had hired a vintage car to pick pretty Maggie from her parents’ house to the wedding venue. The car stalled just as it was joining Kiambu road. It was both funny and stressful but somehow, we managed to deliver Paul’s bride.
Paul was the first agemate I knew to buy a full SUV. He got this Mitsubishi Pajero back in 2005 or thereabouts. We decided to go for the Rhino Charge in the Masai Mara later that year with him and David. It had rained heavily and the black cotton soil at the Mara gave a new meaning to the common church hymn – “All other ground is sinking sand”. One would stop for a few minutes and your car just starts sinking.
The ride to camp from the main road still is the closest I have come to experiencing rally driving. He pushed that car to its limits, and I was trying hard not to pee on myself in the back seat. We finally made it to camp late in the night, pitched our tent and settled down to Amarula and cold hotdogs for dinner. Once we got back to Nairobi after a blast of a weekend that Pajero needed some serious TLC from the mechanic. Thank you for that memory kipaps (I called him that sometimes). The other odd highlight of that adventure was Davy appearing in brilliant white sneakers for the charge. I silently wondered (and I think Paul did too) if he thought it was going to be on cabro or tarmac he he. Davy please hold your peace.
I could write about many memories of growing up from boyhood to manhood with Paul but that would turn this article into a magazine. David who was also Paul’s best man at his wedding described the years with Paul well in his Facebook tribute. He finished by saying, “You lived your life without regret and left an indelible mark on many”
Paul’s sudden demise was another strong reminder that I should live life more intentionally and invest my life in what matters most, people. That was clearly Paul’s largest investment seeing from the outpouring of tributes from various corners of his life. His family, work colleagues and church folks eulogized him as a great guy. He wrote his eulogy when alive and it was outstanding.
So, this is a tribute to my fellow gang member Paul and a prayer to Maggie, your beautiful kids, your family, class of 97 Alumni and all the other folks who mattered to you. We often here the quote, “You Only Live Once” (YOLO). But if you live well then once is enough. You lived the best you knew how. Sasa pumzika bro.