When he was dying that Friday night, I was having a cold Guinness as I grilled T-bone steaks because that’s what people do on Friday nights. Not that he preferred dying to eating meat, no. In fact, he loved meat. He loved his meat grilled in charcoal, tender and juicy. Perhaps he liked it this way because he had lost most of this teeth in all the years of fighting to stay alive. Come to think of it, everyday is a day for us to die, but we don’t because we are afraid. You know leaving your phone without a password could warrant your demise, so you set a complicated pin accompanied by the fingerprint scan of your left ring finger. Were it not for the fact that you cared about what people said, you would use your toes even.
I was grilling meat and having a cold Guinness because life is short and it ought to be enjoyed. Not because I was celebrating a life well lived. I realise that life and death are married. They exist in a relationship that unlike most of yours, is working. Where life exists, so does death. It is like a shadow. Sometimes we see it when there is light and other times we don’t because we’re in the dark. Often times, we don’t take note of it because we have seen it long enough that it has become part of us. You never notice your nose is always in your vision unless, like right now, you see it.
My grandfather was a deep and quiet man. He was never the sought of person who spoke because he had to. He spoke because he had something to say. It was easier to get a basin to speak than to extract words out of his mouth. He spent most of his time observing. Contemplating on things only he knew. Every word he uttered was deep and profound. A conversation with him required one to isolate themselves and have a post-conversation revision because for a man of his wisdom, we were all too dumb to understand on the go.
You will also like: The untimely death of lavish Kenyan funerals written by Al Kags for the Standard.
He spoke slowly, not because he had any speech disorders, but because he wanted his calculated words to sink in, one at a time. He listened keenly. He listened not only to the words we used and the way we used them, but even to the beats of our hearts such that he would know when we were not being honest. He never maintained eye contact with you when you talked with him. He would stare down at his cup of steaming tea. Or at his cat as he stroked its body. Or at anything else close to him, but never consistently at the speaker. Not because he was shy; far from it. It is because he was human, and every human has that one thing that helps them process.
As his heart failed and his line straightened, I was staring at the smoke dancing on its way up, then eventually fading into the black of night. Just like my grandfather’s life. At 2017hrs, he crossed over to wherever the fuck the afterlife is. He died not looking like a dying man. He died on a hospital bed not having ever been admitted to one. In a faded yellow shirt and a faded brown coat. A faded brown trouser and back shoes. Friday the 8th of May 2020. 86 years of life ended in just one heart attack.
Also read: A desperate woman and a man with a steak.
I don’t know who told his cat. But I remember how its gaze bore into me that afternoon as I was seated amongst bereaved family members planning for the funeral. The cat walked into the room and looked at all of us suspiciously as if we were hiding something from it. It had a grey coat and white socks on its front legs. Peculiar just like it’s owner. As it scanned the room, its big green round eyes settled on me and I suddenly felt discomfited, like I owed it an explanation. Perhaps an explanation as to why I was not wailing like the rest of them.
Deaths hurt those who are left behind. And I was hurt too. Devastated to be precise. I wanted to cry, but my tears would not come. It made me feel awkward. Like a freak. I still haven’t found them (the tears). But neither has the cat. I am convinced that it knew him more than I ever did. Because they had spent many years together being quiet and speaking only when they had to. Contemplating on things only they knew and not bothering themselves with things that did not concern them. Yet, the cat still didn’t cry.
Guka did not die. He only ran ahead. We will all catch up to him.