The sun is peeking through the clouds. The cows mooing incessantly. The turkey poults have started gathering at the door for their daily scoop of grains. It’s a beautiful day, a stark contrast to the day’s programme. I take a shower and dress up fast.
We drive down Ngong Road. My aunt is chatting up her friend in the back seat. I fall into my thoughts. Last I saw Julia, I had just come from the main service at CITAM Ngong, church on the hill. She had also attended the same service. She looked frail but still wore a big smile on her face. She was in a jacket despite the sweltering heat. We chat for a few. She wants sugar cane. She tells me the doctor recommended that she takes a few pieces everyday. I offer to buy us some. She tells me she’s going to have her hair done and with that, we exchange goodbyes. I head home as she leaves for Ngong. That is our first and last exchange of 2015.
Before long, we get to the rendezvous point. I have never been here before. People are clustered around, speaking in hushed tones. Groups of people are gathering around the main entrance to pick their loved ones. The final send off. The final journey.
I spot Mr. Ng’ang’a. His greying head is hard to miss. He updates me briefly. Looking around, I am met by sullen faces, the mood is sombre.
“I want to go inside.” I can barely hear my voice.
Mr. Ng’ang’a looks at me in bewilderment. His face breaks into a reassuring smile then responds calmly, “Yeah, well, it’s good for you to experience some of these things. It’s all part of life”.
Soon enough, we are inside. I barely notice that my aunt is also there with us. I take in my surroundings. No smell. Good. It’s cold though. Nothing to do with temperature. No. Cold. Devoid of life, empty. A few gentlemen shuffling back and forth to pick what is left of their loved ones. Attendants clad in white washed out coats and gumboots bustling around.
We walk to the far end – the cold room. It’s lined up with huge steel cabinets… like 50 of them on each row. I don’t know, I don’t count. One of the attendants is milling about. Another is staring at Mr. Ng’ang’a & I. For a minute I am wondering what he is thinking about. It’s a cold stare. I guess a couple of years behind these cold walls eats away at your emotions.
I muster some courage and ask one of the attendants how they store the bodies. I can’t help but think of how I sound like a confused, curious student during the QnA session on her first school trip to Olorgesailie. He tells me the feet are closer to the door. I ask him how he is able to identify them from the feet.
“Niko na njia yangu” (I have my style), he quickly remarks. I ask no further questions.
I think of how sad it is that the minute you die you stop becoming Mr. so and so. You lose your identity. For chrissakes you even need a refrigerator to ‘preserve’ what’s left of you. All that’s left is the body. The body that served you oh so faithfully. A shell. Dignity, shame, titles and all that are irrelevant here. You, or rather what’s left of you, are alone. I think of how one comes into the world alone and exits pretty much the same. I think of how you just go.
‘Murenda kuona Julia“? (You want to see Julia)?’ I am startled. Someone is talking to us. It’s the same morgue attendant i was conversing with earlier. I snap out of my thoughts. Julia, I know that name. My mind is spinning. She is the reason we are there in the first place. See her? I mean, it’s like we have an appointment or something and he is the secretary who’ll lead us to her office. Sigh!
The attendant is rather casual about it. We are all afraid, even Mr. Ng’ang’a – the most courageous man I know. The attendant is now prompting us again, with an urgency that is now bordering on hostility.
“Ni murenda kumwona kana mutirenda?” (Do you want to see her or not?)
As in of cue, Mr. Ng’ang’a holds my hand and we start walking towards the “Dressing & Something” room…
Walking out of the morgue, my aunt and I are sure of one thing. He who gave us life (Colossians 1:16) will one day take it back (Job 1:21) and all we can do is live a life to impress the creator and not the creation.
This morning, my heart goes out to all the families and friends of the 147 students who lost their lives in the Garissa attack. I stand with the families, our leadership, our security personnel and the nation at large in prayer, and I urge you to do the same.