I was born on December 31st, 1987 - the last day of the year. Unlike my saviour Jesus Christ, nobody prophesied my birth years before I was begotten. And nature didn't respond to my birth in any unusual way to celebrate my arrival on this planet. The dogs in my home-area barked as usual; the birds flew around nonchalantly as they have always done; and no extra star twinkled on the night of that day I was born.
Today, thirty years after I was born, I am still alive and kicking. I am blessed beyond measure with good health, a supportive family and quite a number of people I can count as friends. I am truly blessed.
And do you know why I am considering myself blessed? Because several contemporaries didn't make it to today. Let me tell you about two of them. Only two.
The first is my brother Stephen Ndonga who was born in 1996 and passed away while still an infant. I can still see him as a baby wrapped in sheets.
That night Mum brought baby Stephen Ndonga at home, I asked her where she had gotten him from. Mum lied to me that she had bought the baby in a supermarket. I believed her. And for several days after baby Stephen Ndonga became part of our family, Mum regularly asked me to look after him.
Then one afternoon after I came home from school that year 1996, I found a crowd of visitors at our homestead. My younger brother Symo was quick to inform me that baby Stephen Ndonga had passed on earlier that day. The bad news made me weep afterwards as I came back home, this time from buying something in a nearby kiosk.
Imagine baby Stephen Ndonga, who was begotten by the same mother and father as me, didn't live to see this day. But for fate, I could easily have been the one who passed away.
The second contemporary I will tell you about who didn't live to see this day is Nkosi Johnson - a South African boy who came to public attention at the turn of this century for championing people with HIV/AIDS to be open about the disease.
Nkosi was born on February 4th, 1989, about a year after me. But he had the unfortunate fate of contracting HIV from his mother - a virus that eventually claimed his life in 2001.
In 2001, I was in Standard Eight studying diligently to ace my KCPE exams so that I could be admitted at Starehe Boys' Centre, the then Kenya's top ranked high school. (I made it.) But imagine as I studied diligently to join Starehe, Nkosi Johnson was preparing to die. Am I not truly blessed?
Yes, I am truly blessed to be alive and kicking today. As a result, I have now chosen to practise gratitude, a virtue that is on everybody's lips but in a few people's practice. So as from today, I have purposed to complain less and be grateful more. Adieu!
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Death Strikes My Neighbourhood
The other day, I was having so gloomy a morning that I had trouble getting out of bed. But then as I lay on my bed dozing lazily, I heard someone knock the door. And when I opened it, I saw it was our neighbour. He asked me whether my Dad and Mum were around. And then while wearing a grief-stricken face, he blurted out in Swahili, "My wife has passed on!"
As I have said, I was having a gloomy morning, so I wasn't in a mood of prodding him into telling me more about his wife's death. I just expressed my sympathy, closed the door and headed back to bed. But the bad news made me feel gloomier than I had been. It led me to worry that the same tragedy could befall on my family.
Later on that day, I regretted why I hadn't prodded my neighbour into telling me what caused his wife's untimely demise. I have described her demise as untimely because a few months earlier, I had seen her on several occasions including one time she came to fetch water from our tank. To hear of her death so soon caught me by surprise.
Yesterday though, I had an opportunity to talk with the neighbour when he came to fetch water from our tank. I asked him fearlessly the question I had wished to ask him: that is, "What caused your wife's death?"
Well, the neighbour is not a man of means given the way he comes to borrow water from us. He works as a night watchman at some place in or near my home-town. But when it came to narrating the cause of his wife's death, he used such scientific jargon as "pulmonary artery" that I would not have expected from a man of his low calibre.
So as he told me, his wife had suffered tuberculosis some years back. The disease impaired her respiratory system which eventually led to the complications that claimed her life last week. And the neighbour informed me that they had harvested maize together that very day she passed away. Truly, the world is like that - incomprehensible and full of surprises.
As I currently pen this story, I am more at peace with myself and less worried about a similar tragedy striking our family. But I am nonetheless more conscious of the fact that death is awaiting us all sometime in the future. We are all on borrowed time.
On my part, thinking about death has helped me to renew my resolve to make the most of every day and have all the fun I can while still living. Tomorrow may never be mine.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on the death that has struck my neighbourhood, you might also enjoy another story I wrote sometime back on "Thinking About Death". Just click on that link in blue to jump straight into the story.