Life in its usual uncaring side at times takes consideration not of the prevailing situations in delivering some of its intents. In one deep moment of grief with tears and wails around me, I found myself smile in amazement and wonder.
This particular day, quite vivid because of its significance, was the day a cousin was laid to rest.
Cousin Y had been a Kenya Air force officer, among the lucky few facilitated by the government for special training in Israel, in his case. Through unexplained circumstances, he was brought back home in a casket, a dead soldier.
The encounter with the army personnel which came quite early in my life helped change my perception of certain things and as everyone wept over our dead relation, I stared in admiration at the flag, the medals and the lines of uniformed army guys who had come to see their fallen comrade off. Their organization, brisk attention and superb coordination awed me and I must say that day filled my heart with a new sense of patriotism whenever I came across the Kenyan flag.
It seemed crazy to some adult observers that as my age mates ran away at the sight of the flag draped coffin and the sight of unsmiling and emotionless uniformed people carrying guns, I actually tried to be as closer to them as I could. Soon enough, the ceremony drew to its close and as the army guys packed and departed, I felt an empty longing overwhelm me yet somehow glad that id been that close with them.
Unknown to everyone, myself included at the time, something had found its place in my heart and it was just a matter of time….
Years later, towards the end of my schooling, I found myself reliving the experience and with time, I fot it clear where my calling lead to. Though coming at a time when the country’s forces were battling hardened insurgents and extremists in the neighbouring Somalia where death was always a whisper away, in a strange way, I felt it was the best time to pursue my dream. Even the pictures and news headlines of soldiers killed by the Al Shaabab group couldn’t override the smiling vision of myself in full army uniforms. With that firm resolve, I patiently waited for opportune moment, which was sure to come.
The fourth form examinations came and I passed. Everyone was all joy and happiness about me joining university, making me join the very few sons of the land in the prestigious university. Known only to myself, I had an inner smile. My results were just another advantage to my service dream, with my grades I could enlist as a cadet and continue with my education while already in the service. With this, I found the courage to approach my parents, quite sure that they’d be quite supportive of my ambition. Time was ticking..
My parents were well known in our locality. My father was a long time educationist and opinion shaper in the area. His participation local governance was appreciated and had special ties with top guys, hence our home quite hosted senior government officials. He was there at every meeting, baraza, church function, political rally and his opinion had to be sought. In all these, my mother never left his side.
With my family’s profile, I had convinced myself that having a son in the army could add another feather of praise and prestige to my family’s patriotic influence. Maybe I was wrong.
As I sat with them that evening amidst the celebratory mood after my results came in, telling them of my long haboured dream and my decision, their sudden cold stares made them total strangers to me and their response made sweat and fumble.
Mother started sobbing, almost wailing. Father’s lips now evil and he fast spoke incoherently as one in drunken stupor. They all spoke at once. Mother’s tears pained me, overwhelming me with guilt. She was not ready to lose her only son. My sibling sister, Mercy, comforted her yet strangely enough gave me an encouraging look. Maybe she understood me. At one point, father had to stop his angry speech and comfort mother. This had turned ugly leaving me unsure of myself and more than confused.
Was it really patriotism driving me or it was just stubborn childhood excitement that had survived for over 15 years?
Later in my room, with thoughts fighting in me, poured out my heart in prayer, I felt reassured and all suddenly, I cried, I sobbed.
I cried not for myself, Not for my father or mother, Not my family but……….. for my country.
(to be continued………)