A Letter To My Late Sister

Dear Jael,
The night of that day in 1994 was cold. Watching your soul depart after that grain of rice choked you did not mean much to me then. I did not understand death. I thought you choked funnily and my bursting into laughter must have seemed like mockery to you. You just went silent after that five minute battle. That was the last time I saw your eyes open.
The house-help laid you in bed. Your body was queerly calm as though you were an old man thinking about life from a tree shade. I thought you’d wake up the next morning so I could help you eat your smashed avocado after you hinted to Atieno that you had had enough. It was however not to be. I thought I’d hear your screeching screams at 6.am the morning after. Oh, how I hated them. That room was too small for all of us and your cries harassed our sleep. I have never seen mother wail in so much pain before, to this date. She held you in her arms, seated between our beds, crying to the heavens as if asking God why you had to go too soon.
I remember throwing a lamp of sand into your little grave. I was 6, carried by Aunt Fridah, and the sun scorched hard, the complete opposite of that night. It’s like God had come for you with thunderstorm and lightning. You must have meant something very dear to Him. I do not recall anyone talking to me after we left your coffin piled up in a heap of sand. I should go back to Kajiado to find out if the cross that bore your name still exists. But life somehow went on. We seemingly forgot about you. I didn’t hear them talk much; mum and dad. They must have been grieving silently. I had to get used to being the only child again.
Through the years, life has been quite the journey. A decade after your departure, you made me write my first poem. I was dead to life at the time. You must have liked it. It opened me up to a string of poems that have made me become a celebrated man today. Now I understand you didn’t leave me empty handed. You left me something to remember you with. I imagined at the time how you’d be there for me because I needed someone to talk to. I later became suicidal but God had a different script for me. Death was further than I imagined. Still, my spirit had been knocked out of this world. That’s what problems do to people.
I wonder the woman you’d have been today. Perhaps you’d be dating some lunatic who keeps breaking your heart or you’d be a pilot, flying across African skies to oblivion. Perhaps you’d be a musician or an actress. Grandma, whom you were named after, still sings in her church choir, old as she is. And I ended up singing tenor in some Ugandan school as a choir member. You should watch my music videos. People still wonder how come I am not a solo ‘Sauti Sol’. But I guess poetry had other plans, and I am where I am today as a result.
There are so many things going on in Kenya right now. Some omeras have been stripping women lately. Just the other day, our president advised us to be more careful who we leave our children with, including being suspicious with their uncles and neighbours. Simply, love is hard to find. But we are trying our best to bring sanity upon this land. So I will write another poem, a poem that will bring this nation to its ears and all those rogue men to their feet.
I do hope to meet you again someday, sister. Our bond was short lived but thank God memories only die when a person can’t remember anymore. Well, I still remember you from the first day mother brought you home out of hospital. You were beautiful. And in my memories, still are.
I am getting older and soon I could start a family. There is a lady in my life whom the world doesn’t know about yet but at least God does, and you now. Hopefully things will turn out great and I’ll make you nephews and nieces in time. I will be telling them about you. How I await those days.
I do hope that wherever you are, things are well. Send me a dream. I love you.
Big Bro

Post Author: Eric Onyango Otieno

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