21st January 2020. It’s a few minutes past 11am. Lecture Theatre isn’t packed to the brim. People exchange pleasantries about. Others reconnect. Hugs around. High fives. There’s joy but any keen observer can tell with some level of certainty that something is amiss. It’s unsaid in some conversations and brought up in others with a rare kind of disbelief. Abiud Maina has transitioned. The initial shock might be fading but the pain certainly isn’t easing for those who knew and were affected by the guy. To his numerous friends in class, the element of grief is a constant. There’s almost an unmissable refrain in every conversation amongst them: NEVER AGAIN WILL A GUY OF HIS ILK STIR THIS LOAM.
On an ordinary inaugural class, we wouldn’t be observing a one-minute silence for a fallen comrade. But such is the situation we find ourselves in.
We find ourselves trapped in a massive wilderness of shock, confusion and disbelief. He was one of us. That makes this death so close home. There’s that feeling of ‘this could have been any of us’.
Abiud was certainly not the most perfect man around. Neither was he the ideal student. He might have crossed other people’s paths in his lifetime like we all have at some point in our lives. There is, however, no denying the fact that he was a good person. His friends can attest to that. John Ngirachu can attest to that. They were close friends who maneuvered through life with a profound sense of brotherhood.
Abiud had his imperfections. It would, however, be inappropriate for us to judge him or cast him in bad light. There’s a clan in Nigeria called the Umuofia Clan. They have this saying which goes that ‘ A kinsman in trouble is not to be blamed or shamed, he is instead to be helped by all means’. Unfortunately for us, we are late. Our kinsman succumbed before we could come to his rescue.
It would be manifest hypocrisy for me to claim that Abiud and I were close. But there’s no denying that as comrades we shared the same aspirations of making it through law school, living life and hopefully one day experiencing the fullness of the Kenyan Dream.
Sadly, this will never be. His life has been cut short. He has gone too soon. He succumbed to pressures of life. There is no certainty about his cause of death but speculations are rife that it was possibly suicide. My understanding of most suicidal cases is that someone must be at the very rock bottom for him or her to make that final decision of ending it all. It’s a sad state. It’s a depiction of everything gone so mentally and psychologically wrong. There have been concerns of friends not doing enough or being there for Abiud at a time when he was most likely experiencing some sort of an emotional nightmare.
As the living, we trudge on with our daily burdens but now more weary than ever of the importance of looking out for one another.
According to science, we are supposed to commune with the deeper recesses of our consciousness when we close our eyes. Sometimes, however, when I close mine, I can’t help but think about how unfortunate it is that one of us won’t be sitting around in class as we navigate through our most packed semester yet. Sometimes I put myself in his parents’ shoes and wonder the kind of agony they are going through right now. No parent ever wants to lose a child early. It is not only heartbreaking but also nerve wracking. To them, it’s not a seasonal pain. It’s a lifetime one often triggered on occasions likes birthdays and graduation anniversaries.
Deepest condolences to Abiud’s parents and siblings. May they take comfort in the fact that he is in a better place now and probably happy and safe in a way that he never could be while he was here.
Lately, I have been trying to understand the teachings of David Perell on the significance of looking out for our friends and being good humans to other people. Mr. Perell is a New York- based writer and philosopher who challenges existing norms and provides insights on nearly all issues of life. He might be far away in New York but his assertions transcend borders all the way to Nairobi and to many other places around the world. Perell says that there is magic in genuine friendships. He alludes to the importance of kindness and taking care of one another. He asserts firmly that books are good but we can’t learn everything from them. There’s an extreme need for everyone to prioritize social interactions too amongst their many endeavors. My point, as remotely as it may appear, is that perhaps if we as a community of classmates invest in good and close relations we might just avert another crisis of such magnitude. We owe it to Abiud to be better persons.
I guess the only thing I could say to everyone affected by this is to ‘not shut out the grief, shock or pain.’
Fifteen months ago, while at my cousin’s funeral back at home, my father made me understand the peculiarity of this concept of grief. In his commanding voice, he enlightened me on the stages that accompany this phenomenon. I didn’t even know there were stages at the time. I just went through those rough days in a resigned state of not feeling like waking up. Father told me that Denial is the first stage. Anger is second one. Depression usually sets in afterward. Acceptance is the last of the four. The stages can stretch through a short or long period of time depending on the relationship the bereaved had with the deceased.
That conversation still plays in my mind ‘on repeat’ months later. Perhaps the most important aspect of it was when he urged me not to fight grief. He emphatically looked me in the eye and told me to shed as much tears as I can and be as intensely sad as I could because fighting grief is like defying gravity. You can never win against gravity. It brings you down eventually.
The good news is that there comes a time when you don’t feel the hurt anymore and the pain isn’t as strong as it used to be. Acceptance finally comes in effortlessly.
This Friday, in Nyamira, the final rites of passage will be performed before Abiud is lowered to rest. The restless one has found his peace.
In the words of William Wordsworth “I listened motionless and still. And as I mounted up the hill, I bore the music in my heart, long after it was heard no more.”
Rest in Peace Abiud.
Rise in Power Comrade.
Your presence will be greatly missed.