Saturday 6th October 2018 climaxed a painful two weeks of mixed reflections and memories. We buried Arnold. Arnold Juma. One of the calmest people I have ever met. One of the most joyous people I have ever interacted with. A boy my age gone too soon. Promoted to glory. Here he was in a casket. So lifeless. So helpless. And he left us equally helpless and clueless on how to deal with the pain of losing him. A pain that may never fully go away.
As kids, Arnold and I spent most of our days in the village playing games that most kids in the village play and doing things that only kids from Nyakach do. We hunted birds and we loved it. We watched Bruce Lee movies and tried out what we saw him do. And ooh boy, we loved ‘The Undertaker’ from WWE Wrestling (Smack down).
Then along the way life separated us. Arnold changed schools to Migori to start a new life at Migori Junior Academy. I also moved to a new school (not out of my will). Dad thought that perhaps it was time to seek a better and more serious education.
As life would hold it, Arnold and I would reunite some few years later. We reignited the flames of our old friendship very seamlessly and effortlessly. It was as if we were never apart for those five years.The only difference is that we were teens this time round and we stopped doing the things we did as kids. We now did what teenagers do. We loved music. We danced bongo. We watched soccer. And we loved EPL. We were a part of the Manchester United religion. And Arnold defended Manchester United even in its hardest of times. Those are the times that it was quite clear that the club’s glory had long gone with the retirement of the legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson.
We also played football. At first with ajuala (For those who have refused to learn Luo, ajuala is a ball that has been made with collection of polythene bags and tied with small ropes). Sometimes we fought during those games. Fights were the order of the day in those games in fact. Arnold rarely fought but if provoked he would not hesitate to unleash the dormant beast that lie in him. Very few people had seen the beast in him. I was among the few to see him 100 percent angry and I can attest that the angry version of Arnold scared the hell out of me.
I still vividly remember an incident that happened when we had a friendly football match with some other kids from the neighborhood. I was downed intentionally by a boy from the opponent team. (This happened to me most of the times because of the tiny body I had back then). So after taking a hit, Arnold couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up for me. Him against six boys belonging to the opponent team. I won’t ever forget that. To me, that was the hallmark of brotherhood. A unique display of an immense sense of love and solidarity at all times.
Later on in life as fate would have it, we separated again. He remained in Kisumu for his after-high school studies as I proceeded to Nairobi to pursue my dreams. We however remained in contact. For the first few months that is. But there is a way in which time and distance gets to people. It’s hard for even the best of friends to keep regular contact. Communication slowly diminishes. The phone calls reduce. The text messages no longer come and before you know it months and years elapse and the vibrant connection that you once had extinguishes in a slow motion.
And one Thursday afternoon I receive a call from my sister Georgian that Arnold has passed on. The cause of his death is a severe headache. Just like that. It hits me hard on the chest. I am too shocked to cry at first. Then sadness slowly creeps in me followed by sorrow and soon grief sets in and I can’t hold it anymore. For two nights I felt weak, frustrated and disenfranchised. I felt like a part of my childhood was gone. Gone with all the wonderful memories. I felt the true vanity of life.
Arnold’s death was a hard it for me to take but it made me gain some positive perspectives in life. I learnt that life is short. This is one of the most used phrases in the world. However, nobody really ever takes his or her time to fully appreciate the weight of that statement. If you are reading this, wherever you are, please appreciate this fact and let it transform your personality into that of a human-oriented person. Be kind to people. Say hello to your friends more often. Call home to your parents. Call your long lost cousins. Love your grandparents (If you still have them). Touch a life. Be human. These are some of the simple things we ignore in life but are very important. Start doing them today. In fact right now. If you find any of these difficult then just tell about the love of Jesus. After all, the Scripture says that “If you cannot preach like Peter or pray like Paul then just tell about the love of Jesus.”
Arnold. You’ve been an unbelievable friend to me. The road has come to an end now. Thank you for bringing so much joy into our lives. Rest in Peace pal. Safe passage in your travels. Till we meet again. I’m not too good at goodbyes but I have to let you go rest. Goodbye brother.