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'We had not even picked our marriage certificate'

Saturday March 21 2020

Rebecca Wanjiku and Simiyu Machani during their

Rebecca Wanjiku and Simiyu Machani during their wedding day on November 14, 2015. PHOTO | COURTESY  

ANNE NDUNG'U
By ANNE NDUNG'U
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Rebecca Wanjiku, 32, has learnt to live for the moment, after she lost her husband, Simiyu Machani, three months after their wedding. She was only 28 then. She opens up on her ups and downs.

"My life has changed a lot. By nature, I am a worrier. If you know anything about serial worriers, it is that they do not understand the concept of one day at a time. They are always planning meticulously to dodge future disasters. I was still learning the one-day-at-a-time mantra from the love of my life, Simiyu Machani when he suddenly departed.

It’s the first time I am having to reflect deeply on my life, which has been a rollercoaster of sorts. I am currently on study break from my station in Cape Town in South Africa. I am not complaining. I am enjoying the views of the Table Mountains and the taste of Cape wine there. What better thing would a 32-year-old widow be doing?

Let me start from the beginning. Simiyu, my departed husband, was my best friend. We met in June 2014. He was 28, an electrical and electronics engineer graduate from JKUAT and a CPA-K holder. He was a Campus Ministry Facilitator with Fellowship of Christian Unions (Focus Kenya), and coordinating short missions for exchange programme students. I was 26, and an intern at the same organisation when we met. We were inseparable ever since.

In about a month of being friends, I said to myself, 'I wanna get married to this guy'. In November 2nd 2014, he officially asked me to be his girlfriend and added "…for one year and then you become my wife?" See why I wanted to marry this guy? That's precision right there and I love precision.

The previous year I had graduated from the University Of Nairobi School Of Business with a degree in Commerce and Information Systems. For a girl, born in a remote village called Wanyororo in Nakuru I was right on track.

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Then there is the fact that I grew up as an Akorino girl. I left the religion in February of 2006, when I turned 18. There was something that didn't sit right for me there. My elder sister came home one day and found me with blow-dried hair. I reminded her that our denomination wouldn't take me back once I had uncovered my head and was seen publicly. I have never looked back. The one thing I loved in the sect and still love were the songs.

When I met Simiyu, I was my own woman. One ready to take on the world and make her own decisions. We quickly set our wedding date for the 14th of November 2015. The day came, and went and I had the time of my life.

A few days later we started our new little home with a lot of enthusiasm. We talked, played, prayed and laughed. We were still getting used to our new titles, husband and wife. When we found ourselves intimidated by the titles, we would fall back to what we knew well; being friends.

Three months later, Simiyu was dead. It was the 9th of February 2016, when he died on the spot through a road accident on his way to Eldoret for a work function.

'The death of a beloved is an amputation', CS Lewis said. ‘The fact that you get a prosthetic and learn how to use it well does not mean you have overcome as you can never be the person you were before the loss.’

We had just received our wedding photos that weekend. We were to watch the video together when he was back. We were yet to collect the remainder of our wedding cake. We had not even picked our marriage certificate from our best couple.

What sort of cruel joke was this? Why was my love gone so soon?

Worse, I couldn't attend his burial. Family wrangles ensured I stayed away as he was buried in his father's land. Finally, last year December, four years later, I got closure after I visited his resting place.

It's very confusing being a young widow. Many felt the need to reassure me that I was going to get married again soon, to an even better man. Who told them I wanted that? I was not even sure I wanted to be alive leave alone love again. Those who did not know what to say looked at me awkwardly. And then there was this group, fond of asking 'How is your heart?' That's a weird question which I am yet to make sense of. In the days that followed I lost weight, had insomnia, slept too much and had paranoia. It was the darkest time in my life.

Friends blended my food when I could not chew and reoriented me into life again. They listened to my endless monologues without interrupting or getting tired. Crying and laughing with my friends got me through. I love them, even those who nicknamed me "the hottest widow in town".

I cannot say I have fully overcome because I do not think grief is something that can be overcome. It is more of a journey than an event. It is lighter now than the previous years. But as a good student, I decided to keep practising what Simiyu taught me. I started putting my guard down and started living more in the present. I realised that it is not in my power to plan the future however much I wish I would.

I started taking risks. I quit my job (I worked in Sales), because I was struggling and not enjoying the duties I had. I had no backup plan.

I gave away whatever house possessions I had, packed my two bags and hopped on a plane to volunteer in Northern Nigeria. People were asking me so many questions. Is it safe there? How will you survive as a volunteer without a salary? How about friends and family? I didn't have answers to any of these questions. I had finally cracked the one-day-at-a-time code and it opened a door to the rest of my wonderful life. After two years of volunteering in Nigeria and Gambia, I packed up again and moved to Cape Town.

I  got admitted to the University of Cape Town to study a Masters in Information Systems. That was in 2019 and I am meant to complete this year.

To make ends meet, let me just say there has been some tears, a lot of fundraising, a weak attempt at crowd funding and part time work from the university.

I do not know what's next. Life after the Masters programme will unfold as it pleases. My only commitment is to make the most of what comes."

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