Plants helped heal 32-year-old Janet Mwaluda after she lost her fiancé in 2018. She narrates the life-changing moment.
"If I never fall in love again, if I never find a good man to share my life with, it is all right. I say this because for over four years, I was lucky to experience true love.
I got to know what it is like to be loved on a deep level. They say that everyone has that one person who was made for them out here in the world; Ian Mukuria was mine. Ian Died a year and four months ago.
It has been one year and four months now and looking back, I can say I have come a long way.
While there are still days that I break down and I am still holding onto some things like the clothes he wore on the day he died, I have found a way to continue living. Plants have helped heal me.
We met one odd Thursday in 2014. I’d had a long day at work so when a friend asked me to tag along to dinner with his girlfriend, being as single as a dollar bill, I jumped at the chance.
While there, Ian came to collect something from my friend. He was in his pajamas. We got talking, kept talking and laughing until 5am the next morning.
BEST DATE EVER
What began as a date where I was a third wheel ended up being the best date of my life.
Ours wasn’t the fiery, fast-paced romance you see in the movies. We fell into a deep friendship. Ian was 13 years older than me so he kept me grounded.
While I was a creative with a racing mind, he was a level-headed businessperson on who I could bounce my thoughts and ideas off. I told him everything.
My fondest memories of our relationship were the many hours we spent roasting food. One time, we almost burnt the house down.
As our relationship progressed, we moved in together and began talking about having children. We even tried unsuccessfully for a few months. Then Ian began falling sick.
He was diabetic. I remember him sitting me down a few days after we met to tell me that he was diabetic and he injected himself once a day, every day.
At the time, it was just a simple fact of his life. Something we could manage with a special diet and his medication.
Unknowingly, the medications were talking a toll on his kidneys and by the time we found out, his kidneys were already failing. This was in 2016.
Our first course of action was to get a nutritionist to see if we could undo the damage through a diet. When this failed, he got on dialysis.
His kidneys kept deteriorating but we remained hopeful. Even on the bad days, we spoke about the future. Then on September 11, 2018, he had a cardiac arrest and died.
I would like to use the word devastating to describe what it was like to lose him but no word is enough to describe it.
It was something else. Seeing his mother, his brother and his sister breaking down got me. For seven days straight, I was in a daze.
I couldn’t eat nor bathe. My mother came to give me a bath and get me out of the dera that I had been wearing for days.
I couldn’t even come out of my bedroom to meet the people that came to our house to condole with me.
The hardest part of all of it for me was the funeral; seeing his casket get buried deep in the ground shattered me.
I could no longer go to the morgue to see him or talk to him. I was broken. Worried that I was not going to be able to come from under this dark cloud, my parents enrolled me for grief counselling that same week that we buried Ian.
Before this, I had never thought much of therapy. It was something that other people did but when I reached rock bottom, it became my lifeline.
It was in therapy that I met a woman who was still struggling with losing her husband after 22 years.
Her story snapped me out of the haze. I knew I did not want to turn out like her - to be lost in that limbo for two decades.
While I knew that things were probably never going to go back to the way they were before Ian passed away, I knew that I had to find a way.
I had two companies to run and a television show – Nairobi Diaries – to produce. I knew that even he would have wanted me to go on with life.
LOVE FOR PLANTS
I am okay now. I would like to say that I was strong and that the process to getting here was easy but I would be lying.
I went for days at a time without eating. Ian and I loved to cook together and everything reminded me of him.
I lost a ton of weight. All through, his and my family kept me sane.
Then I rediscovered my love of plants. I have always loved plants. I began gardening in my family home in Mombasa when I was 11.
Now it became therapeutic. The garden became the one place that gave me peace. I refocused my energies to my television productions and my gardens.
For the past year, I have been planting these gardens in clients’ homes. Currently, I am working on half an acre of various flowers and vegetables, which I plant from the ground up. I spend a large chunk of my day here. These plants healed me."