Sarah Muthoni’s husband, Peter, disappeared in 2012 and has never surfaced. She has lived in alternate hope and despair since then. She tells Simon Mburu her story.
“My name is Sarah Muthoni. I am in my late 30s and a mother of one. This is my fifth year as a presumed widow. I say ‘presumed’ because my husband has been missing over this time, and presumed dead.
“I still remember the way it all began vividly. Peter and I got married in a customary ceremony on Saturday, April 24, 2004. I had no doubt that getting married to Peter was the best decision of my life. He was a handsome young man, and an engineer and entrepreneur, and studying for his Master’s degree at the Nelson Mandela University in South Africa.
“In July 2009, we were blessed with a son. Our future could only get brighter. Although we had our ups and downs, I was content. Things, however, took a turn for the worse in early 2011. My husband’s skin started turning pale. At first, we didn’t think it was anything serious. But as the paleness began to spread, we began to fear that it was hepatitis. A few months down the line, the paleness had spread and the flakes on his skin now looked like scales. He also had pallor in the linings of his eyes, inside of his mouth and even on the surface of his tongue.
“We went to Kenyatta National Hospital from where we referred to Nairobi Hospital. The doctor who attended to him at Nairobi Hospital referred him to a specialist at the Aga Khan Hospital. He underwent MRI scans that were unable to show a diagnosis. All these referrals drained our resources and although we were ready to go to any lengths to get a diagnosis and treatment, my husband began to give up. It did not help when a doctor asked him to go home and get prayed for!
“Following his prolonged sickness, my husband turned bitter with his life. He couldn’t seem to see a reason for living. On his worst days, he’d swear that we would never bury him because he’d commit suicide by drowning himself in the Indian Ocean.
“On the morning of March 15, 2012, he left home at around 8am. Later that day, a few minutes to midnight, he called me and said that he had traveled to Mombasa to see an old friend. On March 16, he called me again in the morning and said that he’d be back by end of day. At around 6pm, he called again and said that he loved me. He talked to our son for a few minutes and then said that his phone was low on battery. An hour later, his phone went off. I was not alarmed because he had been so calm and jovial that nothing sinister was suspect. However, two days later, his phone was still off, and he had not returned.
ALARM BELLS WENT OFF
“My alarm bells went off when he did not return a week later. I began to fear that something had happened to him. I would recall with shudders that a few weeks before his disappearance, he had taken my kitchen knife to our car. When I caught him walking from the car holding it and asked what he was doing with it, he told me – stiffly and without dramatising – that he wanted to kill himself but changed his mind because he didn’t want me stuck with the memory of him killing himself in the family car.
“I contacted his relatives but no one had heard from him. On March 23, I went to Kasarani Police Station and reported that he was missing. Immediately, the police liaised with their colleagues in Mombasa and a search was mounted. I travelled to Mombasa where we searched for him in hospitals and mortuaries. With each fruitless day, my heart sank further. He had drowned himself in the ocean, I feared! We conducted the same search across Nairobi’s hospitals and mortuaries, but he was nowhere to be found. In September, the police declared that he was missing and couldn’t be found. Our son was two and a half years old.
“Looking back at the past five years, I can only say I have survived by the grace of God. Although it was easy to assume that he jumped into the Indian Ocean, it hasn’t been as easy to let the memories of the promising marriage we had go. Where did you go, darling? What happened to you?
“There are times when I’ve missed the way he used to smile at me, and his warmth in my life. There are times, too, when a flicker of hope has lit deep in my heart that I may one day answer a knock on my door and find him standing there. Nonetheless, I have made peace with his disappearance, and I am determined to move on. I believe I have gathered enough strength and emotional stability to open a new chapter in my life, and explore new possibilities such as getting married again.”