Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Read When You Are Feeling Strong

Sorry I know this is sad but I can't just share the good times with you all because it would be unrealistic and believe me this is all real and painful.

Sharing the sorrow….

I went into SCANN on Sunday to see how everyone was, the staff were heavy hearted but still watchful of the boys, many of whom were absent attending their own church services within the district.  The only boys I managed to see were the smaller ones who attended devotion on the premises.

The weight of sorrow within SCANN could have crushed anyone who visited that day, boys trying to come to terms with their sudden loss.  I called the small boys to the veranda by the computer room and came out with the pile of board games which were very quickly accepted and eagerly started I presume in an attempt to distract their minds, it appeared to work even for the short time that I was there. 

I had on the Saturday afternoon received various calls from The Chairman, (Moses Kombo was on leave) to put in place arrangements for the funeral on Monday.  I checked with the Housemaster, Patrick, that the details were now in place, all the boys were to practice a Muslim song they knew and the Muslim boys attending SCANN were to recite a prayer.  It had also been requested that 6 older boys were to go to the Mosque on Sunday morning to help erect the marquee and put out chairs as the Mosque itself, whilst large would not be able to accommodate the number of people expected to attend.  I was pleased that the boys had some part to play in the preparations, even if it was only 6 of them.  Many of the other older boys had been taking part in a football challenge and decided to still attend which would also help occupy them.  I wandered round the dormitories checking that there were no boys hiding their sorrows lying in bed, luckily there were none to be found, all had busied themselves, so much washing was being done to make sure that everyone had a clean ‘Sunday best outfit’ for the funeral.

When I had checked all was Ok I headed into town to get a matatu home, I had left the girls packing ready to leave on Monday for their trip to Mombasa.  I had arranged that I would go with them to Nairobi, do a few places of interest, get them to the airport and then return to Nakuru, but with the funeral all the plans had to be changed.  Jenga my Nairobi taxi driver and friend was now my stand-in. It had already been arranged that the excess weight bag that could not go to Mombasa would be left in the luggage room at the hotel where the girls would be staying in on Saturday night before they left Nairobi for the UK on the Sunday. The girls then had time to kill so it was decided that they would take Jenga for lunch, then off to the airport for their flight to Mombasa.

I had promised that I would take the girls to a local club on Saturday night but the plans were postponed after Yasmins death, with view to possibly doing so on Sunday night.  As it happened we had a lovely time with local music and dancing which helped me relax a bit too, Nick came to pick us up (a little later than we had originally planed) but we had had a good evening.  Sleep was a long time coming as I dreaded the arrival of Monday morning.

Everything went as planned though, the girls all packed, Nick arrived to collect us and take us to the Mololine Shuttle for the girls to buy their seats ready for Nairobi, once confirmed we said a tearful goodbye, emotions were high and for me it was only the beginning.  Nick dropped me at SCANN.

SCANN was actually a hive of activity, boys were busy washing themselves after having completed cleaning duties in case visitors decided to come after the funeral.  The place was spotless, Yasmin would have been pleased.  Moses Kombo the Officer in Charge and various members of staff were gathered checking on the days arrangements.  It had been decided that lunch would be served very early as the funeral was at midday. Once lunch was out of the way and everyone was smartly dressed we locked the doors and left SCANN in the care of the guard.  The walk to the Mosque was a long one, not in distance but in thinking time, I had repeated to myself that I had to be strong for the boys and so far it was working, but for how long.

On arriving at the Mosque it was obvious why they needed to carry out the service outside, so many many people had shown up to pay their respects and that was before we all arrived.  I was directed to show the boys to the grass on the left hand side outside the open marquee where we observed the proceedings.

The marquee was rectangular with seats running all round the perimeter, the grass had been covered with many rugs and within the perimeter were knelt many of the relatives and close friends.  At the centre of the marquee lay Yasmin wrapped in decorated shrouds, knelt beside her was her husband Mohib who was seen to be silently mouthing prayers.  Shamsher the Chairman came to speak to me about organising the all boys ready to recite the song as there would be no time to do the prayer also as so many people were arriving.  I had to wait for his signal once everyone had walked up to Yasmin to pay their respects.  On the signal I started the boys off and even though it was not in English I felt the weight of the words in my heart, it was a mournful sound that fitted the ceremony.  Once the boys had finished we were asked to come forward to pay our respects to Yasmin.  I held back having ensured all the boys had slipped off their shoes before entering and squeezing the arms of the boys that I knew would find it hard to see Yasmin which consisted of most of them. 

A deathly hush descended, even the low praying murmurings of the mourners seemed to stop. I was so proud of the boys but I was dreading having to follow them and say my final farewell, one of the older boys broke down and sobbed openly which tore at my heart, unfortunately I was already on my way and had no way of reaching him to offer comfort until I had excited the marquee.  Yasmin looked at peace which helped me keep it together, having seen the pain she had been suffering I focused on the fact that she was in a better place.  I walked round to where the boys had spread themselves out on the grass, the older boys had distanced themselves from the party trying to hide their sorrow.  This was so hard, hearing and seeing so much sobbing and tears from the boys made me cry, I wandered between the boys holding and supporting those that had broken down into desperate sobs, I think that my tears helped them accept that it was OK to show their sorrow, I handed out my tissues to those that needed them finding that I was actually left without I had to beg some from a lady standing nearby.

 After circulating among them I sat on a verge and tried to compose myself, in no time at all I was joined by many boys seeking company, we just consoled each other without words but by just being together.

Many people were still arriving following the procession route that we had taken past Yasmin. When the numbers dwindled some of the women started a chant and then there was some movement, some of the men carried what looked like a coffin but without the base on horizontal poles.  This was lowered over Yasmin secured then lifted, I gathered the boys from their various places of sorrow and we stood in line to watch Yasmin pass us on the way to the hearse.  It became apparent that this was a very male part of the ceremony so I held back and watched from a respectful distance only joining the hearse as it was about to leave for the cemetery. 

I had already been told by the staff at Scann that on the day of burial the coffin is escorted by the males only for internment, no women, including the daughter and family are able to attend.  The younger boys were escorted back to SCANN and the male staff and older boys continued on to the cemetery, leaving myself and the female staff behind with the female attendees.  This was now when we paid our respects to the female family members filing past them as they sat within the marquee, offering our condolences and words of strength. 

When I had completed my round, (which was difficult as I only knew 3 family members, the rest looked at me with questioning eyes but took my hand in friendship anyway) I found Zacharia (one of the older boys) sobbing uncontrollably by a tree.  I sat with him for sometime talking to him about Yasmin and how much pain she had been in when I had seen her on the Friday.  I pointed out to him that to wish her to still be with us as she was would be unthinkable and he needed to be happy that she was now at peace.  I also explained to him, as I had done many of the other boys that Yasmin had entered our hearts and as such she was part of us.  He should take solace in the fact that Yasmin would always give us strength when we needed it, she would always be there when we needed to make decisions, we would always feel her presence and love as she was now part of each and everyone of us.  

In talking to Zacharia we both gained strength from my words, his sobbing subsided, we both took in a deep breath and hugged. We were then joined by a few other boys who could not face going to the cemetery, we walked slowly back to SCANN talking along the way of other things.

When I arrived at SCANN I sat with the smaller boys who appeared to be unaware of what the proceedings meant, those that did know were lying on their bunks sobbing, sleep being their only respite that afternoon. I was informed that the older boys who had travelled back from university and college had to return that day or early the following day as they were sitting exams.  During the course of the day it had not been a fitting time to discuss money to be made available by the Chairman so I was collected by a motorbike and taken home to collect my bank card, driven back to town to withdraw money from the bank and then arranged to meet the boys at Guava CafĂ©.  I was supposed to meet up with 9 boys and had decided to provide them with a soda and chips to see them on their way. 

I actually ended up with 14 boys as some of their younger brothers had come to town with them to say ‘goodbye’.  Guava had been empty until the boys arrived and then it was suddenly full.  Dickson my friend at Guava saw my distress standing with all the boys with no where to sit.  He ushered us into the Guava Lounge, the bar side and sat us all in the corner.  I was not comfortable with this as I was now sitting in the bar where I worked with the SCANN boys!!! Dickson was very good he sorted us all out and even managed to help when more boys arrived.  We talked of Yasmin, toasted her with soda, ate the chips, gave out their travelling money, big hugs all round and the boys went on their way…….but not before a group from the funeral arrived in the bar.   I knew this would not look good!  I decided that the first opportunity I got I would explain the reason for me sitting in the bar with boys from SCANN before anyone else reported it incorrectly!  News travels fast in Nakuru!!!!!

I sat at the bar after the boys had left, deep in my own thoughts following their departure, feeling empty and inadequate in my role, nursing a pina colada that I felt was well earned. Between all the above events I had managed to send a text message to Anna and Nicole to check that all was well and they had managed to get to the airport.

I slept badly again as my thoughts were still on how to help the boys deal with their loss.  My ideas will hopefully help them but I will not bore you with them now, you have read enough.

Love to you all,

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