the message

“If blogging is your strength, then do that”, sista Kui told me some minutes ago. I told her about a message I had received this morning at 6 am which really disturbed me, and also relieved me to some extend. And that I would want to blog on it no matter what.

It’s about my father. My mum informed me this morning that my father had peacefully stopped breathing at about 3 am after a long illness we call Alzheimer’s disease.

“How are you feeling?”, people started asking me. Well, how am I supposed to feel? I don’t know. I know there is something inside that wants to break free and cry, and I feel this urge inside to put these emotions into words because that’s my way of expressing my feelings. It feels like there are a thousand words that describe the situation, and at the same time there is nothing left to say.

But I didn’t come here to tell you about my grief. I came here to tell you about a wonderful and positive experience I had this evening.

Right now I am staying at a friend’s place who’s running a children orphanage. Since everyone was kinda busy tonight, I was asked to take care of a little boy for a few hours. His 16year old mother had tried to abort him 2,5 years ago, and together with her mother and grandmother, they tried to get rid of him in a pit latrine after he had refused to die right after the abortion.

This very same boy is now very healthy and very smart. His joyful smile and vital way of learning new things showed me once again what life is all about. And it helped me a lot to let go and welcome new life. For me, meeting this young man showed me that I am the adult now, the 31year old dude who needs to get his own family and keep that life thing going. And I liked it. I am ready for it.

These days when life does strange things with you while you’re busy making other plans, it is good to close each day with a smile on your face and accept those things you can not change with some easiness that is driven by content from within.

Also, the older I become, I realize how much I resemble my father: his passion for arts, music, literature, antiques and other things. Heck, some of his older friends even tell me how much I look like him!
You see, he was about my age when he took up his first assignment in India in the mid 1960s as a German language teacher. Moving from Germany down to a chaotic New Delhi meant a lot during those days, but he somehow managed it, and it also shaped him in many ways. Some of his students are still keeping contact with us after all these years!

my father somewhere in India, 1966

And just like him, I decided to give up all these securities in Germany and move to Kenya with an uncertain future, taking into account that my father might die when I am abroad. It is this place here at this distance which allowed me to eventually think about a lot of things that happened in the past, how we used to take care of him and how he loved me and my sister, and especially my mum.

It is the distance between him and us due to this shitty Alzheimer’s disease that taught us a lot of things about family, love and being there for each other.

How am I supposed to feel grief inside if I keep on being remembered of the good things that came along with all this? Instead, it is this happiness inside that gives me the strength to keep on doing my thing in a way which somehow resembles his.

Talking about death, there’s one more thing I would like to mention: I told you about this funeral I’d been attending late last year somewhere in Mwingi district. During those 3 hours of a funeral service in a language I didn’t understand, where me and my colleagues where the guests of honour, I eventually realized the role death plays and how a funeral is regarded to be part of the culture here. At times when lots of people are dying before their age due to AIDS and other diseases, people have started to accept it being a part of their life. Contrary to a funeral in Germany, where everyone is dressed in dark clothes and just silent, this funeral in Mwingi included a choir singing warm songs and thus giving me, the outsider, an understanding of what this is all about. It made me realize that I am very much ready to accept these things and that I may just trust in my faith.

When I am going back to Germany now to attend his funeral and eventually finish my studies soon, I will try to export some of these spirits and remember how I was welcomed to this place I always considered my second home.

And to be honest, I have no idea when I will able to return and what this new year which has just started will have to offer. But at least I am not afraid anymore, and that’s a damn good feeling.

Author: jke

Hi, I am an engineer who freelances in water & sanitation-related IT projects at You'll also find me on Twitter @jke and Instagram.

44 thoughts on “the message”

  1. Alles Gute für Deinen Vater wünsche Ich auf seine Reise.
    Und mein mein Beileid an Dir, Deiner Mutter und Schwester.
    Dein Vater gehörte zu denjenigen die die Kultur mit Hochachtung geschätzt haben.
    Ich fühle mich geehrt und beschenkt das ich persönlich Deinen Vater kennenlernten durfte.

    in Besten Gedenken an Deinen Vater

  2. Shalom,
    MKJ just posted your news on our family group, Mikolas sent us this link and I felt the need to write to offer you our love and prayers.

    Your dad sounds like a great man.

    Kijana, I don’t know what you are going through and I don’t know how the next few days, months, years, will turn out in regards to your dad’s absence in the physical. I am here to let you know that if you need someone to talk to I can be there for you. The mere fact that my loved ones speak so highly of you qualifes you!

    God bless you and pass our love to your family,

    Binti Simba

  3. This is a difficult one to write, how you have written about losing a loved father and your love and admiration comes through I pray and hope that this will keep you going and give you strength to celebrate your father’s life.
    Best wishes

  4. Grief has a way of creeping up. After my mother died I’d find myself feeling so sad out of the blue. I wondered what triggered it. I never really could point to a trigger. Our parents remain in us like dye in the wool so everything is connected. More than most you understand how important memories are. Grief isn’t just tears but laughter too. Your looking forward now brought me joy. I offer you my condolences and good wishes towards your marvelous future.

  5. Hey you,
    Pole sana. ((((Kyuk 1)))))
    So sorry about your Dad.

    Its wonderful all the things you have done here, all the pics, things about Kenya even I did not know about! (thanks)! I’d like to know more about the ‘Nest’, in the not too distant future, I’d like to do a project with them.

    And you my dear, d not leave without goodbye, so if you can make time for a quick one before you leave, that would be great. Ebu let ‘us’ know.

    Keep the legacy alive, and peace to you and yours, and happy new year duuude.

  6. Je schöner und voller die Erinnerung, desto schwerer die Trennung.
    Aber die Dankbarkeit verwandelt die Erinnerung in stille Freude.
    Man trägt das vergangene Schöne nicht wie einen Stachel, sondern wie ein kostbares Geschenk in sich.

    -Dietrich Bonhoeffer-

  7. Both my Gran and 2 aunts died of Alzheimers – it is really a horrible illness. My thoughts are with you at this time – you have a good spirit and that will see you through and enable you to continue your work in Kenya and anywhere else you choose to devote your energies. Go Well and stay blessed.

  8. You wrote: “These days when life does strange things with you while you’re busy making other plans, it is good to close each day with a smile on your face and accept those things you can not change with some easiness that is driven by content from within.”

    This is so true and it is a philosophy that’s kept me going when I found myself going through a difficult phase in life…including the loss of my father.

    My condolences to you and your family. Stay strong and may your new found courage help you find the path you are looking for.

  9. oh my darlin Friend, I just read this and I’m so so sorry! I do not have the right words to express my condolences. I know how much you cared for your dad, you spoke of him to me a few times and I admired they way you admired your dad, I admired your strength to hold on to the good memories. Please keep his light burning and cherish the moments you had with him and it is because of him you are you Jke. I’m so sorry I’m too far to be there for you the way I would like but I’m with you in spirit. May you have the strength within you and may your family have peace at this difficult time.

  10. So sorry about your loss. May you and your family find peace as you go through this difficult and trying time. The best gift your father left you was the wonderful memories. Keep hanging on to that.

  11. Pole ndugu.

    Usichoke kuendelea hata unapopata misiba njiani. Tutazidi kuombea wewe na jamii yako. Maisha ni yakuishi na Mungu atazidi kukupa nguvu ya kuendelea.

    – Steve

  12. Bin gerade nach Hause gekommen fix und fertig und todmüde. Bald sind Prüfungen und die Zeit rennt und ich steh seit Tagen schon neben mir.

    Ich lese trotzdem dein Blog! Und heute: WOW! Du hast mich voll erwischt. Das mit deinem Dad tut mir leid! Hört sich abgelutscht an, aber was besseres fällt mir nicht ein.

    Und du hast mir etwas voraus: ich habe ein verdammte Scheiß-Angst! vor morgen und nächster woche, nächstem monat und jahr und was noch immer kommt.

    ich drück dich (unbekannterweise) irgendwie komisch!

    P.S.: Ich glaube ich würd was anderes schreiben, wäre ich bei Sinnen, bin ich aber nicht!

    P.P.S. Ich les’ dich so gerne!

  13. Pole sana, My uncle died(he was more my dad than my dad was)and at the time i was volontreering at an orphanage its amazing how new life helps one accept the passing of another.Your dad seems liek he was a great man, kudos to how your honoured him. Mourn him but remember to celebrate his life.

  14. Mein Beileid. Bin eben nur aus Zufall auf Deine Seite gekommen, und dann so eine Nachricht.
    Ich wünsche Dir und allen Angehörigen die nötige Kraft, die Zeit und den Verlust durchzustehen.

    Alles Gute, nochmals: Mein Beileid.


  15. Pole sana for your loss Kikuyumoja. You have written a deeply moving post that shows what wonderful people both you and your father are/were.

    “I have no idea when I will able to return and what this new year which has just started will have to offer. But at least I am not afraid anymore, and that’s a damn good feeling.”

    Thanks for sharing and may you find peace.

  16. Hi,
    Pole sana for your loss. My prayers are with you and your family at this time.

    Thanks for coming to Kenya and contributing to the projects in Embu even with the uncertainity of your father’s health and knowing you might just get that phonecall that you did.

    Hope you do come back to Kenya at some point in the future. Be blessed.

  17. Jurgen I’m very sorry for your loss, as u know our family has not long ago gone through the same trauma. Nothing can said except for we’ll be praying for you!

  18. I can see the family represented here – so this is an echo their words. Yaani we are praying for you and your family. I have been thinking how supportive you were to the ‘kids’ when we came home for the funeral. As much as you gave of yourself to us, we give the same to you.

    Be at peace and allow yourself to grieve. You are among people who care for you.

  19. Pole sana rafiki. We’ll be praying for you and your family. You’ve written one of the most inspirational posts I have ever come across, made all the more potent because you are a part of our community.

    Keep your head up and know that we’re always here for you.

  20. Everyone,

    thank you very much for your condolences as well as the good wishes.

    I am bit overhelmed by the various reactions and lovely messages, and I am still trying to understand how to cope with this situation.

    I will be flying back to Germany on Feb 1st, and until then, still have to clean up my place in Embu and spend a few days in Nairobi. My beloved Nairobi…

    I have no idea what the following weeks will be alike, but I know there’s this bloggin desire inside that needs to get out.

    Again, thank you everyone for your support and may God bless you too!

  21. You are welcome and remember we are here for you always! It is not going to be an easy time (remember I went through such a loss two years ago) but one has to hang in there and reach within you to find strength and will to go on. Each day is a challenge but I know you are strong spirited person and you will find a way to cope.

  22. my condolences. i want to share share your sorrow. i am having some good memories about your father. i am praying for you and your family.

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