A MESSAGE TO REV, FROM YOUR STUDENT, YOUR SON, MWENKANYA
I have been higher than a mango tree! You should be happy about that. I think I am quite a bit wayward for a vicar’s son, a self-confessed lazy Christian but you always told me to be who I am. You probably found it amusing, almost rebellious I think. I remember that look of absolute horror when you first saw me with a French cut. You were mortified but you let me be. I know one time you got wind of my unhealthy interest of one damsel in S2. You handled it well…….by making her stand right in front of this very chapel for three days!!!! Thanks so much. Needless to say the unhealthy interest was never returned.
I failed just about any exam that was placed in front of me. But for some reason you never lost hope in my academic capabilities which by the way through my school years were virtually none existent. I was not average, I wasn’t even below average; I was just a dunce. In my S4 when failure of my O’Levels was all but assured you went for a yearlong holiday to England! Dad, your failure at having a blind panic then paid off. I have a Master’s Degree now in the only thing I know how to do well, Journalism. But I want to tell you about me, we, the family, my friends, your friends, your students gathered here today in KCB chapel. We are all OK!!!
I really struggled with what to say today. When you were diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I knew I wanted to speak at a service like this one day, when the pain had eased. I thought of some great stories to share, and I heard these really great song lyrics that seemed appropriate, and I pictured this moving, emotional speech that would perfectly encapsulate everything I have been feeling for the past six years.
I sat down to write that speech a couple days ago, and nothing came.
Part of the problem with knowing what to write is knowing what tone to take. I firmly believe that everyone should grieve in their own way. I have grieved in a lot of different ways at a lot of different times for a lot of different reasons. There is pressure – from whom, I don’t know – to be brimming with hope and praising God for taking you to heaven. But we still want you here. We have our hopeful moments, but we are not without sorrow. Personally I cannot have spent 36 years with a man like you and not be broken to the core having to say good-bye.
But no one wants to hear a speech about that.
I read a note from one of your friends. Your death was a blow to them. I saw another friend, and when he hugged me, I could feel the loss. You are a great man. You are my hero. You are an inspiration to those who knew you. I’m sorry, but it’s going to take us a while to get over this one. It’s going to take a lot of us awhile. And that’s okay. Anyone can give us the message of hope, the best I can do is tell you where we are at today. We are all OK, remembering you with fondness, joy and love.
Personally I have been reluctant to look at old pictures of my dad. That is a hard thing to be when you are planning a memorial service like this with friends. You would be impressed at the lengths I took to avoid that video I posted on Facebook the other day.
Not looking at pictures probably sounds more callous than it is. I am not afraid to remember you the way you were. I am afraid of crying and breaking down and losing controls of my emotions, but I’m not afraid of remembering. During these last few years, I kept reminding myself and reminding my mom and my siblings that the hard times will be overwhelmed by the good times soon enough. I believe this will be true. I have to believe it.
Thankfully, I don’t need the pictures to remind me of how he was. I can see him clearly when I close my eyes and draw from the memories I hold dear in my heart. I can see him and my mom, the greatest love story I know, newlyweds, grinning from ear to ear in their first house – never happier than to be with each other. I can see him carrying me on his shoulders in Nsangi, beaming with pride. I can see him in his wellington boots felling a tree for firewood hauling us grudgingly from TV to go and collect the firewood; I can see him scolding one of us his boys, who proudly call ourselves The Three Musketeers. I can see him at every major event in my life to this day. I can see him here today. He is gone physically but spiritually he is a constant presence, sometimes even losing his temper when I mess up.
When I look upon my father now, he is incredibly proud. When I look upon my father now he is at peace; when I look upon my father now he is proud of his daughter; Namutebi; when I look upon my father now he is proud of us, his boys, in all our flawed ways (especially myself), when I look upon my father now he is still deeply in love with one lady, our mother whom he shook physically even at 70 when he saw her. When I look at pictures of my dad, I see us, his family. I see us, here in this chapel at Kings College Budo, happy, content and with hope.
What a privilege the Lord gave me 36 years to learn from the greatest man I have ever known, and it is an honor to carry on his legacy. I don’t know if I am up for it, but I will never stop trying.
My dad loved the Lord. He was faithful to the church. His faith and the many beautiful ways it manifested itself served as such an example to me. In my last personal conversation with him in the summer of 2009, a few months before he passed away, as his body failed him, ravaged by cancer, he was praying to Jesus. He spoke to Him with a natural ease. When everything else was fading away, the one area that always remained was his love of the Lord.
He was such a good father to us. He was utterly devoted to his friends. He had his flaws especially a fiery temper but at the end of it one knew it was never out of malice. All of us here we were adored completely, wholeheartedly undeniably, unmistakably, unconditionally. I wish I could ask my dad our Rev how he did it. I want so badly to be the father that my dad was to me.
He is home now.
Arthur Mwenkanya Katabalwa is a TV Producer with Urban Television.