This commentary is titled “Rest In Power to My Kenyan Warrior, My Grandfather.”
So about a week ago, I had this weird dream that something was wrong with someone close to me. At the time, my mom was awaiting to have a back surgery, so the very next morning after this dream, I called home to check on her and my dad, brothers, and sister, and my niece. And I told her about this weird, crazy, dream, and she told me everyone was fine and not to worry. But then this dream kept reoccurring, so I called home once again and told my mom about this dream, and she reassured that all was well.
Two days later, I called home, and that’s when I learned that my dear grandfather had passed away—a day after I last spoke to my mom. She broke this news off to me during a phone call, and I immediately started crying but also trying to be strong for my family. But I was overwhelmed with emotions, and I still am. I just wanted to curl up into a ball like a baby and just cry. And while I was on the phone with my mom, and she was telling me this, I just literally was crying and crying and crying and crying. It still hurts, and I’m still somewhat in denial that my grandfather passed away.
So I’m named after my grandfather. Him and I always had a close relationship, and besides my father, he had the biggest impact in my life. I remember when I was a kid, when we lived in Nairobi Kenya. During the school breaks, we would take these hour-long trips to visit some of my other family members in Nyahururu which is a rural town and some of my other family members lived.
I loved going there, and one of my favorite activities was sitting around a fire and listening to him tell me stories, and my favorite stories were about the Mau-Mau uprising and how they fought the mighty British empire to gain independence from British colonialism. I guess my revolutionary spirits definitely derive from my grandfather.
Additionally, he was kind, caring, loving, funny, and strong. Even with my incarceration, my grandfather still spoke literally being continents apart. He used to always tell me He used to tell me “Kamau wewe ni kijana menye nguve” which is “you are a strong man” in Swahili.
When I learned my dear guka (which is grandfather in Kikuyu) passed away, I’m still in disbelief and shock. I’ve cried so many times I’ve lost count. This morning I woke up at 5:00 am, and it felt like the worst episode of claustrophobia in the 14 years of my incarceration. I know I’ve heard the term “the walls are closing in on me.” I’ve heard it before, but I’ve never really experienced it. But this morning, that’s really how I felt. I literally felt like everything was just closing in on me.
Some of the many cruelties in prison is that it’s hard for you to properly grieve, and I don’t think there’s a proper, per se, to grieve—and also attend a funeral or comfort your loved ones or be comforted. Just one of the many cruelties to name about prison. My emotions have been scattered all over the doggone map. I keep telling myself to just breathe and be strong, and it’s easier to say than done. In the eight years I spent in solitary confinement, each day was a fight to maintain my sanity, and here I am once again trying to maintain my sanity. I have to be strong, as my grandfather would like for me to do, and it just really hurts that I didn’t get a chance to say I love him, get a chance to say goodbye.
My grandfather passed away of COVID-19. Once he contracted covid, he seemed fine the first couple of days, but then his health rapidly deteriorated. Here we are in what seems like the end of COVID-19 in this country, but my grandfather’s death highlighted the COVID vaccine’s disparity between richer countries and developing poor countries. We have millions of citizens who have been fully vaccinated in U.S. whereas in countries such as Kenya, vaccines are available only for the wealthy and connected while everyone else suffers.
I am truly fortunate to have an incredible support network of my close family, extended family composed of my close comrades and friends. Without their incredible support, I honestly don’t know how I would’ve responded to this loss. And it really makes me extremely grateful to have them in my life, for they have truly comforted me in the last few days. And, you know, this also makes me realize that a lot of people behind these human warehouses, they lack that kind of support, which makes me even appreciate the people that I have in my life even more.
You know, talking about what I’m going through and expressing my emotions is really cathartic and therapeutic in so many ways, so I just thank you for lending your ears.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.