Previously on Gravestones………………………………….
I wheeled Nasra on the wheel-chair to the pier as it was getting cooler and more bearable to stay outside. I sat on the edge with her facing the same direction as I. We talked for what seemed like ages as she told me of her encounter with Elohim. I was really humbled to hear this experience as it affirmed my belief in Him. It was soon sunset and moments that bring tears are those that involve nature.
Me: I wanted to ask you about something.
Nasra: Go ahead. I am all ears.
Me: We have walked life together for the last 10 years. I am fortunate to have a woman like you by my side. That said, there comes a time a man faces his future and commands it into his present. God being my witness, how about we take this to another level? Will you be the one, The One has allowed me to know in that intimate, true and honest way?
Nasra: (Fighting tears) Anjeyo….. Yes I will…. (embrace) Yes I will. I have waited for this day for a really long time. Just like He said you will do.
Emily Chesang Sawe! April 2016.
The morning began in a frantic fashion. My friends and I began the journey to Kapsabet. It was our first official visit to the home that Emily was born into. It was a scary yet exciting journey that we were looking forward to. Emily’s father, Mr. Ezekiel Sawe was particularly eager to meet with me owing to the friendship that we had build over time that we courted with Emily. We had attended to him when he was hospitalised a few months back. Seeing Elohim take care of his health and healing him completely brought real joy in our hearts. Before setting off we took a moment to thank God for every single moment we had lived. We also asked Him to grant us the journey mercies even as we embarked on highway A104 to Nabkoi off the Eldoret-Nakuru highway. My band of brothers, Brian, Charles, Kago and Victor together with my best friend and crime partner Abdeel set off with the van, a Toyota Hiace 7L. Abdeel and I occupied the cock-pit with Brian and the rest enjoying the customized 7-seater van with reclining seats. It was really extra. We stopped at my favorite Shell petrol station at Mountain Mall to fill van with diesel. With No speed limiter, we anticipated that we shall be in Nabkoi by around noon.
Our journey was uneventful for most of the part. We had already done shopping for what we were going to give Emily’s parents. We added a few farm fresh produce on the way and at around half past eleven, we were at the Nabkoi junction. I spoke to Emily’s elder brother Terer who sent me a google pin for directions. Their home was not far from the junction to the road to Nandi Hills from Lessos. At about noon we pulled up to the homestead, to be received in song and dance by the women who had prepared to receive us. Abdeel, who is from the Kalenjin community had advised us on how to respond to the welcoming message from the family. This was not a negotiation ceremony. It was basically my friends and I visiting the home to make known of my intentions with Emily.
Emily’s Dad received us with humility. He ushered us into the living room where he commended us for being there on time, and asked us to feel at home. The whole house was filled with joy and color evident in the reception that we received. Emily’s Dad and Uncles joined the party and we were served with a great deal of starters. From tea to groundnuts. The old me would have dived in with all the hunger. Thanks to Abdeel’s guidance, we all embarked on the feeding with decorum because we know that after the tea comes the main course. The main course needs space. Conversations around the cups of tea revolved around current affairs and a little of banter concerning the Kenyan Premier League. It was beautiful that all these conversations were all from free hearts. The best thing yet is that we also spoke about the Word of God and the journey that this Word has shaped us to be.
We soon moved onto the business of the day, having set the atmosphere through a time of prayer and fellowship. We left the living room to the more cooler verandah where Emily’s Dad and two of his brothers had seats arranged with Abdeel, Brian and myself sitting in the middle. “Why do you want to marry our daughter?” asked Emily’s Dad. I paused for a moment before I spoke. “I want to marry your daughter, because above everything, God has led us to each other for a purpose that is beyond us. For a second everyone looked perplexed with my answer. One of the uncles to Emily shot straight, “Why did you first talk about God?” I answered confidently that before we even existed, He was. Before we knew about us, He knew. Before we could even love ourselves and each other, He loved us first. Everything, our friendship, courtship and life in Holy Matrimony is all in Him; a perfect part of His will for Emily and I. “Do you love Emily?” asked the other uncle. “Yes, I love Emily.” For a few seconds there was another round of silence. Emily’s dad continued asking further questions about my walk, and my plans for Emily. He also engaged my friends Brian and Abdeel. After about an hour of fruitful and life changing conversations, he prayed with us before calling Emily to join us.
We didn’t talk on phone about our outfits for the day, but when Emily came to the room, accompanied by her mother and grandmother, there was total agreement that indeed this was God’s plan. She had the same African Print material as my shirt. Her grandmother spoke a blessing even as she saw that moment of oneness. Her dad asked Emily about me and everything that I had said about the journey that we had walked in life for the past two years. Emily answered her dad in humility and that oneness of purpose was evident. Emily’s mum was moved to tears. It was quite emotional first seeing the matching African print, and even the answers that Emily had given. The prayers were made. Blessings from heaven. Blessings from the parents that we were free to pursue life together. It was soon time to enjoy the meals that had been excellently prepared. We sat with Emily and enjoyed the meal together.
Soon, it was almost time to depart the home. We presented the gifts and fresh produce that we had prepared before leaving for Luanda. We exchanged our moments and set off for my hometown. We would spend the night there before leaving on Monday for the city as it was a public holiday. Brian, Charles, Victor and Kago had had the fun of the day learning Kalenjin. They had also enjoyed time listening to my father-in-law to be who was very generous with his words of wisdom. We had gotten Emily. Part of the reason for us going to Luanda was to inform my parents so that we could start planning for Emily’s visit which was to be in two weeks. The other reason was my friends had the opportunity to visit my home prior to the visit that Emily was to make within two weeks. It was an opportunity to also visit my parents and fellowship with them in the season that we were coming to.
Manda Bay: The Present.
The best news today was Nasra being given clearance by the head of the infirmary to proceed home. The beautiful challenge though was where was her home? General Hall was a very resourceful person. He had managed to use the United States Security Protocol to establish contact with Nasra’s biological parents who had not heard from her in over ten years. Her first skype call with her mother and father was everything that stirred all emotions. She literally cried when her mother exclaimed Mashallah when her daughter appeared on the call. She obviously couldn’t hide the fact that she had given up hope of seeing her daughter alive when she went to Somalia with her departed fiance. Nasra’s dad on the other hand was too shocked to even say a word. He could only nod in agreement when Nasra told them she survived. They wanted her to fly out to the UK as soon as she could. That was a dilemma for Nasra.
Her dilemma was for the fact that her parents were staunch Muslims and Nasra had just converted into a different faith. Second of all, she was in love; in love with a man she had survived 10 years running to the point of finding solace and safety in his own country. Third she was disconnected from the rest of the world for the best part of that ten years. Now her parents want her to fly to the UK. The state of her engagement to Anjeyo was in jeopardy. “What should I do now?” she asked herself. How am I to do all these at a go? The only remedy for the above is to pray. That was her solace. Speaking to Elohim was her only solace.
It was even more difficult for me to accept the fact that my journey to Luanda in the next few days would be heart wrenching. There was an unmarked grave somewhere in my village home containing ‘remains’ of me buried six feet under. My parents had received compensation from the defence forces as part of the procedure that the military has. That money would not bring a dead person back, but it would help a family at least pick up the pieces. General Hall arranged for counselling for both Nasra and I as it was not going to be a walk in the park for the society to accept us back. Our African societies feared death. Being declared dead and then showing up alive would send the entire village into a frenzy. It would be akin to seeing a walker from The Walking Dead or an Awakened Being from Claymore. Nonetheless these journeys were an important part of our lives and we had no option but to take them.
Ebusiralo Village! Luanda Sub-County, Vihiga County. 19th May 2027
The furore that the SA 330 (J) Puma helicopter caused on landing at Ebusiralo Primary School field remains a folklore that will be told to generations and generations to come. Some say, the last time a helicopter landed in my village, the then opposition supremo The Late Michael Kijana Wamalwa was on a vote hunting mission. Since then, no flying objects, both identified and unidentified have never been sighted in the village. Other people say in relation to that visit by Kijana Wamalwa, the risk of people attempting to hang on the chopper was real and hence most dignitaries opted to land in Kisumu or the nearby Mumboha Primary School and access my village using the road.
The second time a chopper landed on Ebusiralo Primary School grounds, there was a heavy security contingent. Inside the SA 330 (J) Puma was a son of the village. Their son whose last communication with the village was through a whatsapp message to the father informing him about the victory over the insurgents on our first night in Somalia. The doors slid open and dressed in our military uniform, I stepped out. Like a detective on a thriller, I had my dark glasses on. These glasses hasd that macho look. Even the village’s evil eye couldn’t dare look because I would see them before they do their evil deed. There was a waiting Mercedes Benz E350 on standby to have me arrive home in style. The distance from the ground to the house was less than 1km. I told the head of security that I would walk home.
By this time, the village was slowly rasping into life. They had buried the guy who landed a few years back. He was alive. Alive and well. The few who dared came close and even extended a hand or two for a greeting before being thwarted by the security detail. We were soon at the gate and I gently pushed it in. Took that one deep confident breathe and began walking to what our house. It had stood the test of time. I saw one of my uncles who was out to have a smoke. The moment I took off my glasses was the last time he took a puff. Some say, that that was the last cigarette he took. My dad was behind the house listening to some Rhumba music. I didn’t want to startle him and so I sent the security guys to call him to the front. He was shocked, and couldn’t hold back tears when he saw me. I couldn’t hold my emotions and so I wailed and broke down as I embraced the man I last saw 10 years ago. He held me for the longest time. He had missed me. He had seen his dead son alive once more. I asked of my mother, sisters and daughter Melanie. He assured me that he would tell that to me as soon as we got into the house.
My mum had gone to the market and the phone-call from dad asking her to come home was the best thing to her. Seeing dad tell her that our son is alive almost broke my heart. Dad also informed me of Melanie’s scholarship. She was studying aeronautical engineering in Dublin, Ireland. My two sisters had all been married and had awesome families based on the pictures I saw on Dad’s tablet. My mother was also shocked to accept that I was alive. The village priest was quickly notified and he showed up with the tools to perform a ritual to have me accepted back to the village. That ritual involved flattening of the supposed grave that I was ‘buried’ in. I also informed them of Nasra, and the plans that I had with her as soon as she returns to Kenya from the UK.
Birmingham, (West Midlands) United Kingdom, February 2028
The winter chill was not the best to encounter for someone who had never experienced the cold weather in life. When Nasra and her parents said that today is a tad warm with temperatures at 4 degrees, they must have been out of their mind. To do weather forecasting was not the reason I had flown to the UK. Nasra’s dad who had never approved of our engagement had summoned me to meet him over the same. I was at peace, yet scared as I didn’t know what to anticipate. Had he had a change of heart? There was only one way to find this out. Accepting the invitation to The Cannon Hill Park. Nasra’s dad had invited both Nasra and I for tea.
Have you ever gone for a meeting where you had an idea of what to expect in terms of the hardline stance that had you back and forth for months? Me neither! This was a first. What would Nasra’s Dad say? He had issues with Nasra’s new found faith. It perplexed him that Nasra would not accompany them to the mosque on Friday. It further perplexed him when Nasra started to meet other young people at the cathedral for what she referred to as fellowship. What was he going to say to us?
We got to The Cannon Hill Park with our heartbeats in synchrony akin to a West African tom-tom drum in a Mandinka Cultural Festival. We asked Elohim for His will in this meeting. Nasra’s Father received us in one of the most surprising ways. He embraced Nasra, before ignoring my handshake and instead ushering me to a reassuring and comforting hug. Was this a sign? I asked myself even as he released me from the hug. He asked us to sit, before signalling a waitress to attend to our table. Mr. Abdul-Ghafur Salim Abeid was his name. A citizen of the United Kingdom. A resident of Beles Qoqani in Somalia. He took a sip of his tea with precision, savoring every ingredient in the tea. He gave that satisfied look as soon as he had downed the first cup. Why do want to Marry Nasra? I answered confidently, “I want to marry your daughter, because above everything, God has led us to each other for a purpose that is beyond us.”
Who is God to you? He asked again. This time it was Nasra who answered. Dad, Elohim is his name. He is the one who brought us out of the deathly hallows that we faced in Somalia. He is the one who has brought us alive back to you. He is the one who made this day possible. Mr. Abdul-Ghafur raised his left hand. Nasra went quiet. He looked me in the eye, before softly saying, Take care of Nasra. Take care of her even better than I did. You spent almost 10 years running in Somalia. You can only be happy if you two fulfil that purpose God gave you. You have my blessing son. Welcome to the Family Son. He stood up, walked to both Nasra and I and embraced us. That was it. That was it.
St. Francis ACK Karen, April 2028.
The convoy carrying the bridal team pulled up at the parking of the new sanctuary. The groomsmen made there way into the church greeted by cheers, jubilation and ululation. It was indeed a beautiful day. Even the sun knew how beautiful this day was that it did a self regulation on how much heat to radiate on that day. The vicar of St. Francis Rev. Dr. Izza Kalle made the announcement for the groom and the best man to join the rest of the groomsmen in-front of the church. As usual most people expected the kawaida walk-smile-and-wave-at the church move. That wasn’t me. Half way through the walk, the music hit and it was time to get that final dance as a bachelor. The team joined in as we finessed our moves into the formation for the bridal team to join us.
There she was. Leading her was her own sister Nazlin who brought the house down with her beautiful voice singing A moment like this by Leona Lewis. Electrifying considering how most of the congregants remained shocked, and had their jaws dropped as Nasra took her beautiful steps with precision and majesty. That moment, flanked by her mother and father she walked in smiling behind that veil. I couldn’t help but notice someone was cutting onions as all of a sudden my eyes were flooded. This was happening. This was finally happening.
Rev. Dr. Izza Kalle conducted the wedding ceremony in one of the most profound ways considering he walked with both Nasra and I in the run up to the wedding. He counselled us, prayed with us even when we felt like it was hard to carry on. He encouraged us to keep standing on our faith amidst the challenges that we faced. It was a joy when he pronounced us man and wife and we had the permission for that first kiss. Beautiful moments. Beautiful stories. Beautiful people. Everything in the end worked out for our good; for His Glory just like He said in His Word.
Once the festivities were done, we took our retreat away from the rest of the people and family to thank God for what he has done. Great things He did. Great things He will keep doing. We checked into the international departures section at JKIA as we waited to board the EK 721 to Dubai from where we could connect to Maldives. While we held hands, looking up to the sky, I saw Emily smiling down at me. She was happy I found rest and happiness in the journey of revenge. Our thoughts and lovey-dovey moments only interrupted by a call to my phone. Hello, Am I speaking to Anjeyo Erick? Yes, I answered. First of all, congratulations on your wedding. Am sure you don’t know who it is. There will be no need to know me. I have something precious that belongs to you. There was some struggle before a lady on the other end spoke.. Daddy, don’t let them take me away… Melanie…. That was Melanie… A gunshot. It was precise. It was was loud and deafening. Now you know we are not here to play. When you get to Dubai, you will get another call. Safe trip till then. Cha! Cha! Cha!!