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To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die...

May 15, 2013

On Saturday the 27th April, 2013 will be a day never to be forgotten by many who knew the now Late Senator Mutula Kalonzo of Mbooni Constituency, Makueni County in Kenya. I remember I was at the office putting together some documents I needed for an event we were organizing, when I had this sudden impulse to switch on the TV just to see what was going on in the world. As soon as it was on, the first thing I saw was the red banner at the bottom of the screen reading “Breaking News: Mutula Kilozo dead”…. I screamed in shock. How now was the Senator dead? To say that suddenly my mind was filled with “conspiracy theories” as to what could have caused his death is an understatement. For my own good, I will keep my thoughts to myself and hope that in due time, the cause of his death will be unveiled.

The Late Senator was laid to rest on the 9th of May, 2013 but before he was laid to rest, there was an awesome requiem mass held for him on the 8th of May, 2013. I was watching the entire proceedings from my office and I have to admit, I was moved by the eulogizers, not because they were eloquent (which they were), but because of the content of their eulogies. Everyone who stood to speak about the Late Senator had nothing but praises for him, and even where there was something negative to be said about him, it was packaged in a positive way.

I remember one eulogizer who said that when the late senator was campaigning, his campaign budget was less than Kshs 1M while others spent millions and millions to campaign but didn’t sail through. The Late Mutula trounced his closest rival with tens of thousands of votes to take the Makueni Senatorial seat. The part that amused me is where the eulogizer said that his campaign slogan was “it is up to you to decide whether you will vote for three Kilos of brain, or three kilos of beard…” Ouch! I feel sorry for the guy with the “3 kilos” of beard. That was a punch that must have left him gasping for air.

That was Mutula for you. He is the same person who was of the opinion that schoolgirls should be allowed to wear short skirts and not to be treated to a nun-like wardrobe (no offense to nuns). This man had a way with words that very few people will ever master. One of the eulogizers sent people cracking up when he said that he once asked the late Senator whether he had ever received any requests for his daughter’s hand in marriage. His response was that he was not very keen on exchanging his daughter’s brains for a few herds of cows…. If you do not know his daughter, Miss Kethi Kilonzo, she is one talented lawyer who is definitely following closely in her father’s footsteps, hence the jibe by the father about brains.

The long and short of it is that Kenya and the region as a whole has lost a unique person, a great lawyer and needless to say, his contribution to building the different faucets of society will greatly be missed. He was sold out to what he believed in and stood his ground fearing and favoring no one in protecting what he believed in. He did everything with passion, just like he lived his life. Indeed, he brought to life the quote by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, that says, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion”. I am therefore not surprised that eulogizer after eulogizer had nothing to say but great stuff about the departed.

As I sat in my office watching both the requiem mass and the funeral on the days each was aired live on TV, I have to admit whatever I heard and saw really got me thinking a lot about the lessons I had learnt from the Late Senator's life. Pensive does not even begin to describe how I was as I watched the proceedings. It was a time for me to really be honest with myself and ask the person called Liz some very tough questions....

Today if I was to pass on to the next world, how would I be remembered (if at all I would be remembered)? Would it be a feeling of “good riddance” or the opposite for those who knew me? Will I have lived my life for the actual purpose I was placed here on earth for? Will the world be a better place because I had been in it, or would my life have been a waste of time and space that could have been better utilized by someone else? These are just but a few of the questions I was asking myself on Thursday (9th May 2013) afternoon as I watched the live coverage of the Late Senator’s final journey to his eternal resting place.

I’d like to ask you a few questions too. Have you lived your life in such a way that when you leave, you will still be living in the lives of those you have left behind? What memories will your children, siblings, parents, friends, neighbors, workmates and everyone who knows you now be left with of you? If you are a grandparent, do you think your grandchildren will stand and say like Mutula’s grandson who said “you were the best grandpa any grandchild could ever ask for”? Have you been such a loving partner to your spouse that when you are gone he/she will not be saying “thank goodness its over” but instead will literally feel the gap you’ve left in their life? Will your workmates or employees throw a party and drink themelves senseless as they happily celebrate your absence as opposed to celebrating that you had lived and worked with them?

I could go on and on with these questions, but I am sure you've gotten the gist of what I’m trying to say. No one really likes talking about death but the reality is that death is the only logical exit out of this earth, unless rapture (as explained in the bible) happens soon. Since no one can ever predict when he or she will die, live your life like there is no tomorrow. Give your all to everything you do and remember, the important thing is your output when you are here on earth. Make a positive difference in the life of everyone you come into contact with. If you can manage to live a little “you” in every person’s life that you touch, then you will have created a lasting legacy, like the Late Senator did. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

In conclusion I leave you with the words of Thomas Campbell who said: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 12th May, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"

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