Legends never die, they live on in our hearts, minds and in our soul…
It is exactly a month today that my grandfather was taken away from us. He was 94 years old, but his mind was as sharp as a razor and his heart as generous as an ocean. There is so much to say about him, that I am afraid words are not enough. Where do I even begin?
My first real memory was when I came to London from Kenya to live with my grandparents and my aunt. I was only 10 years old and had to leave my parents behind. Of course I missed them dreadfully, but my grandparents looked after me and kept me safe. I used to get upset when my granddad would not let me go out with my friends. One day, I asked him why and he replied that if anything were to happen to me, then what answer would he give to my parents. Then I realised that I was his responsibility and he was only protecting me from harm.
My granddad was over 6 feet tall and larger than life. He had an aura, a presence, but was as cuddly as a teddy bear. He was the real BFG – big, friendly giant. How I wish I could give him one more hug.
People would look up to him (literally!) and as a role model. He was a godfather and peacemaker of our community, and had people calling him and visiting him for advice on their marital, social and financial problems. He was very sociable and had lots of friends as he was very loyal and helpful to all that he met. He was usually out on late nights with the boys (much to the disdain of my grandmother)!
He had always wanted to be a lawyer, but sacrificed his dreams so that his two younger brothers could pursue theirs and go on to become doctors. Instead he helped his father run his textile business and eventually took over the running of their blanket factory in Uganda. From a young age and right up to his last day he was always thinking about others.
The twins were lucky to have a great grandfather like him. Every Thursday we would try and visit him after school. It was our ritual, our quality time with him. He would hug the twins, ask them how their day went and then offer them pieces of chocolate (when I wasn’t looking, of course)! They would then sit next to him and play on his ipad. Yes, he had an ipad, and a desktop computer, and was proficient in both! Even at that age, and with his diminishing eyesight he used to love playing bridge, poker and solitaire online. He would update his contact lists, and read and reply to his emails daily.
He loved living, and having his family around him and would do anything for them. He had 6 daughters, 11 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. Family trips and barbecues were where he was at his most content; where he could cook for us, eat his favourite foods and just watch over his entire clan.
It was at one of these family trips last year that I had a surreal moment which I will never forget. We were all staying over at a beautiful country house with a swimming pool. There were a few of us in the pool, and I remember looking around and feeling overwhelmed as I saw my granddad, my mum, her sisters, me, my sisters, my cousins and the twins – all four generations all swimming and laughing together and having so much fun!
He leaves behind my wonderful grandma, who was his wife for 70 years! She is the quiet and dedicated force that was behind the successful man, and it must be the hardest for her to lose her life partner after so many happy years together.
One thing I remember about my granddad was how much he missed his own mum (my great grandmother). She passed away about 30 years ago, but he was always talking about her and remembering her. Even towards the end, one day when he was in hospital, a nurse came in to remove the drip needle from his hand. She yanked it out with such force that he let out a shout and called out to his mum. Tears welled up in my eyes as I could not bear to see his pain.
The last thing that I said to him at the end was that I loved him. At this stage, he was finding it a struggle to even speak, but he whispered “I love you too”, and I know he did. He loved us all.
The only consolation that we have is that although we have lost a rare diamond, we believe that he is no longer suffering and is in a better place. After all, the safest place to be is in the arms of your mother – no matter how old you are.
Legends never die. They live on in our hearts, minds and in our soul…