Reflections on missed calls and regrets

At times, when we get the urge to call a brother, we may be saying our goodbyes.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

We nicknamed him Ng’osh. Which was short for “ng’ondu”, a Kikuyu word which means, sheep. And that’s because this jolly brother liked saying that everyone is a sheep. Just like that, a moniker that he meant for others became his handle.

Ng’osh relocated with his mother to the countryside around 2008. But we kept in touch. In fact, when I was building my simba – that is, the Luo traditional crib for a man – he helped me to purchase roofing sheets. As I could not manage to buy the iron sheets straightaway, Ng’osh negotiated with a hardware dealer in Yala town, Siaya County, where he lived. The arrangement allowed me to purchase the goods in instalments.

Then a little disagreement over pocket change made us to stop talking. We had a cold war for about three years. In late December 2015, a little voice kept telling me to call Ng’osh. I did. We spoke like it was all old times.

A week later, Ng’osh’s mother called me. “Josaya, your friend has just passed away,” she broke the news.

I was lost for words. But I realised that the still small voice that was urging me to call Ng’osh was, in fact, leading me to bury the hatchet and say my goodbye. I do not know what would have happened to me had my friend passed away without my swallowing my pride, making that first move toward reconciliation.

My high school classmate, Johnny had a similar experience. Unfortunately for Johnny, his did not have the ending he desired.

Johnny shared his story on our high school alumni WhatsApp group late last year, when we lost yet another mate, Dene*.

“Dene was a great human being. Some of my memories were when we used to ride together using his bikes, and we talked a lot. He was also gracious enough to be one of my groomsmen. We lost contact for a long while, only to hear that he got into rehab twice, quit his job and later his passing this week.”

“His death is particularly disheartening because I planned to look for him to just have a chat, like three months ago, yet I never made the time. It is a painful lesson for me. Sad as it is, life must go on.”

The guilt can be immense. For a brother in Johnny’s situation, the questions come in thick and fast.

 “Was there a word I was supposed to say, which would’ve altered the trajectory of my friend’s life? Was it more than chatting and catching up that were in the plans of God? If I knew then what I know …”

The flipside is, for those in Johnny’s shoes, we come out of the experience with a deeper spiritual insight. We do not take anything for granted. We become more attuned to the still small voice and, for what it’s worth – and it’s worth life and death – we do not ignore it.

I know this much is true: if we get such calls, we should not miss to call. I have learnt that, whenever a voice from the depths of my heart urges me to call or check on someone, especially someone we have lost touch, there is a valid reason.

I have also learnt that we do not have all the time in the world. We have to seize the moment when the urge comes to make an “unscheduled” call. At times, when we get the urge to call a brother, we may be saying our goodbyes. Or our call may be just what another brother needed to breathe or believe again.

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