The Covid-19 death statistics always seem distant until the disease takes someone close to you. Today, on the second Father’s Day since the first case of the virus was reported in Kenya, there are Kenyans who are fatherless due to the virus.
Four such individuals spoke with Lifestyle on what it feels like to mark a Father’s Day after losing their dads to the pandemic that has claimed the lives of at least 3,300 Kenyans.
They spoke pensively about what the loss means to them and the memories they carry of their fathers. Today being the 465th day since Kenya reported the first coronavirus case, they also had a word of caution for those doubting the existence and the deadly nature of the virus.
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In the last week my father Isaac Ronoh lived, we suffered the same disease: Covid-19. While I emerged victorious, he lost the battle.
He was a very present dad. So much that at one point in his career, he gave up his job just to be with us, his family. I can’t remember any time in my life that I needed him and he wasn’t there for me.
I remember during his final week on earth, I also suffered from Covid-19. He also had it. But he would be the first person to call. Always. In the morning. To ask my husband how I was doing.
I could tell he was masking his symptoms, just to make sure I’m not overwhelmed by thinking about his health.
The night before he died, I also had breathing problems. It was a Wednesday night. Unknown to everyone else, my father was also having breathing problems that night. Except that in my case, I was taken to hospital on time.
I realised I was struggling to breathe and notified my husband. When I was put on oxygen, I stabilised. Unluckily for him, my mum realised in the morning that my father was not feeling well. By then, his oxygen level had dropped to around 36 units, against the normal 80 to 100. When they got to hospital, he was admitted to the intensive care unit.
There were no ICU beds, but my mum, brothers, sister and close relatives tried everything they could. Remember, this was at the time of when Covid-19 was treated with much heightened dread. The family was required to raise Sh200,000 to secure a bed. While they were in the process of transferring him to the ICU in another hospital, that’s when they were informed that he had already died. He rested on April 1, 2021.
All that time, I was in hospital, admitted.
I didn’t even know that he had died. I just remember that at some point, my husband walked to my ward and took my phone. I later learnt that this was meant to keep me from seeing on social media that my father had passed on. When I was discharged the next day, that’s when the news of my father’s death was relayed to me. He was a dad to so many people. I remember growing up, there’s never a single period that we stayed without relatives around.
And whenever a girl in our village was getting married, he would always be part of the negotiation team.
Félix Jeff Onyango Ouma, 25,
On April 15, 2021, at around 2pm at Siloam Hospital in Kericho, my father, Mr Aggrey Ouma Onyango, died. It started like flu and a slight cough. Within hours it worsened. And within a period of one month, he was no more. Days later, he was laid to rest at our rural home in Simerro, Ugunja.
A sporty man and an engineer, dad lived a healthy life. At least peripherally. I, particularly, didn’t imagine he would die this soon.
He was the most hardworking man I know and he inspired me a lot. But, I especially remember him for instilling in me the fighter spirit and perseverance.
He was always a busy man. But whenever he had time, he always brought together the whole extended family.
My dad groomed me to be the proactive and creative person I am today. I can gladly say that I could work in any field regardless of the pay. He always reminded me that humility is key. He also taught me to respect my seniors, something that has stuck in my mind all along.
The demise of dad has dealt me a big blow. Responsibilities and the uphill task of fitting into his shoes hasn’t been easy. Psychologically I’m in lots of pain, denial and a state of disbelief. I didn’t expect dad to die this early.
Seeing his seat empty is heart-breaking. It constantly reminds me of his palpable absence and a gap that doesn’t seem to get filled any soon. Inasmuch as time heals, I don’t think the vacuum he left will ever be filled by anyone.
It is with this loss that I realised how hectic it was to consolidate the inheritance he left us. Everything now needs us to get a lawyer to grant us permission to operate, including proving that we are his children.
We had not always been that close with him and when he died, we didn’t know most of his passwords and where he stashed some of his documents. I personally regret being too guarded around him such that he didn’t disclose much about his possessions to either me or other family members.
My father was a strict disciplinarian and the most loving grandfather my children will never have.
This far, I would tell fellow Kenyans that Covid-19 is real. Let’s not doubt the monster; it kills. My father succumbed to it.
Frankline Makarios Momanyi, 22,
We were five in our family. Now one of us, Mr Makarios Onkundi, my father, has left. He was the breadwinner and was in charge of making key decisions in our house.
I have known him as a provider. And though he was always cautious with how we used our resources, he endeavoured to give wholesomely. This is how I learnt to be economical yet generous.
On Friday June 11, 2021, he breathed his last. Losing my dad means I put on his shoes. For a moment they may not fit, but it is my prayer that I rise to the occasion because I’m called upon to by circumstances.
As a man and a second born, I believe the only way to cope with my dad’s demise is working twice as hard as he did to make my family proud. I hope to take up his legacy to the next level.
He was a quiet man yet very hardworking and a perfectionist. His emphasis on success and acing everything one does was his way of ensuring we give the best while at something.
Dad taught me to be strong; to always be a man. To always keep on going even when it seems tough. And most importantly, he taught us to revere God. But he never taught me how to live without him.
Thank you, dad, for the sacrifices you made to ensure we have a good life. You’re my hero. Forever.
I will remember my dad as a fighter and a humble gentleman with a giving heart.
If I’ll live to tell the story of the pandemic to my children, I will tell them of how the pandemic painfully snatched our dad. Because this virus has robbed me of my wonderful dad, I would wish to ask my countrymen to observe measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
I will also remember this pandemic for occasioning the worst moment of my life. It is a painful loss. May your soul rest in peace, dad.
George Okelo Lowo,
My father, Mr Lawrence Lowo Wauna, was an academician. Beyond the walls of the classroom, he was a disciplinarian, a no-nonsense man yet immeasurably loving father and a sociable man.
Trained as a teacher of Kiswahili and history, he was great historian. Wherever he was home, he wowed us with his endless stories. I can glad gladly say he instilled in me the character of discipline and hard work — qualities that I possess to date.
My father had two wives and 12 children. In the first family, we are four — two boys and two girls — and eight in the other family.
Born on Jan 2, 1946, he rested aged 75 and was buried on June 12, 2021. Having lost my mum in 2018, and now dad, my siblings and I are now total orphans.
It was heart-breaking bidding bye to the man I called dad, to the man on whom I found a confidant and a mentor.
Dad had diabetes type two and bronchitis, which were well-managed. However, his situation was worsened by Covid-19, which we believe he contracted in Kisumu. Kidneys failed first and finally pulmonary embolism set in.
Losing my father to coronavirus has pained me yet cemented my belief that Covid-19 is real. I have seen it take away my dad and many others before. Let us be keen and follow the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.