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Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV
It is fundamental to have a close relationship with the Lord. When we reach our end, we can turn to God and ask Him to hold us with His right hand. I experienced God’s love, mercy and comfort even as I was going through this deep valley of grief and death.
My husband had a close relationship with his parents, especially his mother. My father-in-law had died a year prior and I was worried about how my mother-in-law was going to cope with the death of her last born.
When one of her sons went to pick her from Karatina, he told her his daughter, who was named after her, was going abroad and he wanted her to say goodbye. She was brought to our house accompanied by her first-born daughter who was very close to my husband. There were many people and it was difficult to break the news to her.
After some time, one of her daughters, who is a nurse and a trained counselor, told her what had happened. My mother-in-law broke down as did we in tears.
God is faithful because He was able to take her through the mourning period. One thing I knew is that she shared my grief together with my children. It is very sad when parents have to bury their children.
Three days before the funeral, my children and I went to the City Centre with my best friend to buy clothes for the funeral. In the late 90s, most imported clothes were sold at big exhibition stores located at the Railway Club. There was an amusement park next to the exhibition centre, which was very popular with children. My husband used to take the children there for fun over the weekends, especially on the “Merry Go Round” machine.
As we were moving around the various shops, we came across one selling children’s clothes. Esther shouted, “My Dad said he will buy me this dress.” She was pointing at a very beautiful cotton dress with lace from Thailand. Before I could say anything, Andrew commented, “It is true! Last time we came to the park, Dad said he would buy her the dress.” This brought tears to my eyes and I told my friend that we had to buy it.
Esther fitted the dress and sure enough, it was her size. I did not care about the cost. I just wanted Esther to know that she could have the dress her Dad had promised to buy her. We were able to get clothes for the funeral, but for me it was just a mechanical process. The thought that I was buying a dress to bury my husband brought more grief to my heart.
On the burial day, we started our journey very early in the morning to Mater Hospital Mortuary. When viewing of the body began, my children and I were allowed to go in first. My children were devastated because they were seeing their father’s body for the first time. Andrew, who was 10, could not handle it. He ran out crying not knowing where he was going. It was a difficult moment for me. Some men ran after him and he was brought back. I held him by the hand and took him to view the body because I felt he needed closure. Viewing the body was a devastating experience.
Later, I realized I made a mistake by listening to family members and friends. When I went to view my husband’s body before the burial day, I wanted to have all my children with me. However, I was advised not to go with them as the last image of their dad should be that of when he was alive. Yet here we were viewing the body with all the other people who had come to the mortuary. This bothered me for a long time because we didn’t have that private moment as a family. All the same, God helped me come to terms with it and healed me from the hurt of others. Many people forget that children are also bereaved and they also have to deal with the loss.
After the mortuary, we went to CITAM Valley Road where the funeral service was officiated by Bishop Emeritus Boniface Adoyo. When the casket was put in front, I looked at it and my mind went back in time to my wedding day at St. Andrews Church where my husband and I exchanged vows in front of that church. My mind then came back to the reality of my husband laying in a coffin in front of this church. That was a hard reality to acknowledge.
After the funeral service, we left immediately for Karatina in Nyeri County. One of my friends and her husband donated a vehicle to carry my children, the house girl, my best friend and I. I cried all the way from Nairobi to Karatina, which is approximately a two and a half hour journey. Can you imagine driving behind a hearse that is carrying your husband’s body? That was the most painful journey of my life.
Since I got married, I had never driven to Karatina. My husband always drove. As we followed the hearse, I could recall the many times we were on that road, sometimes with the children and other times just the two of us. I could not believe that my husband would never drive me again. My eyes were focused not on the hearse, but on my husband’s body in the coffin. This brought more tears to my eyes. My children were also weeping. Nobody could stop us from crying.
Later, whenever I would drive on that road, I imagined my children’s pain from following a car carrying their father’s body. Only God can heal such pain.
We arrived home safely and we had a service, officiated by Rev. Kivanguli, who was a Pastor at CITAM Karen. Many people came for the funeral including the local community. We were burying my husband in Kiamigwi Village, where he was born and attended Gikumbo Primary School.
As we headed to the burial site, my pain increased. I was never going to see my husband again. The grave is painful to deal with. The end had come. When the body was lowered to the grave, it hit me that my husband was no more. I could not bear the pain of my children, his mother, brothers, sisters and his relatives.
I thank God for all the people who came to mourn with us including family members and friends. May God richly bless them because their love and encouragement made the experience partly bearable. The trauma of death is terrible.
Many had come to bury my husband and by evening most of them had left. We were left with some family members and my close friend who chose to spend the night with us. We have been friends for a long time and she is a committed Christian and a prayer warrior. We went to the same college, and she knew me well before I got married. That night she spent a lot of time praying and encouraging me together with my children. She was truly God sent. The night was dark but I thank God for her encouraging words on God’s love for us and His knowledge of our pain.
When it came time to sleep, that is when my pain and grief grew. At least I had a very good house girl, who had stayed with us for a long time and was able to take good care of my children. I could not sleep. Thank God the lights were off and nobody could see my eyes were open. Throughout the night my mind moved back and forth from the house we were sleeping in to the place where we buried my husband.
I could see my husband in a coffin six feet under and covered with earth. It was too painful. As a Christian I knew it was only my husband’s body which was in the grave and his soul was with His Maker. However, his physical death was too painful for me. I tried to pray but all in vain. It’s like my body and mind closed up. That was the longest night in my life. The reality of the loss of my husband hit me like a bomb.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.2 Corinthians 5:8 NIV
2 Corinthians 5:8 could not wipe away my tears. My grief was too heavy.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV
Death became even more final that day when my husband was buried. But God is faithful and He knows our every need.
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV
Going upcountry to bury a spouse is challenging. My husband and I met in Nairobi and our wedding was also in Nairobi. We would go upcountry to visit his parents and return to Nairobi where we lived.
The thought of going back to Nairobi without my husband traumatized me. Life seemed meaningless. I also felt sorry for my children who would not enjoy their Dad’s company again.
There are some widows who get emotional during funeral arrangements and when they are provoked by their in-laws, they say they don’t want anything to do with their husband’s family. As a result, some insist on burying their husbands in Lang’ata Cemetery or elsewhere. This has caused many widows to be disinherited because the in-laws say they cannot give the widow their land since she “threw” their son in Lang’ata or any other cemetery in other towns.
Many people also don’t like writing wills. This creates a lot of confusion when one dies without a will.
Widows should listen to God and avoid any confrontation during funeral arrangements. You are very vulnerable and some people want to provoke you so that you can be disconnected from your husband’s family. Since you are already going through trauma, inheritance is the last thing on your mind.
If your husband’s parents are alive, even if it is one of them who is still there, it is important to listen to them and agree where your husband will be buried.
The Lord visited me in a mighty way concerning where to bury my husband. I told the Funeral Committee that my mother-in-law, who was the surviving parent, should make the decision of where my husband would be buried. There was no further discussion on this matter after my mother-in-law said her son should be buried in his ancestral home in Karatina, next to his father.
It is important to remember that while you have lost a husband, your children have lost a father. They will still need to identify with their father’s family. When you disconnect from your in-laws, you put your children through a lot of stress. They lose their identity. In case you find yourself with very hostile in-laws, at least identify one or two of your husband’s kin who can relate well with your children. When the children see this person, they will feel encouraged that their father’s family has not forsaken them. This is a very sensitive matter but with God all things are possible.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Immediately after the death of a spouse people come out in their true colours because there is no husband to protect you. There are some in-laws who may not have liked you but they don’t show it when your husband is alive. The moment your husband is no more, all hell breaks loose. I always wonder what a widow can do without God. When you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, He is able to give you wisdom, knowledge and understanding to surmount all the challenges that come your way.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.Psalm 111:10 NIV
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace- loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.James 3:17 NIV
It is only the Spirit of God Who can help you die to self. The words in Psalm 23 became very real to me during this time.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.Psalm 23 NIV
God is our ever present help. If you don’t have a relationship with God, it is difficult to trust Him when you need Him the most.