“In the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit… Amen!” Everyone in the room chorused. Njagi rocked himself back and forth a few times to gain the momentum and finally whisked himself up. His knees creaking as he straightened up. His palms pressed against his knees, he hunched over to catch his breath, his brow and nostrils now shiny and polka dotted from the sweat. Njagi was a lanky man in his mid-forties who had been under siege by disease.
“It was almost as if diseases had a global conference, and decided to send their infestation to Njagi,” Njagi uttered aloud as he sturdily grabbed his cane and inched toward the cabinet at the back of the room.
People smiled uneasily, Njagi looked worse with every visit.
“Why don’t you get yourself a young one to take care of you?” Ayub stated with concern.
“I have no nephews and nieces interested in wasting their future caring for me.” Njagi retorted.
“Ah! My old friend, I don’t expect anything less from you, always a lover of attention and pampering, I am a middle-aged man not a cripple like you!” He chuckled, losing his balance quickly grabbing on the counter of the cabinet to break his fall.
Ayub dashed to his side, grabbing Njagi by the waist, “what are you looking for? Let me get it for you.” Ayub grabbed Njagi’s free hand and put it around his neck, steadily guiding Njagi back to the couch.
Everyone else was silent, unsure of what to do. Njagi was the leader, the beacon, he would know how to turn a depressing visit into an unforgettable party. Ayub was his voice of reason. But since he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and dysarthria, his wobbly gait and occasional bouts of slurred speech transformed him into someone most of his friends couldn’t recognize. And for one reason or another turned home visits into prayer meetings followed by depressing silence.
“I am not dead yet people! Your silence is painfully depressing!” Njagi would utter from time to time. Waitherero would then break into song or prayer as an interlude. Judy, Njagi’s sister-in-law would spend her time in the kitchen making endless cups of tea and refreshing the yams and sweet potatoes to keep everyone well fed.
When her sister, Yunia died five years earlier she didn’t really know how to manage it. Yunia was the extrovert who was like a bush on fire with Njagi. Now, all she could do was occasionally pop in when Ayub was around to offer her support.
“No, lower, yes, check the corner,” Njagi called out to Ayub who was rummaging the cabinet for a notebook and pen Njagi wanted to use.
“This one?” Njagi pulled out a tattered ruled notebook with the words “MY WILL” glued on the cover.
“Ahh! Ahsante! That’s the one.”
The silence was deafening, people got tense when they saw the title on the book.
“I am not dead yet! People! Come on, death isn’t something we should fear, but embrace, didn’t we just pray a moment ago?”
“Yes, for your healing and restoration not a preparation for your death!.” Judy barked.
“Oh! Look at you, your feistiness always emerges when you are concerned Judy. Yunia would be so proud of you!” Njagi’s remarked, Judy, rolled her eyes and walked back to the kitchen to refill the tea flasks.
Njagi coughed, causing his body to shake.
“L-l-l-l-l-l-l-et’s-s-s-s-s-s L-ll-…” The slur was back, Ayub gently touched Njagi’s shoulder. Njagi nodded knowingly and Waitherero burst into song!
“UNASTAHILI KUABUDIWA, UNASTAHILI YEEEEESSSSSSU!” Waitherero roared, as she gestured for everyone else to stand and sing. The singing continued for about an hour. Ayub grabbed a blanket and covered Njagi who was now shivering – he now had a fever. 20 minutes into the singing Njagi fell asleep.
The singing soon reduced to gentle hums as Njagi slept, Ayub steadily let go of his hand and excused himself, holding a handkerchief over his face waving Waitherero away from him. He needed a break from her constant bursts into prayer and praise. He needed silence. His friend was dying and he had no idea how he could help.