Being a mum and a maternal, newborn and children health advocate has made me celebrate even the tiniest milestones in friends, relatives and even strangers’ pregnancies and child (ren) development. It is no wonder I gladly answer to calls to grace first birthday parties which, to me, are a celebration for making it through the first year of colic, burping, cries and fevers that come with jabs, stress that comes with weaning and the rambunctiousness that comes with crawling and first steps.
Most Saturdays of May and June have been spent singing birthday songs and sampling different flavours and shapes of birthday cakes all of which always remind me of God’s faithfulness, love and fulfillment of His promises towards these future voters.
Jabali’s first birthday was registered as well- We invited friends and families to celebrate with us. It was a small intimate affair with family and friends, more for the memories to show him when he’s older how much he meant to us and meant to so many people that were there to celebrate his big day.
The first week of July, 2nd July to be precise was not going to be any different for Natalie Mwende, the first and only child to my colleague Winnie Makau and her husband Vincent Makau. Natalie had clocked exactly one year and she was to blow her first birthday candle. But no, it never happened because baby Natalie fell ill on 30th June and had to be taken to Machakos level 5 hospital on 2nd July and she was admitted.
On 3rd July at exactly 7.30am, Natalie passed on having lived in this world for just one year, one day; she never lived to see her 5th birthday. Reports indicate that about 108,000 children die annually in Kenya before their fifth birthday with 65 per cent of them dying before they celebrate their first birthday.
So on Tuesday, 12th July 2016 we went to bury the bubbly Natalie in Katangi, Machakos County. It was a befitting yet painful send off with so many attendances from within and without. It was a weekday but her aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbours, and even politicians all came to give her a warm send off on that cold Tuesday.
Anytime I looked at her small pure white casket, my heart ached so badly. I may not have interacted so much with Natalie but Winnie and I were expectant almost the same time. Pregnant mamas are always buddies; they have a way of clicking with each other I think because they see themselves through the same lens as far as pregnancy experience is concern. Even after babies come, we still share the same experience- motherhood and the challenges that come with it. The news of Natalie’s demise saddened me. I imagined my Jabali and how he has occupied the greatest part of my life and tears just kept flowing freely because to be honest, I cannot envision life without my kababa.
My mind kept flash-backing on the many one-year-olds’ birthday parties I have attended in the past 2 months. The birthday celebrations were filled with so much joy and laughter. I was almost tempted to ask why Natalie? Why on her birthday? But again found refuge in my bible which says in Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Natalie was a baby, a cute bubbly angel of God who was blameless and sinless. I know she is resting in a better place, a place of milk and honey; a place where she will praise God with the other angles.
Winnie and Vincent, It was evidently so painful for a mother to bury her daughter and even more painful for a father to see the little casket carrying the remains of her daughter, probably the bearer of her mother’s name being lowered to the grave. Dear ones, Be encouraged with Psalm 34:18 which says: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
I conclude with words from one of Natalie’s grandfathers in his speech ‘Life is pleasant, death is peaceful, it is only the transition that matters’
Fare thee well Natalie, there is no doubt your parents really loved you…