by Ederlinda Musngi

I will never forget this person in my life who has been a beautiful part of my childhood memories.

Sometime in the early dawn of November 1997, my mother woke me up and broke the news in whisper, “The finding was terminal cancer, we were just waiting.” I cried to death. It cannot be. How come it happened? Two months ago I saw my uncle sweeping their backyard. Just like ordinary days, he would do the normal chores around the house so as not to make himself a burden to his family despite the difficulty and pain he often felt at his back when he is fatigued. But time passed by too swiftly, it wiped away his presence. The impermanence of life always prevails and it has always been evident around us.

He stood with shoulders slightly slanted and in a lanky state as a bamboo tree. He was nearly six feet tall with a thin body built that looks unsteady when he walked. His wearisome shoulder used in carrying cavans of rice since childhood has been made more obvious in the way he limped. Nevertheless, he climbed up trees with confidence and with a speed like a cat running after its prey.

In the middle of the crowd he can easily be recognized because of his posture which tend to lean toward the left side of his body. He has brown complexion, the real color of a man natural in every farmer who works everyday under the sun cultivating rice fields for as long as there is a streak of light. His chiseled nose and medium sized eyes and his glossy white teeth are features made more attractive when he smiled. His fine and shiny hair stretched around his head is suitable to his delightfully oval-shaped face, which is pleasing to see. His grinning smile gives comfort and assurance to the heart of a person who loses hope.

He is a man of few words, a man of courage and encouragement. He is very reasonable and understanding toward his neighbor. He is a very patient fellow, full of love, reasons and understanding. Many come to him for advise and give him gifts. He is sensitive enough to know what to say to a person who is in need and weary.

I remember when I was a little kid, I used to play active games and sports, and often go home bruised and wounded. My mother would scare me that from that wound would come out different kinds of creatures. I would cry and go to my uncle. He would calm me and tell me to stop crying. With voice full of confidence, he would utter, “Don’t worry, that’s just a simple wound, after a couple of days that would be gone.” My heart would then be calm, the fear was vanished.

Even before he died, he exerted all his efforts with hope and confidence that he would soon be able to walk and work again. His enduring spirit and hope counted to make things bearable and gave us life after his death. My uncle was a wonderful person; his memory will remain in me and will be passed to all the generations next to me. To describe him as “The greatest uncle in the whole world”, is an understatement.

And this uncle of mine taught me the greatest lesson that, “Life is short and full of miseries. What we can offer to those who travel the way with us are hope and encouragement along with kindness and love, which will help and last until forever.”