Everyone in the room was quiet as we looked at a man in his early fifties standing in front of us. He was sobbing like a child as he read a letter he had written to his dear elder brother. It was so touching to see him in tears at his age and status in society.
However, he was not the only one who had cried after reading the letter he had written to his dear one. Almost everyone between sobs read their messages in the hearing of everyone in the room. For women, it was even worse as some cried uncontrollably.
I had equally written a letter and read it full of emotions, holding back the tears with difficulty. I would have cried however for the sake of upholding views people have of military men I cried from inside.
This happened at a workshop for School Managers and Counselling and Guidance teachers. I was one of the participants at this workshop. The Counselor told us to get plain papers.
“From now on, no one should utter a word just follow my orders,” he instructed us.
“Think of one person you loved very much but is now deceased,” said the Counselor.
“They could have died many years ago, but you really miss them, and you wish they were still around to share your joys and sorrows, but they are gone never to return again,” the Counselor added.
He then instructed us to write letters to our dear departed ones, telling them how much we missed them. And how we wish they were still alive. We looked at one another in disbelief, we could not say anything, remember we were told not to utter a word but to follow his instructions.
“This is unusual…un-African, to say the least! How can one write a letter to someone who is dead? “Which address are we going to use?” One headmaster questioned incredulously ignoring the order not to say anything.
Then the Counselor said, “Sir just write anything, even two lines are enough.”
Reluctantly, we all started writing letters to our beloved departed ones. The room was calm and quiet. It was like when you are expecting a body of your deceased relative at the airport who died from outside the country. And you are told, ‘the plane will be landing in a few minutes’.
As my turn came to read the letter I had written to my late father, memories of him became so vivid. My voice was shaking, as I read it I almost broke down.
My letter read as follows;
I remember the last time I saw you so vividly it could be yesterday, but that is impossible because I am older than you were when you were taken away from us. On that fateful night, you came home around 0100hrs a.m from work. As you were about to enter the house, you found a lot of ‘inswa’ on the veranda.
You knew that those flying insects were a favourite delicacy of mine. Knowing how excited I’d be to catch them, you woke me up. Your food was on the table, but you never ate. You said you had work to do. Then you left me outside catching my meal for the next day. I was only eleven years old then. You headed towards police Camp to check on the recruits on duty/guard.
No sooner than I had completed my activity than I heard gunshots in the direction you and your friend had gone. I rushed inside the house. I woke mum up. I had a terrible premonition that something was wrong.
“Maybe it’s the sentries scaring thieves, just go back to sleep,” said my mother.
A couple of minutes later, your friend came back home. He told mum that a sentry had shot you by accident.
I still remember your words as you were being rushed to the University Teaching Hospital. Your love for us touched me very much.
“Who is going to look after my children…? Who is going to care for them?” You cried in pain. Even in pain, all you could think of was your family. Dad, I miss you very much. I have a gaping hole in my heart, but even though you left me at 11, you had already taught me that men don’t cry. Didn’t Dad?
I wish you saw how we suffered when you left. All you had worked for was grabbed from us by your relatives. Imagine some of our clothes and blankets were taken away from us. Mum was persecuted by your relatives who used to visit us you when you were alive.
Dad, I went to a primary school with the lowest standards you can ever think of. We sat on desks with planks suspended on blocks made of mad/mortal. The last pair of shoes I had is one you bought for me a week before you met your untimely death. Shoes became a luxury mum could not afford to buy for me. My uniform was not the best one would proudly put on when going to school. Dad, I wore a torn uniform.
Dad, I slept on an empty stomach, a thing that never happened before you left. I used to cover myself with sisal sacks throughout the night before mum replaced the blankets that were grabbed from us.
Dad I was once chased from school because Mum could not raise school fees.
I slept in a grass thatched house with a leaking roof. During the rainy season, I would shift to a safe corner to avoid being socked. Dad, remember we had just moved into a big and beautiful house pending your promotion to Chief Inspector, little did I know that we were only going to be there for one week.
Dad many bad things happened to us when you left. We suffered. I can go on and on.
However, the excellent news Dad is that Mum through God’s help managed to see me through my formal education until I obtained a degree in education and now pursuing a masters degree.
She taught me self discipline and trusting in God. This has made me reach this far. I now have three kids just like you left the three of us. The only difference is that you had two daughters and one son; I have two sons and a daughter. My first born is named after you.
Dad, I am now working. How I wish you were here to see how I have grown into a responsible man.
You must be wondering why I am starting every sentence with ‘Dad”. It’s now 33 years ago since you left, but to me, it’s like yesterday. Dad, I miss you so much. Since then I have never called anyone Dad serve for your namesake, my firstborn son. Dad you left too early at only 36 years. This year, Dad am older than you were at the time you went.
I shall join you one day …”Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” Hebrews 9:27
Dad till we meet again on the judgement day…..
Your firstborn son,
After the workshop, I repeated this exercise with my teachers. Most of them broke down as they read their letters to their loved ones just like what happened at the workshop.
I reminded them to take care of the orphans we had at our school. If at their age they could cry for their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who died ten or twenty years ago, what more pain were the young ones going through when they thought of their departed parents.
If a head-teacher in his fifties broke down when he remembered his departed brother what would stop orphans from crying every day especially if we neglected them.
If I nearly cried when memories of my dad were rekindled, what would stop orphans from crying every day?
I encouraged them to change their perception and treatment of orphans.
Remember to wipe away tears of orphans and the underprivileged in society in any way you can.
God bless you without reserve.