“I’m really trying my best for June not to be the worst month in my life”
It was 7:30am on the chilly morning of 29th June, 2019 when my bestie, Fifi, told me the above statement. We were at the Eldoret International Airport waiting for Fifi’s little sister to be cleared—as cargo. Yes, 29th June, 2019 was the date of the burial of my bestie’s little sister, Norah Chelagat Borus.
Clad in all black with pink flowers pinned on our lapelles, Fifi and I stood side by side but exchanged very few words as we waited for the clearance of Norah’s body at the airport. The cold temperatures added to the sombreness of the mood that morning. Once the clearance was done, we saw the hearse drive up to the airport reception, the indicative cue for us to start the despondent journey to Rayfarm; where Norah would be laid to rest.
Earlier on that month, Fifi had commemorated my birthday in advance as we had both anticipated being out of the country on the material day of my birthday, June 21st. Fiona would be travelling to California to attend Norah’s graduation at Stanford University while I would be travelling to Rome, Italy for a speaking engagement at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Fifi and I had even planned to enjoy the summer holidays in Rome together once I was done with my official duties but that never happened because… Norah passed on.
[Moment of silence]
A day before the tragic news was broken to us, I had gone with Fifi and the family to see her off at the airport as Fifi was going to visit Norah in California ahead of Norah’s would-be graduation a couple of days later. We (Fifi’s dad, mum, brother and myself) were all smiles as we exchanged hugs and kisses and bid Fiona farewell before her check-in. Little did we know what would take place a few hours later.
I received a call from Fiona in the wee hours of the morning and she told me, in her words, that Norah was “no longer with us”.
I was startled.
I thought it was a dream.
My voice was shaking as I responded, “No Fifi! No! How can this be? It is late in the night in Kenya. I will call you once its daybreak and I am fully awake. I pray that this is a vivid dream.” That was all I managed to say as I kept staring at my phone to verify whether indeed I was awake or whether I was dreaming. Well, it turned out that I was awake and needless to say, that phone conversation marked the end of my sleep that day.
As soon as it was daybreak, I went straight to Fifi’s parents’ house to show my support and be there for them the best way I knew how. As I walked in to the living room, I spotted Mama and Papa (I call Fiona’s parents ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’ too) looking dour. There were a handful of close friends and family in the room as well.
I went over to Mama and hugged her and she immediately burst out crying….. “Oh Amanda…” Mama struggled to finish the statement amid sobs as I her felt her warm tears soaking my sweater. Papa was crying too. It was sad. Tears started streaming down my face. I was sad. I was hurt. Moreso, I had to be there for my bestie who was in California alone at that time, bearing the brunt of the grief by herself. Fortunately, Papa booked the next flight to California as soon as the news was broken to him. Also, there were some supportive family members based in the United States who turned up to support the Borus family.
I had a conversation with Fifi later on that day:
Me: How are you holding up Fifi?
Fifi: It’s hard. I want her (Norah) back. I don’t even know what’s happening now. This is all a dream.
My best friend was in pain inexplicable yet there I was, lost for words. I really wanted to do more for Fifi. What could I do? What could I say? Grieving has no manual.
I’ve known Norah for as long as I’ve known Fiona. I vividly remember the day I first met Norah circa April, 2006 during the school holidays. Fiona, being her benevolent self, had offered to host me for lunch at their home after we had closed school. We were in the car with Papa on our way to pick Norah up from her then school, Jonathan Gloag Academy.
I remember her big, bright eyes looking at me as she asked me my name. “Amanda, my name is Amanda..” I replied but then she giggled and tugged my hair before responding, “My name is Norah..” and from that moment on, she kept tickling me in the car and we had an interesting ride to the house. At the time, Norah was eleven years old, and by virtue of Fifi, I had acquired a younger sister. I had never known what it meant having a younger sibling since I am the last born in my family but having Norah as my little sister sure felt great.
Fifi is such a loving person and it goes without saying that she loved her little sister deeply. In her tribute to Norah, Fiona said, “You understood me more than anyone else ever could..”
Norah has a very special place in my heart. She was my sister by choice, not by blood. I loved how smart, disciplined and determined she was. For Norah, impossible was nothing! Norah was loving, kind and extremely generous. She had a heart of giving, not just to the less fortunate in society, but to any and every person she could assist either morally, spiritually, materially or all the above.
I cried a whole lot when I heard of Norah’s demise. I cried till my eyes hurt and voice was hoarse. Oftentimes, I would cry myself to sleep with worship music playing in the background. I wore my heart on my sleeve in one of my Instagram posts.
I still cry. I take bathroom breaks in the office to just cry or I take a walk home with tears streaming down my face. Even as I am typing this article, tears are streaming down my cheeks. Norah will be missed deeply but as Papa-bear said, “Though Norah may be gone physically, she will remain alive in our hearts forever.”
Fifi has been hit hard by the loss of her baby sister and only God knows what she is going through. During this trying period, my sweet Babay is taking time alone to reflect and allow herself to grieve. I pray for Fiona everyday and I speak healing upon her heart. I miss my best friend; I really, really do. As you read this, say a prayer for my bestie and tell God to comfort her with a special kind of embrace that only God can give.
As painful as Norah’s loss is, Fifi and I take solace in the fact that she is heaven because she was born again. So, if you are reading this and are not yet born again, please repeat the prayer below:
Lord Jesus, I heed to your call in my life. I denounce the devil and my evil ways and I choose You to be Lord and Savior in my life. I believe in my heart that You died on the cross to set me free. I believe that You rose again from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I receive the life of Christ in me today. I am saved. I have been set free. I am born again. Jesus is Lord over my life. Hallelujah! I am now a child of God. In Jesus’ Name I confess.
When God says that He will come like a thief in the night, He really does mean it. Norah’s death was so sudden, at least to us it was, and this goes to show that indeed we do not know the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return.
I will leave you with a snippet of the “Rail On” by Papa Wemba lyrics that goes on to express what’s going on in my heart:
Machozi yangu yote namalizika (All my tears have run dry)
Mie nitalala na nani (Who will I sleep with?)
We unaenda (You are going)
Mie mpaka ni mawazoo ooh ooh (I am thinking of you ooh ooh)
mie mpaka ni kuwazawaza (I still keep thinking of you)
we unaenda (You are going)
Norah did a cover of that very song and you can watch her play her guitar as she soulfully sings.
Rail on Norah, rail on…