LIFE AT WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Lydia Achieng’ Abura was born in a close knight family of ten; seven siblings and her parents. Life was sweet and beautiful. Every moment was golden. They danced together, sang and enjoyed each other. Dull moments were a rarity in their home.
Her family lived on a large farm in the Rift valley. I mean large, about one thousand five hundred acres of earth to their name! A beautiful farm by all standards nick named ‘Wuthering Heights’. Life at the very border between the Kalenjins and the Luo was becoming of them. I mean, she even took up the name Chebet! This, an indicator of their great rapport with their Kalenjin neighbours.
Achieng’ was a smart child. Clever, witty, brilliant you name it! In her certificate of primary education (CPE) exams, she emerged second in her region. Such stellar performance earned her a piano from her parents. A gift she kept and played for more than forty years. From it came her beautiful songs and albums that earned her fame and awards. Maisha is my favourite one!
Being an Alumnus of the giant Kenya high school(sorry THE Kenya high school) only goes on to cement the fact that she was a smart one. Thereafter she pursued her bachelors degree in the United states of America and even did a program on sugar technology in India. She bagged accolade after accolade as she was at it. Later on she got a masters in environmental studies.
OF LESSONS AND PAIN
Life is never a smooth ride. In fact, for some like Achieng’ it was one huge roller coaster. Huge ups(especially in her music career) and major downs. She became famous for her music and also her role as principal of the academy in the show Tusker Project Fame.
When she was sixteen years, her younger brother died in a horrific road accident. This harrowing experience broke her family massively. It is the deepest sorrow to lose someone you share such intimate blood ties with! Her mother was shattered and at this moment Achieng’ found God! She would read the bible and share with her mother. I would want to imagine they found the deep solace that the Psalmist offers. At this moment Achieng’ realized that their is a higher power, a higher calling than the momentary happiness that family provides. A great lesson learnt in the depths of despair.
MISFORTUNES NEVER COME SINGLY
Death being such a glutton was not sated. It quickly snatched her father away! She was daddy’s girl and I believe such a loss would cause immense sorrow and pain. One day he was here and the next he was gone, never to be seen again. Never to be enjoyed again, to be loved and touched. Never to be seen again on this side of eternity!
DREAMS THAT REMAINED DREAMS
Achieng’s mother wanted to set up her own sugar factory. She loved this idea so much that she sent Achieng’ to India to study sugar technology. A wonderful dream and a great aspiration there. While engrossed in the world of sugar, her mother sent her a heavy letter.
Achieng’ was to continue studying but the factory would never go up! Her mother had a heart disease. Back then as it is now, such conditions spelled doom. So with such heaviness she later returned home to take care of her mother. Her elder sisters were already married. She took care of her mother together with her two brothers.
At around this time Achieng’ received a bundle of joy, Prince Abura. A child that warmed her heart and definitely brought joy and happiness in her life. Her mother informed her decision to become a single mother. With her mother’s support she was sure of overcoming anything. This support was however short lived. Her mother succumbed to her illness five months after Prince’s birth!
This was a major blow to the cords of her family. It seceded their bonds. The family drifted apart slowly. The family business started to crumble. With everyone trying to implement their agenda, they could not stand. A family divided against each other faces imminent failure! The situation was luckily salvaged when three of her siblings rose to the occasion to become the administrators. A sense of order and peace was thus achieved.
Soon, however, this status quo was disrupted by the death of yet another brother of hers. Soon followed her sister Carren in 2002, who was her support system. A mother figure in the family and indeed very caring. One can only bear so much pain! Achieng was at a loss.
The last blow was dealt when her eldest brother Jack also died in 2007. This is the point where one sits down and wonders. Are we cursed? Is life fair? Is God fair? Why so much pain on me and not any other person? The answers to this she never did receive! From a family of ten individuals to three individuals remaining alive was a hard reality. Within about two decades of her life she had seen a string of so many deaths, so much pain and sorrow.
If that was not enough Achieng’s son Prince was born with sickle cell anaemia. The severity of this disease cannot be downplayed. Achieng had to take care of her boy even in the midst of so much loss.
Sickle cell is characterised by pain episodes as the red blood cells clump in the blood vessels. The pain was so horrific that Achieng herself describes it to be more than the pangs of child birth. Imagine witnessing such pain in your child’s life and being unable to do anything about it except give supportive care.
COULD IT GET ANY WORSE
In 2011, all hell broke loose when Prince was diagnosed with a heart disease! The same one that claimed his grandmother’s life. This, coupled with his sickle cell condition, birthed a nightmare. The heart condition amplified the severity of the Sickle cell. Every single day of his life after that was characterised by pain episodes. Daily pain that not even a mother can take away.
Such despondency and pain adorned Achieng’s life. Luckily however Achieng’s aunt in the United kingdom connected her to a research institution. This institution gave a glimpse and later a confirmation of a full treatment for prince. Finally a silver lining in their cloud. As they waited treatment this aunt also died. Nonetheless the research institution promised to ensure Prince’s treatment went through!
For five years since 2011 Achieng’ had to finance the supportive care for Prince! A tune of about twelve thousand Kenyan shillings daily among other expenses. Concurrently Achieng’ had a case in court to protect her family’s farm. A case that had been running for the longest time. Such financial burdens and social expectations took a toll on Achieng’.
She was witnessing her son’s suffering yet could not do much to ease the pain. Money in the thousands was being spent daily for Prince’s care. Her family was a skeleton of what it used to be. Three out of ten still alive. The world’s weight was imposed on her shoulder!
FRIENDS OR FOES?
Achieng’ started losing weight drastically. In 2016, the news reached her that her son’s procedure in the UK could finally be undertaken. She needed around four million to airlift her son to England and the rest would be catered for! Such excitement, such joy filled her heart. Finally, her son would be well.
Raising the four million, however, proved to be a challenge! She called fund raisers but very few people showed up, about ten would attend. An M-PESA pay bill was created but the money came in very slowly. Achieng’ was alarmed and sad. At her point of deep need no one seemed to be helping.
She was in despair since the best chance for her son was slowly fading. Her very rich friends whom she thought would help were silent when she needed them. Only few close friends, from as far back as Kenya High school and few musicians, the likes of Helen Mtawali helped! The rest failed her when she needed them most.
REST AT LAST!
On 20th October, 2016, Achieng’s spirit left her body at the private wing of Kenyatta national hospital. This was after she had lost over fifty kilograms very rapidly. In a tweet, she expressed how life had knocked her down. Life and its worries had gotten to her. One can only bear so much.
She was buried in Songhor at her father’s farm. She joined her siblings and her parents on the other shore. Achieng’ was eighth to die in her family of ten. She is survived by her son Prince.
Her life was a journey bravely borne!