Ziporah sat in her small kitchen, dimly lit by golden rays of the sun retiring to the west, through small holes on the roof. A pot of chicken stew was simmering on the three stone fireplace . she kept adjusting the burnt firewood and adding some more. In retrospect, she realized the strange happenings of that day.
she served her husband dinner in his small hut and her kids in her main hut. Her compound had three huts. The middle one which was also the bigger one was her main hut, on the right was a small hut which she used as her kitchen and a chicken coop at night. On the left was another one for her husband. he had a separate house because he had other women, lots of women. women who came and went. some left immediately , some stayed a little longer. some came with kids, others got pregnant for him.
Earlier that afternoon, Solomon, her husband had returned from a friend’s burial he attended two days ago. His face was pale and he stuttered as he ordered Lona his eighth wife to leave his compound immediately. he asked Ziporah the only wife he had married according to their customs to prepare him a meal of chicken and ugali.
After dinner he had a talk with her, ”thank you for being a submissive wife, for being the breadwinner of our family as I drunk my money away, for tolerating my paramours and never quarreling them,sorry for not playing matrimonial polka with you anymore. I would love to come with you in your hut tonight but I can’t kill you.” She opened her mouth to make a rebuttal but he waved a silencing finger as he wiped a straying tear from his eyes.
She returned to her room with so much unsaid. it’s been five years since she shared a bed with him, she missed being a woman, feeling like one, she wanted to feel his warmth again. She didn’t comprehend what he really meant by ” I can’t kill you!” instinctively she knew something was very wrong
An eerie howl of sorrow woke her up, she grabbed the traditional oil lamp which was still burning ( she must have dozed off and left it on) and rushed to her husband’s hut where the noise came from. She was met by a tragic image of Solomon hanging in the middle of his hut and a small note on an old stood saying that he tested positive to HIV.
Life became unbearable for Ziporah after her husband’s death. She had to involve herself in high-risk jobs to make ends meet for her ten children and her three step children. The society did not make it easier stigmatizing her for her husband’s suicide. Her children dropped out of school one by one because the little she got was not even enough to put a decent meal on the table. Her sons became errand boys while her daughters fell prey to men and started bringing her grandchildren.
Peter her last son that was only five when his father died was the only ray of hope to the family. He continued with school despite all odds and was performing very well. When he was twelve and in class three he got infected by a viral disease that affected his salivary glands and ears. He was given herbal medication to treat mumps which left him deaf. He later had to drop out of school as they could not afford a special school.
Thirteen years later since the demise of her husband, she is opening up and telling her story of widowhood. she has buried two of her children and now remains with eight. Her three step children ran away in search of their mothers when life became tough by the day. her first son is now a drunkard passing out early in the mornings and picking fights with everyone in the village. The villagers despise him and call him all sort of names but deep inside he’s just looking for answers and when he can’t find them he finds solace in the local brew that he gobbles.
Peter now twenty five, and two of his brothers are masons in Nairobi while another brother is a watchman in Malaba. His sisters are laundry women in the slums of Kahawangware. Ziporah still does menial jobs to fend for a bunch of grandchildren she’s living with. she has healed from the tragedy , pain and trauma that the death of her husband and kids caused her, her mind and heart is at peace and her spiritual life has grown ever since she joined the ‘SOLID ROCK WIDOWS’ founded by mama Nancy Mazira Odwaro. Nancy doesn’t have much to offer the widows apart from spiritual food and encouragement to live and see what life brings forth in the future
As we leave her compound, a cow is mooing in hunger under a small tree.”Eeeh! as loud as lubao F.M,” she said pointing a warning finger to the cow, we all chuckled. Boring into her eyes I could see speckles of hope deep inside her, someday the small village of Lubao in Vihiga county, great news will embrace the household of mama Ziporah Keri. Maybe through a scholarship to her grandchildren, or a decent job to her children, or her son recovering from his alcohol addiction. she’s a living testimony, a story of hope and success that she has embraced before it comes!