My name is Mary Mbayaji I am a widow. I promised myself to close the book of my past life never to turn a page on it again. A book that is full of memorable days, days that are gone but the memories live in my chest and are stuck in my head. So instead of simply closing the book I write my story.

The year was 1992, when I was called to go and pick my husband’s remains from the mortuary. It was on Wednesday. My husband had left home on Monday for work. It was normal for him to go for days due to the nature of his work. A long distance driver.

Every nerve on my body went taut upon hearing the news. I lifted one heavy foot after the other to the office to confirm if it’s true. On my way I was crying and praying that it turn out to be a big miscommunication. God could not allow my husband to leave me with five kids the last born being just a month old. At the office they confirmed that his vehicle got an accident and he died on the spot. It was true he was gone. It was a cold, sad truth but it was the truth nonetheless. My heart was shattered, my brains zonked out. Everyone and everywhere was silent. Even God was silent on this.

I woke up from my shock a few minutes later. The sky was golden. The sun was already making its exit. The office secretary agreed to accompany me to Njoro where the accident had taken place. We left Kisumu a few minutes shy to 6 p.m. we arrived at Njoro police station at 8 p.m. The secretary confirmed the vehicles number plate and we were told that the driver’s body was at the municipal mortuary. Firstly we checked at the stretcher bay where unidentified bodies were kept and didn’t find him. We were directed to another room and there he was.

The room was filled with a sickly-rotting meat odor. I ensconced myself against the wall fighting the queasy feeling in my stomach.  The secretary couldn’t do the same and spewed a nasty mixture of what I believed was his lunch on the pale lifeless bodies. My husband’s corpse was lying still on the cold floor stained with dried blood. His vacant skin was already blemished with maggots. I ensured that he was cleaned and kept well before I left.

The next morning I travelled back to Kisumu to begin the burial preparations. At my house I was met with fragrance of emptiness. My in-laws had heard about the demise of their loved one. They had come at once and carried away everything from the house. My heart was screaming with rage and pain. I felt life being compressed away from me. I was getting by barely but I had to gather strength. I had a body to bury and most of all I had kids to take care of.

The next one week was the worst week of my life. I was accused of killing my husband. My in-laws took away my tittle deed, and every property my husband and I had worked hard for.  Nobody was interested in the plans of the burial. I planned everything by myself through assistance of my husband’s work place and my family.

On the day of the burial, I was given a list of men to choose one who would inherit me as the Isukha culture demanded. The procedure was a must before the body was laid to rest. I lied that I liked one so that they would allow me to bury my husband.  Immediately after the burial I left with my kids without notifying anyone. I wasn’t going to stop and be part of that backward culture.

I began life afresh. As a single parent working as a nurse aid my income was hardly enough to put a decent meal on the table. I lived on loans to be able to pay school fees. My three daughters are now married and have their own families. My eldest son is a farmer and my last son sell smokies and samosas in Kisumu town because I couldn’t give them a decent education despite the fact that their father worked so hard to secure their future.

Widows abuse has/is being overlooked. We are not outcasts, we should be allowed to mourn our loss and transform to this new way of life in peace. Death didn’t care it snatched their lives from us. It ripped our hearts apart and we don’t have a time frame to heal. The least our in-laws and the society at large should do is to support us and give us peace of mind. I am the secretary of the ‘SOLID ROCK WIDOWS’ Someday either soon or distant we hope to get the serenity we’ve been seeking.