No playback. No take two. Nothing!


There must have been a time when I was truly happy and uninhibited as a child. However that memory escapes me every time I try to retrieve it from who knows where. Something shifted. Something broke. Something shook me to the very core and it’s never been the same since. Oh how I wish time machines did exist.

There is a stirring in my heart that never goes away. It hibernates for a while then thaws out and strikes the very core of my being. I can’t even seem to find the words to express myself and it is so frustrating. I have asked myself so many questions and none quells the storm within me.

Why? Why? Why? Why on earth would such unfathomable pain be unleashed on a mother with five young children with no warning, no heads up, a hint…nothing! A day like any other turned into a day that will forever be replayed, as each one tries to recollect and make sense of the day when everything changed. Which day you ask? The day death came calling.

Mutegi Kiriga Kabugu. My father. My late father. Last thing I remember is him driving off and I waving goodbye. Little did I know that was it. Like forever and ever. No playback. No take two. Nothing! That was it!!! A chapter in my life came to an end and it took quite some time for little 9 year old me to realize that another chapter in my life had begun.

I came to realize that I had held on to the belief that my father would come back, for close to nine years after his death partly due to how his death was disclosed to me. Death makes people nervous and they have no idea what to say and if they do say anything, its intended effect may be reshaped to mean something totally different, especially in the imaginative mind of a little girl who adored her father. Death also leaves more questions than answers and more so to little children who are suddenly thrust into one of life’s most painful and testing experiences.

For close to nine years I believed my father would come back due to the fact that one of the comments I heard when I asked for my father was that “ Baba yenu ameitwa na Mungu.”. That did not happen and boy, was I angry at the world. Unfortunately this anger was not meted on the world but was re-directed internally for a couple of years and let’s say, if you meet anyone who knew me from birth to when I turned 18 years, I was as quiet as a mouse and little events would act as triggers and the tears would gush out for days.

I know by now you may have sunk with me into the pit of despair that I found myself in after the loss of my father. Those were trying times whose triggers surround me day in, day out. The one that gets to me even today is seeing a little girl holding her father’s hand or being carried by her father. Loss and grief erased those memories from me and sometimes, it hurts…right to the core.

However it’s not all gloom and doom in my world. Nope. I got to thrive through the love and support of those who helped my family get back on its feet. To them I am forever grateful for through them I found my voice and direction in life. Well, that’s a story for another day.

There is a song in my heart and its tune plays out strongly when I am around children. I kept wondering and questioning myself why everyone else was so comfortable hanging out, hours on end with fellow adults and yet I would sneak off and chat and play with children way younger than I was.

I thought there was something wrong with me. This discomfort was amplified as I grew older and societal expectations were piled high upon my plate. Well, I guess I don’t fit into the typical framework and I bet the questions will keep on coming in the future. But you know what, it’s time for me… me, myself and I coupled with lots of grace, mercy and direction from God Almighty.

I hope I haven’t lost you along the way. I bet you are wondering what the loss of a father and hanging out with children have in common? Well, if I may put it simply, my experience of loss as a child has led me on a path that strives to enhance how children experience their childhood as well as help adults reminisce on their childhood days.

I recently came across a quote that states, “Hold onto the child inside you. You don’t know how important it is. If you lose it you’ll spend your whole life looking for it. And sometimes, it’s gone forever.” The author is unknown but the quote holds so much weight as it is and it partly sums up why I am currently pursuing Masters in Child Development with a major in Child Therapy.

I lost a part of my childhood when death came knocking way back when in 1993. I have been in pursuit of happiness that can only be experienced as a child and since no time machines exist…or so they say…I make do with child related activities that pull at every fiber of my being.

This “confession” may lead to questions as to whether I am only happy when around children. My response would be that I require equal doses of adult and child led-interactions and that would explain why I can relate with almost anyone I come across after “breaking the ice” so to speak.

I am my father’s daughter. That’s a fact that’s brought out each time my closest friends reveal to me their first impressions about me. I guess if careers were to be decided on facial features and friends suggestions, I would be a Senior Resident Magistrate just like my father or a police officer. Well, I’m glad that’s not how we get to decide our purpose in life.

It has been a long journey to be where I am currently, that has been marked by moments of impending doom coupled with moments of utter delight. Sometimes I am baffled and consumed by the scope of the dreams and vision I have for my future that revolves around children.

I am a rebel with a cause and I have decided it’s time to switch on the tune in my heart and dance to the song that’s ingrained itself to the very core of my being. Therefore, this year, after stalling and bidding my time for years on end, I enrolled for my Masters even after being encouraged to pursue other courses because that’s where the money is. Well, I am not after the money. I really need to know all there is to know about children such that I can be the vessel that communicates to all those I meet wherever I am, ways through which they can create enriching environments in which their children can thrive.

It is not as simple as I think it is and this reality hit home as soon as I got my admission letter together with the realization that I needed to get financial resources that seem elusive most of the time. Well, I am a Mutegi, as my youngest brother keeps stating. I am not about to lose this journey to negative vibes or to unknown fears that strive to tap into my experience of loss and grief.

Therefore, as I gradually grow into who the Lord created me to be, I will bake cookies, make handmade crafts, share the wonderful world of books, teach, sing and laugh along with children whenever I can because, no matter what may have been taken away from me, I have a lot to give to a world that is hurting yet flawlessly finds an appropriate mask to hide behind.