TRIBUTE: Nancy Wamuthere, your candle will shine forever
It was a cool Sunday evening on June 30, 2002.
The labour ward at the Webuye District Hospital was filled with the wails of mothers on the throes of childbirth and the shrill cries of new-borns.
The midwives and nurses at Grace Wanjiko’s bed were surprised when at about 8pm, she gave birth to a bouncing baby girl without as much as a shout.
That is the way Nancy Wamuthere came to this world; It was Wanjiko’s neighbours who noticed that Wamuthere was different; peaceful, calm and showing early signs of being outgoing and loving.
Nancy Wamuthere attended Victoria Primary School in Kisumu, where she shone academically. She was prefect from class five through to eight. And the girl who aspired to be a lawyer came to be known as Kofi Annan, the dispute solver, while in primary school.
Children even in higher classes came to her with their ‘cases.’ She would listen keenly to both sides and make her judgement. “And her judgements were never challenged in Courts of Appeal or Supreme,” jokes Wamuthere’s aunt, Annie Thuku, fondly.
She sat for KCPE in 2016, scoring 387 marks which brought her to Nairobi’s Moi Girl’s High School in 2017. At Moi Girls, Wamuthere took to her studies with her characteristic vigour and was quickly appointed the history subject leader and champion.
She had always been the leader. Back at home when her younger brother Noah Thuku was born, Wamuthere dotted on him. On the onset of adolescence, when most children rebel, Wamuthere would ask her mother not to hire a house girl, she would take care of her brother when the mother was away.
In her early teen years, you could meet with Wamuthere at the bank’s ATM hall, withdrawing money from her mother’s account. Wanjiko completely trusted her. Wamuthere would then proceed to the supermarket to purchase family’s supplies.
At night, when everybody else had retired to bed, Wamuthere would make sure the doors were locked. Then she would proceed to her mother’s bed, and ask that they pray. She always reminded everyone to pray; and she was big on courtesies, always saying please, thank you, sorry. Edwin Wesonga, who stayed with Wamuthere during this August school holidays remembers buying her a toothbrush. But owing to his busy schedule, he did not meet Wamuthere until two days later.
“She felt guilty that she had not been able to thank me for the toothbrush, that really touched me.”
Wamuthere was born in the Seventhday Adventist (SDA) faith. She went through all the stages of a child Adventist from Adventurer to the Ambassadors Club while worshiping at the Better Living SDA Church, Milimani in Kisumu.
Wamuthere was upbeat to find an active SDA community at Moi Girls. She got appointed deaconess at the School’s SDA Association, and also joined the choir. The family will always hold dear the image of her coming out of the pool, dripping wet but jubilant that she had taken the decision to get baptized on July 8, 2017.
It was a great decision, for barely two months later, on the morning of Saturday September 2, 2017, Wamuthere would meet her untimely death through the raging night inferno that also took eight of her schoolmates, three of them also Adventists. Earlier that night the four girls joined their Adventist colleagues during vespers to usher in the Sabbath. It was a fitting send-off.
As if in foreboding, Wanjiko, Wamuthere’s mother had not gone to bed that Friday until 3am, Saturday morning. The school reported it learnt of the fire at about 2am. Wanjiko was at her brother’s, Joe Thuku, home in Nakuru. Incidentally, they had been discussing about Wamuthere, on what a fine woman she was turning out to be. Joe and his wife, Joyce were regretting the fact that they did not stay with Wamuthere during the August holidays. They had stayed with her after she sat for KCPE, and impressed by her sense of duty and good humour decided they would have her every holiday.
Unknown to them, Faith Thuku, another of Wamuthere’s aunt and Wesonga’s wife was plotting a fast one. As the schools closed end of July, she was the first one to arrive at Wamuthere’s school. It is from her home in Nyayo Estate that Wamuthere left on Monday August 28 for back to school. Accompanied by her mother, Faith and her brother, they passed by Toi Market to buy Wamuthere crocs, the popular plastic sandals. Then they took selfies at the School’s gate, and bade reluctant goodbyes.
SEE WAMUTHERE ALIVE
It is the last they would see Wamuthere alive.
“She was everything to me,” mourns Wanjiko, “I don’t remember her being naughty; I don’t remember punishing her.”
Her big brother, Antonio Thuku says; “Even though we have roads unravelled, I will always go back to the ones we had. I couldn’t ask for a better sister.”
Wamuthere’s aunts, Annie, Grace, Ruth, Faith, and uncles Thuku, Njao called her mom, as she was named after their deceased mother, Nancy Wanjiru Wamuthere.
And now, Wamuthere will be laid to rest in Wanyororo, Lanet in Nakuru county besides her grandmother’s grave, but her brief, well lived life will forever shine hope to those she has dearly left behind.
Sleep Well, our angel, till we meet again.
Kiundu Waweru, uncle of the deceased, is a journalist and media trainer with Internews