My cũũcũ passed away today.
I’m told she died peacefully in her home and felt no pain.
My story began with my cũũcũ. Her story was one of will power, persistence and principle. She pushed herself beyond her point of endurance so her children would have hope, a future. She worked day and night on her farm so she had enough to provide for her children, enough to share, and enough to sell. She had her children out of bed working before dawn and made sure that was never a reason to cut out school. Late at night they all studied by the light of a kerosene lamp with their feet dipped in cold water to focus and ward off sleep. She instilled in them the value of service, sweats and smarts, discipline and delayed gratification and they in turn passed these values on to us.
As I spent time with her in her latter years, arthritis had stolen the spring in her step and age had mellowed the intensity in her eyes. It was hard to believe she was the same lady who tore through the fields with a hoe or a sickle, carried bales of Napier grass on her back and taught women in the village zero-grazing so they too could provide for their children.
Still, she carried herself with grace and the determination that rang in her voice spoke to her pioneering spirit. My grandmother was the first lady in her country to cycle to the dairy and drive to the market. She was the woman who saved her scarce pennies for a sewing machine so her children would not go naked. She is the only Kikuyu grandmother I know who can talk to her grandchildren intelligently about Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez, revolutionaries who fought for freedom many miles from her East African village.
I hope that my life is a tribute to my grandmother, who showed me the love of life and the people along the way who have given me joy and a meaning to it all. I hope that my life says I had a generous attitude towards people. That I worked hard, loved much and learned from my mistakes, that I had a vision and lived with a mission and that my perpetual optimism was a force multiplier.