By John Gathuku, Kenya
Yesterday we lay to rest the man who literally took me to church. No one cried at the funeral; his wife and children didn’t shed a tear.
He was our neighbor and a faithful choir member at a church in our hometown. He brought me along when he went for choir practice. We had a unique father-like friendship. On Sundays he dropped me off at children’s Sunday School. That was 30 years ago! I am now a grown man with three children. We kept in touch once in a while over the years and were always joyful to meet.
My friend was a super achiever. He pursued a bachelor’s degree at age 45 and was about to finish a doctorate at 63. His determination and tenacity was admirable. He uplifted his extended family economically and financially assisted many other people.
However something was amiss… A line in the eulogy confirmed my fears: “Throughout his life he maintained a very busy schedule.” He went abroad for further studies, leaving his young family for more than 10 years. They got used to living without him. When he returned, he was a part-time lecturer at a whopping six universities spread throughout the country, meaning a very hectic travel schedule for a man over 60 years old! He died alone in a car accident at 1 a.m. returning from one of his many engagements.
My friend was a loner. It’s clear he didn’t spend quality time with those closest to him. It’s clear he spent his resources and himself serving the “church” selflessly. Hundreds attended the burial. Cars thronged the small village and had to be parked at a playfield! He had so many acquaintances but none was intimate.
I felt deeply rebuked. I did some retrospection on my own schedule and realized I am particularly prone to the same trap. I kept postponing visiting with his family until it was too late. My schedule was busy!
My heart broke at the thought that I could be neglecting my own friends and family at the excuse of ministry demands. I spent the weekend in Eldoret and on Monday morning my son started crying in class, saying he was missing Dad. Some friends have complained it’s hard to get me on phone. Yesterday, for the first time in more than five years, I spent the whole day with my mum alone as we drove to the funeral service. She was so happy. I didn’t realize how much she missed my fellowship. I also lost the ritual of taking my wife out for dinner each fortnight. God help me re-organize and prioritize my life around what is eternal and matters most.
While we abhor idleness, busyness is not an option. While we esteem sacrifice, hard work and putting bread on the table, staying away from family is not an option. My employer will replace me when am gone but my children will never have another dad. Since I don’t know how many days are left, I want to spend them first intimately loving my family then ministering to God’s people.
It would be a sad thing if no one cried at my funeral.
John Gathuku is the director of Timazi Magazine for high schoolers in Kenya. “Timazi” is the Swahili word for Plumbline.