I had just finished depositing my cheque and was about to walk out of SBM Bank Donholm when I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, I saw one of the biggest boyish grins ever. It was my first cousin George. Our mothers are sisters.
“John!” he shouted, the grin growing even wider, “what are you doing here?!”
“Soi!” I shouted back, referring to him with his nickname, “this is my bank. What are you doing here?!”
Turns out that we shared the same bank. We also shared the same birth year, though am a May child and he is a November child. We stepped out of the banking hall and talked for almost thirty minutes. He told me about a restaurant fire accident that gravely injured his son and only child. He explained in detail how it happened and thankfully, how the boy had eventually made a recovery after staying in hospital for weeks.
He told me about his flourishing business. Something to do with contracting. One of his ongoing projects was at a mall in Karen. There was fire in his brown eyes when he talked about this business. He was obviously very passionate about the business. This was yet another vindication for my strong belief that if you are truly passionate about something, you will invest time, blood, sweat and tears into it and will undoubtedly reap a bumper harvest in the fullness of time.
When my sister Nashibe was born in the late seventies, my mum had gone to stay with Mama Margaret her sister and George’s mum. She did so because Mama Margaret’s husband was a doctor, so he could take care of her in the run-up to the delivery. George had been born about one and a half years earlier in a place called Soi, so this town of his birth had become his nickname.
On several occasions during our primary school years, my big brother Peter together with our younger siblings Nashibe, Kuka and Ondiri would spend our holidays in Karatina, where George’s father hailed from.
I still recall the extreme cold of the place and the sighting of Mt. Kenya every morning. Another sighting that my brothers Peter, Kuka and I reveled in was the hourly sighting of Wairimu, George’s sister and my sister Nashibe’s age-mate. She had a very light complexion that we were not used to, so we regarded her with a mixture of curiosity and platonic admiration.
When our childhood transitioned into our teens, it took more than ten years for me to meet George again. We met during his wedding to Salome and we picked up our friendship from where we left it. Together with his wife Salome, they visited us in our then house at Funguo estate several times. Salome even took part in ‘Graceful and Grateful,’ a documentary that I directed and produced. It was celebrating the African women and her potential to change the world.
Several weeks after that, George drove me to Karatina to film another documentary entitled, ‘Old is Gold.’ This one entailed interviewing elderly people and capturing their wisdom on camera. George happily interpreted my one million questions to cũcũ, his grandmother. It was an incredible time and an amazing road trip with him and Salome.
After this period, we lost touch again for almost five years. We only reconnected when we were traveling after a funeral we both attended. His car broke down so my brother Mpasua and I gave him a lift. It was another amazing road trip. He kept teasing Mpasua for being too slow. Considering that Mpasua is the fastest driver in our family, Soi’s teases said a lot about his own speed! He had once covered the 500 kilometers between Nairobi and Mombasa in four hours! I am proudly slow in my driving. Every time my speedometer hits 100 kilometers, I usually feel like I have conquered the world. Yet for people like Mpasua and Soi, 100 kilometers per hour is their slow speed.
On the night of 30th June 2020, George aka Soi, breathed his last. Cause of death - Covid-19. Just like his driving, his life had sped by too fast. But his wide grin, vigor for life, passion for business and deep commitment to his family will always live on.
Thanks George Gicheru Muriuki, for the life that you lived and the powerful legacy that you have left behind. Thank you so much cousin.