Remembering Risper Nyambok
Life is beautiful and fragile, filled with fulfilling highs and devastating lows. Unfortunately there are times along the way when you get to experience this contrast at the same time. That was me in 2015, the year I cleared high school.
Risper Nyambok, my late aunt, was an independent, hardworking single mother of one. She was bubbly, humorous and blessed with a laugh that bursts from the soul. Risper was witty and possessed an undeniable aura that often filled any room she graced. She also loved dancing and was an ardent listener of the late Musa Juma (I’m rightfully blasting Ratego as I pen this).
Like most maternal families, mine operates like a nuclear family. Sticks like glue, a lot of sharing and mostly caring. Risper epitomized this, often lending a hand, be it financially or with unsolicited advice on life skills and professional experience, often encouraging me to navigate the male dominated society. My brother and I greatly looked up to her as we both have interests in media and she was one of the leading lights in the local industry. Having bagged a promotion in one of the top media agencies as a Media Director before her death, her sky seemed brighter.
Risper introduced me to the finer things in life. I come from a humble background, and making the lifestyle switch to her place when we visited felt like a much needed vacation to somewhere we all bonded and played together as cousins, unhinged from the chores that would accompany such holidays back home. From cable TV, an array of lifestyle/news magazines and books, the latest computer and PlayStation games, to random presents and the outdoors, Risper was a one-woman arcade that filled our childhood.
I got the news one fateful Sunday on a phone call with my dad.
“Gundaa, we lost someone from Mum’s side.”
Shook off my feet, I wondered if it could have been my grandmother. She was away for treatment in India at the time, accompanied by my grandfather, but surely she was getting better.
“I’m sorry but we’ve lost Risper.”
My dad saved me from my cobweb of thoughts, confirming my worst fears.
Risper had undergone a minor operation the same year. She later developed pain and was hospitalized but seemed to be recuperating well. I couldn’t reconcile how we could lose her. You know those people who when you think of death you don’t think of? Risper was that person for me. My world came to halt. I was crushed in pain, seemingly incapable of doing anything. My tears didn’t roll down my face nor did any scream escape my quivering lips. I retired to bed only to wake up to the inescapable reality. In what would be a formative experience, I left for Nairobi the next day.
The wake was filled with family, friends, neighbors and her colleagues who greatly lifted our spirits in the days leading to the memorial service. Her send-off was a very emotional experience for everyone. I saw my dad breakdown for the first time. Nobody could keep it together. Grief had us all in its grip. Death had won.
Five years have swept by and I still ache for the life Risper could have lived, the life I would have experienced with her. Time hasn’t healed me. Not yet. Sometimes I feel the weight all at once, other times I have lighter days. I don’t know which is worse; drowning beneath the waves or dying of thirst.