One of my bestest friends, who is also my maternal cousin, is getting married at the end of the year and her introduction was on March 20th.
For those not familiar with the tradition, the introduction ceremony entails the man, together with his family, going to the home of the woman he intends to marry with a monetary offering to “book” his bride-to-be so that no other man can later come and stake his claim.
My cousin is Kikuyu and among the Kikuyu the first visit by the groom’s family is an official visit called kumenya mucii. This is followed by another visit called kuhanda ithigi, the day on which the groom declares his intentions. Traditionally, these were done on different dates but now they are combined to save time. To signify these two are different visits, the groom’s family briefly leaves the bride’s family after the kumenya mucii and comes back for the kuhanda ithigi. At kuhanda ithegi, both families select representatives who meet to discuss the bride price. Assuming all goes well, everyone leaves happy, looking forward to the day they will come back with the dowry called ruracio.
My cousin’s introduction was a bittersweet day for her as her dad died in July last year and so she was finding it hard to be happy without her dad being present as he was one of her favourite people, if not her favourite person, in the world. I will not say too much about that as it is her story to tell, but I gave her a pep talk and let her know that March 20th is International Day of Happiness. I asked her, as a way to honour both her dad and the day, to find ways to be happy despite the pain brought on by her dad’s absence.
I have known my cousin my whole life, but given she grew up in Nakuru and I grew up in Nairobi we were not close for most of our lives. We started becoming close in 2019 when I joined the gym as it was the same gym she had been going to for some time. 2019 was the best, most fun year of my life and my cousin had a front row seat to all my shenanigans that year as I would give her daily updates when I saw her in the gym in the evening. By the end of 2019 we had become super close given she had more or less lived the best year of my life with me. We became even closer in 2020 when I started dating my boyfriend as I would seek her advice constantly because her and her fiancé are one of my two IRL “couple goals” – my BFF Adelle Onyango and her husband being the other one. I could go on and on and on about how and why her advice is invaluable to me, but I will refrain from doing so otherwise we will be here the whole day.
However, I will share a little bit of why my cousin and her fiancé are one of my two IRL couple goals. The first time I met her fiancé was on January 13, 2018, exactly one month after my mum died. It was the day after my sister’s birthday and we were throwing her a party at our (former) family home to celebrate. My cousin came through with her then boyfriend and true to form my sister, (other) cousins and I grilled him sooo hard you could think he was interviewing for some top-secret government position. Lol. What struck me most about my cousin and her man was their very obvious, very smoking hot chemistry. They sat next to each other holding hands, whispering into each other’s ears and gazing into each other’s eyes for majority of the night. They had been dating for 3 ½ years at that point and were clearly still so excited for and by each other that it absolutely blew my mind. I remember watching them that night thinking I want that for myself as well, so the following day I broke up with my boyfriend of over three years. The relationship had been tapering down for months but seeing my cousin and her man that night gave me the final push I needed to walk away from a relationship that was no longer serving me and I ended it the very next day.
Not only is my cousin getting married at the end of the year, but I will be a bridesmaid at her wedding and it is only April but I can confidently say that will be the highlight of my year. I mean her and her fiancé are one of my two IRL couple goals, so it is my deepest honour to be a part of their inner circle on their big day. For my bridesmaid proposal my cousin took me for lunch at The Social House on a beautiful Friday afternoon in February and of course I said yes! I had mentioned The Social House to her a few times last year as I wanted to go there but found it rather expensive, so I know that is why she chose the place because she is sweet and thoughtful like that.
My mum had (or is it has ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) nine siblings: five sisters and four brothers. She was the second born and my cousin’s mum is the third born. Ever since my cousin told me she is getting married, while I am thrilled for her and cannot wait for her big day, a part of me cannot stop grieving that my mum is missing out on yet another momentous occasion. This one in particular hits hard because not only is my cousin getting married at the end of the year and I will be a bridesmaid at her wedding, but her baby sister is also getting married at the beginning of next year and my baby sister will be a bridesmaid at that wedding. And I just knoooww my mum would have geeked the fuck out at the fact that her daughters are both bridesmaids at her baby sister’s daughters’ weddings.
Adelle’s mum died nine years ago and something she says she is struggling with of late is how much her mum has missed out on in the nine years she has been dead. From her wedding to launching her game-changing podcast to becoming an aunt, and everything in between. Yesterday marked three years and four months since my mum died and, just like Adelle, the more life goes on the more aware I am of what my mum has missed, and will continue to miss, out on. From small things like finales of shows she loved like Scandal and Jane the Virgin, to big things like graduations and weddings, and everything in between.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
That quote by Frost is a double-edged sword when it comes to grief because on the one hand, grief is not a place to stay and with time it moves behind other things instead of always being in front of them. Life goes on and as a result the suffocating, all-consuming, omnipresent cloud of grief lifts and makes way for joy and laughter and hope. But on the other hand, life goes on and with it come all the momentous occasions your loved one will miss out on because they no longer exist in this world and those occasions are always bittersweet.
Healing from grief is a not linear process but we owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones who no longer exist in this world to live our lives as fully and as passionately as we possibly can because, simply put, life is for living. Or, as Passenger said:
Life’s for the living so live it
Or you’re better off dead
P.S. The feature image is a picture of my cousin, her nephew and 5/7 members of her bridal party.