When it is time to say goodbye

I have taken a long time since my last post despite my new year promise of sharing more consistently. Let me explain why.

I recently learned about the demise from this earth of a participant who attended one of the training events I organized a couple of years ago. It was the first major event I ever organized in my training career. Upon receiving the sad news, I went through my personal grieving period. I could not go to pay any form of homage to his family, as he was from a country that I have never visited in my life.

I promised myself that I would not write any other post until I penned this one down. I wrote some words in my head many times but did not have the courage to write it on any paper leave alone on this page. But today I have promised myself to forge on till the end.

I met him online when the organization I was working for at the time, was looking for journalist participants from Chad, Mozambique, Uganda and Kenya, who had experience in covering stories on either conflict or humanitarian disasters. It was only three days to the event , when one participant from his country sent me a message to say that due to personal reasons he would not be in a position to attend the training event in Kenya.

At first I was shocked by the withdrawal of this participant because all the preparations were in place including confirmation of his flight. But as this is a situation that tends to come up from time to time during training events, I had to snap out of my shock and act quickly.

Miraculously  I managed to convince the head of the project that I would do my best to locate another participant and have them attend the event in time. I made some frantic calls to the other participants from his country and asked if they could recommend a journalist who was brilliant like them and would be quick to travel at short notice. I was given one name , and when I called and explained to him about the event, he immediately confirmed his availability.

The tricky part was that for us to fully take him on as a participant, he would have to respond to various questions and provide essays on different issues on a website that had been created specifically for the journalists who were to attend the event. He said he would work on his assignment that night. Sending him the link to the website was my last task of the day.

When I went to the office the next morning , he had filled in all the details required on the website.  It had taken all the other participants almost one month of coaxing and reminders to fill in the required details. I was able to finalize all  travel and accommodation details to ensure he was on the same flight with the other participants from his country. During the training event, he did not disappoint, he was an active participant and provided invaluable input about the humanitarian disaster situation affecting his country on a perennial basis, as did all the other participants.

Allow me to deviate at this point as I am reminded of another journalist who also passed on when I was an assistant editor of a biweekly newspaper that was reaching out to delegates attending the draft constitutional talks in Kenya.

This journalist used to file his stories on time and when the editorial team requested him to make changes to his article , he was swift and always willing to go the extra mile. During the days when we were finalizing on the articles before sending the publication to the printer, he would come and ask me if their is anything he can do to assist us.

He was the first person who had ever made such a request to any of us in the editorial team and so I was glad to work with him. He would go through some of the articles and clean up the glaring typo errors so that when I finally got to having a look at them , all I needed to do was to give the article one final look , delete what was not required, and change the headline of the stories he worked on. Within a short time he became an invaluable asset to our editorial team and his contract with the company was revised to include the extra duties he was taking on and an increase in his payment.

One day while we were waiting for the final copy of the publication from the designers so that we could have one more look at it before going to print, I had an opportunity to chat with him. This chat was more than the usual banter that was traded loudly in the room whenever we took a break from editing. It was then that he revealed to me that he had a terminal disease and knew his time was running out. It was the first time I had seen a man battle so as not to let his tears fall. He told me how he tried not to focus on his sadness that he would not be there to see his children grow. He was committed to work as hard as he could so that his family would not suffer after his demise. A few weeks later after we had that conversation, he passed on.

Going back to the earlier participant from another country, when I learned of his demise this year, I was also informed that he died from a terminal illness he had bravely borne for many years. Today as I think about these two gentlemen I realize just how privileged I was to have known them and shared in their enthusiasm of the work that they loved the most, being journalists.

*The choice not to use the names of the journalists in this article was deliberate.




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