I still remember the scene in the film Titanic, as the ship begins to capsize. As the raging sea waters begin to enter the decks and living quarters, you see people running up and down in all directions, parents grabbing their scared children, lovers holding each other as some are thrown overboard. There are loud screams. The camera pans from right to left, and then tilts up and down, as it tries to make sense of the chaos, confusion, fear and anxiety. And then everything goes into slow motion.
In the midst of all that, we cut to the bandleader of the ship’s string ensemble as he begins to play on his violin, the hymn Nearer, My God to Thee. The rest of the ensemble joins in and it becomes a beautiful and powerful moment where music brings a lot of peace and tranquility in the midst of such a tragedy.
But how does peace and tranquility co-exist with pain and tragedy? It seems unimaginable. Yet, that is what I hope happened for Mariam and her four year old daughter Amanda.
No one knows what their last moments were like inside their Toyota Sedan KCB 289C on September 29, 2019 at 6:15pm, as they slipped off the unguarded ramp of the MV Harambee Ferry, plunging into the 45-meter deep, shark infested channel.
Did Mariam jump to the back seat to comfort her daughter? Did she try to break the windows open? Did they scream for help? Did everything happen so fast that she had no time to do anything? What we know is that their bodies were retrieved 13 days later, and that they were in a tight embrace.
Well, if I were to reimagine their last moments, I would pray that the words of Psalm 139 came to heart, accompanied by a full string angelic ensemble…
“Oh Lord, you have searched me, you know me
You know when I sit, when I rise, I am never out of your sight
Your presence is like a fence behind me, and in front of me
There is nowhere I can run away from you
Because, you are everywhere
Even in this dark, shark infested ocean, as our bodies drift into more darkness
You see us in this darkness, because darkness is as light to you!
For you created us and formed us in the deepest place;
We are beautiful! Yes, my daughter and I are God’s masterpiece. Mombasa’s finest!
All our days on this earth were written in your book before any of them came to be!
And even though we will miss our family and friends, and they will miss us,
Let us rise in the morning and always live with you!
But please God, do away with the wicked!
They hate you, and so I loathe them.
Why would they allow us to ride across the ocean in these death traps?
Why would they let us board a ferry with an unguarded faulty ramp?
Maybe If I was a white tourist, or related to a rich politician
Maybe the rescue boats would have come sooner!
And yet the Kenya Navy will parade its prowess and grandeur on Mashujaa Day, just a few meters from where my daughter and I will die, and yet it will take them 13 days to retrieve our lifeless bodies!
Depart from me, you bloodthirsty men.
I count you my enemies, and I hate you with perfect hatred.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Rest in Peace Mariam & Amanda. We will remember you and will mention your names to our children. You are not forgotten.
Author: Richard Ngugi