Three years ago, robbers shot and killed Mary Muthiani’s husband. She talks about the crushing pain she experienced, and finally making peace with her loss
It was on a Saturday, December 12, 2011. My husband, James Mutua, suggested that we attend a prayer conference in Karen.
He was a God-fearing man, and took advantage of every opportunity that came his way to enhance his spiritual growth. I greatly admired this, and being a prayerful person too, I thought that it was a good way to spend our Saturday.
We had breakfast and then left our Embakasi home at around 9am, together with our then three-year-old daughter. What I didn’t know was that this would be my last day with James. We had such a great time, we decided to return the next day for the final session of the conference.
We left Karen at around 6pm. We were on the Southern bypass driving towards Lang’ata when we heard gunshots. We then spotted three men by the roadside. They were shooting randomly at passing motorists – I would later learn that this was a ploy to force them to stop so that they could rob them.
Suddenly, our car veered off the road and came to an abrupt halt a few metres away. James had been driving, while I was in the passenger seat holding our daughter. It took me a few seconds to realise that he had been shot, shot on the head. Next thing I knew, the three men had opened the car doors, and were taking anything valuable they could find.
After taking our phones, my husband’s wallet and my handbag, they demanded that I hand over my wedding ring, which I did. But they did not stop there, they also pried out my husband’s wedding ring from his finger – James was slumped on the seat, unmoving. All the while, they were kicking and shoving me, no doubt to scare me into being cooperative.
I was five months pregnant then, and I remember shielding my belly with my arms, since they were kicking me all over. They forced me out of the car. They wanted me to carry James to the car boot, but I couldn’t because he was too heavy. This made them kick me even more.
Meanwhile, our daughter was crying and calling out to her daddy, who was not responding, something that made her cry even harder.
A minute or so later, there were gunshots, which mercifully compelled the robbers to run off into the bushes. Up to this day, I shudder at what could have happened had the robbers managed to drive off with us.
When the police arrived a few seconds later, I was hysterical, but I still had the thought to check my husband’s heartbeat. His heart was still beating, though faintly. I implored them to rush him to hospital, but one of them quietly informed me that there was no way he could survive the gunshot wound.
True enough, a few seconds later, there was no heartbeat to find. James was dead. Gone forever.
I borrowed a phone from one of the policemen and shakily called my father-in-law. I remember saying, “James has been shot, and he is dead.” Much, much later, I wondered how his father took it, because that is such a cruel way of learning that your child is no more. I can only hope that he understood that I was in shock, and therefore in no position to break the dreadful news in a more humane way.
The entire incident did not take more than 10 minutes.
James’ body was taken to the Lee Funeral Home by the police. By then, several relatives had arrived at the crime scene. They accompanied us to the mortuary and later took me and my daughter home.
I was numb, I simply was unable to digest what had happened. I had left home in the morning with James, and was back without him.
The whole experience was so sudden, shocking and traumatising for my daughter and me. I could not fathom life without him, I just couldn’t.
HAD GREAT DREAMS AND AMBITIONS
James and I met in India, where he was studying economics, and I clinical chemistry. What started out as friendship blossomed into romance, and in May 2006, we got married. That was one of the happiest days of my life.
James, who had a master’s degree in economics, had great dreams and aspirations, and had in fact left employment to start his real estate business.
We had agreed that I would stay at home for the first couple of years to look after our children until they started school.
He was only 35 when he died, and we had been married for only five-and-a-half years. His death was a devastating blow, and turned my life upside down. I wept for myself and for my daughter, who had been very close to her father.
I also wept for our unborn son, who would never get to know his father. I was in so much pain, I was amazed I did not keel over and die.
I sobbed, I cried, I wept, I missed James so much, I consider it a miracle that losing him didn’t kill me. I felt so lost and so confused and disabled in so many ways.
SUPPORT FROM IN LAWS
Even worse, I had no idea how to comfort my daughter, who had nightmares for the first few months following her father’s death. She would wake up screaming in the dead of night, and I would know that she was reliving that day.
After James’ death, my daughter and I moved in with my in-laws, and lived with them for a month. I could not have coped on my own, and I am grateful for their thoughtfulness and their continued support and generosity.
The days leading to his burial went by in a blur, but on the day that we laid him to rest, I somehow amassed enough strength to pay tribute to him.
Four months later, our son Jeshurun was born. It should have been an immensely happy day, but it was a stark reminder that James was gone forever, yet he should have been there, right by my side, gazing with wonder at our son.
The first year following my husband’s death was especially difficult – there was his birthday, which we did not celebrate for the first time since we got married, our daughter’s birthday, which he was always present, as well as our wedding anniversary, which went by unrecognised.
His death revealed to me just how much I had depended on him, and at the back of my mind, I knew that since my children were now my sole responsibility, I could not mourn forever. With the support of family, and friends, I slowly began to pick up the pieces and live again. I learned how to take care of the children on my own, and run our home as a single parent.
I decided that I wouldn’t allow my husband’s death to kill me, and made up my mind to focus on my personal growth. Before, I relied on him to prompt my spiritual, mental and financial growth. James was my greatest mentor and nurturer, and his death made me feel as if I had clipped wings.
I knew that I had to take charge of my destiny, otherwise I would stagnate. I slowly began to discover myself and what I was capable of. Of course I still cried, and the pain was still there, but instead of burying myself in misery, I got a friend who I could call and talk to when the pain became unbearable.
It is close to four years since James left me. I have healed enough to be able to talk about his death without bursting into tears. I still have not found the answer to the question “Why?”, concerning his death, but I know that I have grown very much as a person, and found the courage and strength to soldier on.
If you are mourning the loss of a spouse, or someone else dear to you, it is alright to grieve, but at some point, you have to move on. Allow yourself to heal and reach out for your tomorrow. I am in the process of writing a book based on my loss, healing and restoration.
When I am not working, I speak in public forums focused on encouraging those going through difficult times in their lives.
Three years ago, I would not have had the courage to stand and speak to a hall full of people, now I can, and this alone is tremendous progress. If James were to come back today, I am sure that he would be proud of me.