In June I was like a Viking Age ship: the strong winds blew me off centre. It has taken me a while to get back on course.
It all started with that dreaded phone call from my young sister in London, United Kingdom. We had lost a close relative who had lived in London since his graduation in 1976. He had won himself an academic scholarship to the University College London and was awarded a doctorate in Science at a tender age of thirty two years. He went on to teach Mathematics, later added Computer Studies in several schools within London. He was recognized for his contribution to education for overt thirty years.
Long before our conversation ended, I knew for sure that the funeral would be in London.
“ Are you bringing Emmanuel home for burial?” I asked.
“ No, he had made United Kingdom his home and wished to be buried there.’’
Thereafter, I dropped everything and started on the arduous process of applying for a Visitors Visa to UK. I had to go and support my sister through this rough time.
Applying for the Visa online was not a problem but gathering the catalogue of supporting documents required in such a short time , was as daunting as crossing the first part of the Drakensberg mountain range of South Africa. The fact that I have recently returned home after being away for twenty one years, did not make things any easier. I even had no idea of where the Country’s Visa Application Centre was located. I had to move fast and learn fast too.
I have never been as grateful for the current easy communication by Mobile phone and the Internet as I was during that hectic week. Finally, everything fell in place and then began the waiting for the response from the Regional Office from Pretoria, South Africa. Amazingly, eight days later, I was on the Emirates flight from Entebbe Airport to London via Dubai. Having sheltered in the Southern African region for the last two decades, I had never travelled by Emirates or passed through that humongous Dubai International Airport. The four hours of waiting at Dubai turned out to be an advantage to me. It took me ages to get to terminal 3 where I was to board the flight to London. This proved to be child’s play after I had taken almost two hours to be cleared through Immigration at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3! A Sports watch showed that I had walked 1,723 steps during that time! No doubt Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport. Next time I travel by Emirates I will definitely choose to land at Gatwick Airport.
By the 8th June, all those who mattered had gathered in London to fulfill our beloved’s dying wish.
Many friends; some of whom I had not seen in over twenty years, joined us to celebrate a life well-lived. One of Emmanuel’s favourite sayings kept playing in my head: “ A teacher affects Eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.” As for the family, he had left us with too many happy memories to remember him by. By the end of the day I felt that it had been worth all the effort.
During the days that followed, I kept waking up in the middle of the night wondering where I was. This was the only trip to London that I had not planned for. It took me another week to wake up to what was going on around me. It was early Summer time and the days were crammed with activities. There was the five-day Royal Ascot horse racing in Berkshire, Flower shows, 2018 Wimbledon Tennis Championships from 2nd July, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. When England played against Sweden, my sister and I held on each other , sat through the match and cheered wildly after the 2-0 defeat. It went to show that life is for the living. Gradually we shall pull from within and get on with our lives. I am determined to get back to the centre and sail with the wind.
It is now a week since I returned, I have had time to reflect on what I have learned from this unexpected experience. Among them is that I may plan for the day but a Higher
power directs my steps, that the world would be an incredibly dull place without true friendship and that every complex situation presents me with an opportunity to learn and grow.
A quote from Martin Luther King Jr reminds me daily of how we are interrelated: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.’’
As you run through the maze of life take moments to remind yourself that the most important people in your life is yourself , family and friends. They exist in your life and you exist in theirs and therefore need to be protected and respected.
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