Death of funerals? Tim Wanyonyi still traumatised after ‘strangers’ buried his brother

Death of funerals? Tim Wanyonyi still traumatised after 'strangers' buried his brother
The late Antony Waswa, brother to Tim Wanyonyi.

In Summary

  • One of the harshest aspects of the coronavirus pandemic is burying the dead.
  • Family members are unable to visit their loved ones in hospital while they are still alive but even worse is that they are constrained when mourning those that pass on.
  • Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi knows this too well. He is still traumatised after the loss of his brother who he says was buried by strangers.
  • The strangers were officers from the Ministry of Health, as per government guidelines on COVID-19.

His name was Antony Waswa, popularly known as Tony. The father of four was 48 years old and had never been hospitalized.

Yet on May 15,  2020, he died alone, on a hospital bed, separated from his family, less than a week after he had fallen ill.

Those who knew him best described him as a quiet yet affable person.

However, those positive qualities pale in the face of the fact that every time the health ministry announces more COVID-19 fatalities, they are not just numbers. For this family, one of those who was announced was their own.

“He was a family person. Loved by all. Quiet. But when you met him you connected with him immediately,” said Tim Wanyonyi, the member of Parliament for Westlands.

The lawmaker last interacted with his brother on Friday, May 8, when they met to plan how to distribute food to the needy in Westlands Constituency.

He recalls a lengthy conversation that they had that day: “I remember calling him to get a brief on how the distribution was going and all seemed well.”

Two days later, MP Wanyonyi called his brother for an assignment and when they spoke, it turned out that the brother hadn’t left the house because he was not feeling well.

Later on, the brother was taken to Ngara Medical Centre for treatment. When his condition deteriorated, he was referred to the Aga Khan Hospital.

“One minute he was okay and the next he is admitted in hospital. We went to see him. It was so hard because there was no contact,” Mr. Wanyonyi said.

On Friday morning, the dreaded call came in: their brother was no more.

“I was with some visitors. I was so confused. I did not know what to say. It was a truly tough moment. I was worried about my parents. I called Hon. Wetangula to go and inform them so that they do not get shocked,” Mr. Wanyonyi said.

To add insult to injury, the news of tony’s death found its way to social media even before they could alert the whole family and explaining what exactly happened to their brother was difficult.

“We were told he had had pneumonia, then heart issues. Finally the Ministry of Health told us that it was a COVID-related case. I immediately took myself for a test plus all the other family members to ensure that we were COVID free and I told (Health CS) Mutahi when I go to bury my brother I am COVID free,” he told Citizen TV.

The MP is still trying to come to terms with the type of burial that took place in Mukhwea Village, Bungoma County.

“Strangers buried my brother. We were not given a chance to mourn. They were so strict on the procedures and according to Bukusi traditions there are things that must be done. I would never like to wish this on anyone else,” he added.

Guidelines for burial from the Ministry of Health state that bodies should be placed in two body bags which can then be put in a casket for burial.

The protocols forbid relatives from touching or kissing the body. Relatives and friends are allowed to conduct the burial but only under the watch of public health officials.

“The Ministry of Health must find a way for decent burials to happen during this time,” urged Mr. Wanyonyi.

The Westlands lawmaker now exercises even greater vigilance when it comes to following the Ministry of Health guidelines and says he wishes his fellow politicians would do the same.

“We can’t drink water and drink wine. This thing is real and it has a strange effect on the body. Let us be very careful,” he noted.

Within 100 days of its arrival in Kenya, COVID-19 has separated loved ones in a way they never thought possible. This new normal is a painful one.

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Story By Waihiga Mwaura
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