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Missing him, being a mummy, and moving on….

Yes she is still Njeri KABERERE. She still works at Mosound. And she is still… – let’s hold that. It is one and half years since the demise of her largely celebrated husband, Peter Kaberere; the captivating and convicting voice in award winning Swahili Pop and Zouk and contemporary music. He bubbled with transformative passion; evident in the lines of the song she sang and featured in –”Just a Way”, “Kiburi”, “Nisamehe”, “Natamani”, “Mwanake” and others.

Those around him would tell you of his wet humor, super energy, quick wit, rare creativity, and covetable people skills. The lonely, shy and… for lack of a better phrase – social misfits, gravitated towards him. They attested to getting a sense of belonging around him; they fished out their purpose and started shinning – in their own way! And so did the strong, driven and the where’s-the-party-at kind. He celebrated their guts. He magnified their nerve. I see him saying, ‘Go-get-them!’

So here we are at Mosound’s (which hosts the Annual Gospel Awards Groove Awards and the Safaricom Live concerts) reception in the company of BLN’s radio producer, Ken Ng’anga. Njeri, a trained video producer, works here as an admin. Kaberere, the hubby, had worked here as the logistics/operations manager. And it has been a year and half since he left, after the fateful electric shock at his car-wash. So we at least know we need to bring the best out of a widow who may not be having the energy to make it to the salon every so often. I mean two toddlers, grief, a demanding job, and the need to make up for daddy’s absence calls for a lot of understanding and encouragement.

“Hey… I am Njesh! You are most welcome guys…!”chimes Njeri Kaberere. Eerrr… this was not part of the script. Her smile lit up the reception. Her energy was infectious. You know that gentle strength? I picked it from her handshake. The bright pleasantries with the colleagues – she was definitely at home. The way her afro do, sleeveless teal sweater top with chunky peplum frills down her neckline, a light blue stretch skirt and pink peep-toe shoes – were put together, said, “genius”. The make-up, subtle and perfect. And her nails… the nail-art was everything art. You wouldn’t get enough of it. In other words, she is STILL dashing!And as we amble towards her office amid warm banter, my mind can’t stop racing over the fact that Kaberere had more. He knew how to pick a girl!

Fast-forward into our convo. Motherhood has been great, Njesh attests. Challenges notwithstanding, it has been a free flow, she says. Incidentally her first pregnancy was the troublesome one. She had ovarian cysts whose pangs struck every 10pm to 1am. No pain killer helped. They had to resort to pressing out the pains with a hot water bottle, which Kaberere kept refilling with hot water for the desired effect. “Actually that is how I got to know I was pregnant,” she laughs. One month on, it was easier. But acne soon caught up with her. “It was so bad, I did not take photos. I ate lots of mangoes, green-grams and Weetabix,” she laughs, “I had no mood swings – at least no one complained.”

Towards EDD, trouble struck again.“I got terrible belly cramps. So Qabbz (Kaberere) and I rushed to the hospital. On checking me, the doctor said it was false labour, and sent us back home. That was at around 6pm. The pains went on through the night, meaning I barely slept.We just had to go back to hospital the next morning. I was induced at mid-day,” she says adding it was painful – to say the least. Four hours later I was fully dilated but could not push. I was tired. I kept fainting,” Njeri recollects, “I just remember the nurses saying you have to push, otherwise we are taking you to the theatre.”

A CS being the last thing she wanted, she pushed against all exhaustion until Baby Ulani showed up 30 minutes later at 2.8Kgs. That was a whole 14 hours of labour. “I did not have breast milk for two weeks, so I had to supplement with formula. At six months, he quit breastfeeding,” she recounts.

Now three and a half years old, Ula is the bomb, Njesh beams. He is hilarious – can imitate just about anyone. He loves music – singing and Deejaying. He has a ‘do-not-enter’ corner in the living-room where he has his turn-tables (cardboard boxes) that he ‘spins’ when the ‘spinning’ bug bites. He is just so much like the father, Njesh agrees. And she (Njeri) is his world. Everything has to be run by mum, she brags.

Baby number two’s (Njoki’s) pregnancy was smooth all the way. Everything – plus no mood swings! “I actually think that mood-swings thing is a position you allow yourself to get into,” she pensively articulates. When you keep your mind focused on the right things, always appreciating the greatness of God, mood-swings will not have a place to stay, she asserts.

So it was all good. And here she was in her last trimester, bags packed – ready for the baby. “Qabbz alitaka sana sana saaana kumeet Njoki. Alikuwa anasema vile anataka kumweka mapini kwanywele, kumrembesha – unajua zile vitu unawezaweka kwa mtoi dem? Yaani….” Her sheng rocks! (Quabz really really wanted to meet Njoki. He said he wanted to put clips on her hair. He’d enjoy making her pretty – you know, things you do to a baby girl…?).

On the blue day, however, “I was for some reason asking myself – what would I do if Qabbz was not around?” Njeri Kaberere recounts – adding that the grim question refused to badge.It was so deep sitting, so real, so convicting that when she saw a few people come into her house – with Kaberere’s dad behind them – the eerie thing she could put a finger on became apparent, “I saw his dad and I started screaming running to the kitchen and out of the backdoor.” She was running from the news that wasn’t very new in her inner person.

Well, the formal news caught up with her. She went through the painful confirmation at the morgue – allowing herself to grieve like the widow that loved her husband, ever so dearly. Not knowing what to tell God. Silence, tears, and nothing. Just secure being in the presence of the All-Knowing.

During the funeral service at Nairobi’s CITAM Church, which was bursting at the seams – and graced with likes of Bishop Teresia Wairimu, Boniface Mwangi, Daddy Owen, Wilbroda, Jimmy Gait, Gloria Muliro, Big Ted, Jalang’o, DJ Mo, MOG,– to mention some, Njesh got the familiar EDD discomforts.Some small pain in her lower back. She was helped into the ambulance “and they saw I was 3cm dilated,” she says. There was enough time to go through the service. Her body cooperated.

The journey to the cemetery was the tough. “I cried the whole time – on and off. Everything was sad. And many things were happening at the same time. It was like a dream,” Njesh recounts. The lowering of the lowering of the casket into the grave was hard the hardest, she says.

No sooner was the burial over than it became more apparent that the baby was coming. She was helped into the stand-by ambulance. Now four centimeters dilated,the ambulance wore its blare and there they were swerving through Nairobi’s traffic to Karen Hospital.It was 14 days to EDD but the baby had decided to come. She had good company, she says. “There was my maid of honour, my mum, Qabbz mum, my neighbours, friends, and my boss who told me “Huyu mtoi ana come leo! Na hatutoki hapa kabla haja-come… (This baby is coming to day. And we are not leaving until they show up),” she laughs heartily,“The love was overwhelming.”

The grieving and the labour, how did the two augur? “I decided to concentrate on what was at hand, bringing my baby into the world. For the grief, I could pick up from where I left,” she says. I wanted my baby to be safe and welcomed with the much deserved happiness. It was the smoothest delivery ever. Only three hours of labour.

There were always two people at any given time available to help in the nursing. And that told me that there is something special between God, Qabbz and Njoki. She came at my lowest point (Qabbz leaving) bringing so much joy and favour! I felt God. I am sure there is a prophetic calling over her life.” Now one and half years old, Njoki feeds excellently – almost not knowing when to stop, Njesh prides. She has faster milestones than the average child – like she started walking at nine months. She loves looking good and her make – up. She is quite independent. Once again, I see so much of her dad in her!

Does Njesh fear the big looming question – where did daddy go? “No. Ula has already asked it. I told him Dad went to heaven. He saw the dad’s face in the casket but he did not understand much,” Njesh says. When they will have enough comprehension of his absence she will confidently explain the turn of events, she says.

How is motherhood without Kaberere? Well, it is more demanding, she says. It’s all her within and without the house. “I want to do what the two of us (Qabbz and I) would do,” she explains. So it’s a stretch.“But I have been favoured with a lot of help. I have the best parents-in-law in the world. They live next door and they are readily available to chip in with finances, food and time. My parents too – they have helped A LOT! My friends also give of themselves. My children are raised by many precious people. And they are turning out great!” Njeri appreciates. I live with my slightly younger brother, so they are not lacking the ‘father’ care. God is just amazing…” she smiles shaking her head.

Does she miss him? Of course, she says. A lot… – but not in crippling way. She says there’s this inexplicable calmness – completeness…. She says she remembers her husband’s phone always ringing off the hook while hers just quietly sat there. Now, her husband’s is really quiet, while hers is almost blowing off with buzzes. “It’s like he handed her the button,” she laughs.

Helping the very young, the very old and the very needful give her a kick. “I am good, happy – having blast doing my purpose. So don’t wait for that line… ‘I cry every day….’” she says.She spends the day outdoing herself at Mosound, a job she says loves. Or helping out folk. She is known for this from several quarters. By the time she tumbles into her doorway, she just has enough energy to catch up with the little munchkins, Ula and Njoki, I imagine.

There are those few times when the kids are away. What does mummy do? She indulges in her favourite stuff. Reading. “I loved reading books on marriage when Qabbz was around… I am now reading this –Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch.” She also likes knitting, crocheting, calligraphy, writing, photography, music – anything art, colour, fabric, and designs. “I also love cooking. I cooked for Qabbz EVERYDAY. And it was good food – considering he was a top chef,” Njeri prides.

And now that she is all-that-and-a bag-of-chips – Spirit, soul and body – is there a suitor?Is she ready to move on? Any coffee dates? “Hmm… there’s no one serious… No one meaning real business/ showing substance…. You know at first I was like, ‘Heh… Nitabaki tu hivi… (I shall remain this way), but now… I want me a good man. I want the kids a great dad!” chuckles the pretty head. So she is careful, she says adding that she has accountability parties with whom she shares her whereabouts.

Will he fit in Qabbz big shoes? “Oooohhh… I pray for that man, because those shoes are REALLY BIG. But the Lord will help. His grace is sufficient. He shall fill whatever gap with Himself. He will be an amazing man,” she laughs.

What is she doing to keep his legacy? “I am enjoying his receiving more awards posthumously – including the Zaidi ya Muziki Tours that was awarded in the United States of America. Then when I have a big house, I plan to make a museum for him. A place that will have all his music, his shoes, his handwriting, his blown up photos – EVERYTHING KABERERE – for the kids to go in there to experience/further discover who their father was.”

Njeri Kabere says she is more than honoured to have been Peter Kaberere’s wife. “In fact the word is not honoured. It is ‘humbled’,” she says and pauses – definitely overwhelmed by the memory of her knight in shimmering amour.“I almost feel like Mary in the bible. I was blessed to be part of one amazing angel – One Peter Kabere.”

We shuffle to the Mosound’s gate amid never ending chuckles. It is a bit difficult to end this hangout. We don’t seem to be getting enough of each other – endless appreciations and goodbyes. But duty calls for all of us, so we manage the final good bye. As we leave I ponder over Dr. Phil McGraw’sline, ‘Time does NOT heal… It’s what you do with the time that matters.’

As we leave I ponder over Dr. Phil McGraw’sline, ‘Time does NOT heal… It’s what you do with the time that matters.’

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