I chose to repost this article of 10/07/2018 because a number of readers have found it relevant and useful. Surprisingly, it is one of my favourite posts because by the time I wrote it , I was feeling overwhelmed by the demands on me after being away from home for over two decades. It was cathartic and it set me in the right direction:value youself, give to yourself and nurture yourself before you give and nurture others.
Failing to adhere to this cardinal rule, you will be maimed in the process of giving or you will suffer burn out.
From the challenges life has thrown me, I have learned that while caring and nurturing for people, my energies should be invested in creating situations that help people to grow and develop other than simply comforting them.
Do you know that if you only comfort without developing: without helping one learn from her/his mistake, you increase the chances of the same mistake being repeated?
The second of the first historical events of July 1969
happened in my small country, Uganda, now known as the Land of the African
Martyrs among the Christian faithful.
Exactly eleven days after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had walked on the moon, His Holiness Pope Paul V1, the 262 successor of St. Peter, visited an African country for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church! Available information online indicate that the Pope’s decision to visit Uganda, a country with poor infrastructure, had met some resistance in the Vatican. But it was the same Pope who had canonized the 22 Ugandan martyrs on the 18th October 1964. They had been beatified by the Catholic Church in 1920. These young men were pages in the royal court and were between 15 and 30 years of age.
They were burned alive in pyres under the orders of the then king of Buganda, Mwanga 11, for not denouncing their faith between 31st January 1885 and 27th January 1887. A simple structure was constructed at this site by an individual but then later the current Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine was started in 1967 under the supervision of the late Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga and was completed in 1975.
I grew up hearing people talk of an impossible situation as
: “It cannot happen even if you called the Pope”. Simply translated it meant
that it was as unlikely to happen as the Pope’s visit.
On the 31st July, this phrase was dropped out of
I am a Protestant but my mother is a staunch Catholic, a student of Mother Kevin, the Irish Nun of the Franciscan Sisters for Africa, who founded Uganda’s most prestigious all-girl boarding school , Mount Saint Mary’s College Namagunga in 1942.
My father had invitation cards to attend the functions at Lubaga Cathederal and Mulago hospital while my mother preferred to attend the Mass at the Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo. Later she was in attendance at the Vatican when Pope John Paul 11 beatified two other Ugandan Martyrs: Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa from Paimol in Northerthern Uganda on 20th October 2002.
Fearing the crowds, I chose to watch it all on the black and
white TV at home. Ugandans of all faiths worked harmoniously together to make
this historical visit of the Pope successful and memorable. The excitement was
palpable in the air; welcome songs were composed and played on the radio and
TV. Special stamps and coins were released to mark the occasion along with
souvenirs of the Papal flags, Pope’s badges, Pope’s ties, scarves and
umbrellas, mugs and trays. A special material to make shirts and traditional
wear were made for the occasion.
Once again, my siblings and I were glued on the TV. Around 3:00 pm, an East African Airways Super VC10 landed at Entebbe International Airport. By then cheering crowds were assembled waving both small Ugandan and Papal flags.
When the door was opened, the Pope’s representative in Uganda entered the plane only to come out with the Holy Father dressed in a white cassock over which he wore an elbow-length red shoulder cape. He wore a beige skull cap. The Pope paused and waved to the cheering crowd then walked down the gangway . He knelt down and kissed the ground at 3:13pm then stood up to be received by President Milton Obote and his wife Miria.
President Obote introduced the Pope to four other African leaders- Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia Gregory Kayibanda of Rwanda and Michel Micombero of Burundi as the crowd cheered and waved excitedly. He received a 21 gun salute as the sovereign of the Vatican City State. He was entertained by groups of young dancers from several districts of Uganda. The crowd was delirious with joy, many of them cried tears of joy. The Pope began his crowded agenda immediately.
He drove in an open Lincoln car along the 32 kilometre journey
from Entebbe to the Lubaga Cathedral, the nucleus of the three million Catholics
of Uganda. The whole stretch of the road was lined with ecstatic crowds.
Crowds thronged the
main road to the Cathedral which was also decorated with welcoming arches made
of reeds and traditional bark cloth. They sang, drummed, danced and ululated as
the Pope passed by. At the cathedral, the Pope was welcomed by Cardinal Laurean Rugambwa of Dar es Salaam Archdiocese
and also the first African cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Lubaga cathedral was packed to capacity, the Pope was
introduced to the African Bishops and cardinals. He officially closed the
episcopical conference of Africa and later he was hosted to a state dinner at the
Nakasero State lodge by President Obote.
The following day, the 1st of August, I watched the open Mass celebrated at the Kololo Airstrip in Kampala. The Pope consecrated 12 new African Bishops ,5 of whom were from Uganda. Others came from Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso. Fifty Bishops and more than a hundred priests assisted in giving Holy Communion to the masses. In the afternoon , he attended a special session of the Ugandan Parliament and thrilled the invited guests by expressing words of acknowledgement in Luganda, one of the local dialects.
Day 3, Sunday August 2, was the climax of the Pope’s visit.
He visited and dedicated the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine, the place where the
fearless, young Ugandan martyrs were burnt to death. He first visited the
Anglican martyrs site in recognition of the 23 Protestant young men burnt by
the Kabaka’s chief executioner, Mukajanga.
At 9:30 he was at the Catholic Martyrs Shrine to lay the
foundation stone for a mini –Basilica to commemorate the 22 martyrs burnt at
the site. The place was jam-packed with people who wanted to see and touch the
Pope at any given opportunity. The Pope kissed the ground where St Charles
Lwanga was burnt and consecrated the alter of the shrine. He celebrated Mass
assisted by the African Bishops and priests. He baptized 22 young ones and confirmed
22 young men in remembrance of the 22 Catholic Martyrs.
For us the Ugandans, the visit of the Pope was a sign of
great hope; something good had come out of the blood that was shed by the young
martyrs. The Christian Church had continued to grow after their death and their
courage continues to inspire many people worldwide.
By the end of the day, the Pope had officially donated
twenty thousand US dollars towards the completion of the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs
He left Uganda on the 2nd August close to 7:00pm after
what surprised many as a well organized, historical and memorable visit.
The skeptical few at the Vatican had been surprised and won
over by the African faith and hospitality!
For the faithful in Uganda, the visit deepened their
spirituality and many of them found their way back into the church. It still
has a deep and long-lasting effect on the senior citizens of today.
This was a first for the Vatican, Uganda, Africa and the
Pope himself and remained his only visit to Africa in his 15 years of reign at
Since then we have welcomed two other reigning Popes. We
have deleted completely that local saying: “It will never happen even if you
called the Pope.”
No doubt, organizing the first Papal visit to Africa was a
huge challenge to Uganda but it gave us the great opportunity to learn how to
prepare for such historical visits. Each visit became a better hands-on
Pope John Paul 11 visited us after the invitation of the
late Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga from 5th – 10th February 1993.
Pope Francis, the smiling Pope, visited Uganda from 27th
November to 29th 2015. I was in economic exile in Botswana but out
of habit, I watched it all on the television.
The Popes make a pilgrimage to the land of the African
Martyrs to touch and see the physical manifestations of our faith in the recent
past and at the present time and to connect personally with the saints.
What Indra Ghandi once said, rings so true: “Martyrdom does
not end something, it is only a beginning.”
Having two historical firsts in one month has not repeated
itself in my life so far. I am thankful that the two events did not run against
each other but instead deepened my marvel at the wonders of God’s creation.
Have you ever made a pilgrimage to a holy place? How did it
impact your spiritual progress?
I have been around for a while and have a mountain of good things to talk about. Fifty years ago, when I was a vibrant teenager; full of hope and dreams, two unforgettable firsts happened in one month! They left me mesmerized in the wonder of God’s creation. Unexpected as they were, I had no words in either my indigenous language or English language to describe them. Looking back now, the two events left me filled with respect and admiration for humankind and they boosted my energy and hope that I could in my small way achieve what I wanted in life for my own good and for the good of others.
The year was 1969 in the month of July. The first once-in- a- lifetime event happened on the 20th July, when the Eagle Module of NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the Moon! The historic moment was being watched live by over 660 million people.
Six hours and thirty nine minutes after landing, 38-year old Neil Armstrong(1930-2012) climbed down the ladder of Eagle to walk on the Moon. Nineteen minutes later, he was followed by Buzz Aldrin while astronaut Michael Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia above them. Armstrong and Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the Moon! I remember it vividly as if it happened only recently and thanks to the Internet; from the Archives Teaching Resource, I have been able to fill in almost all the missing pieces and enjoy the event much more. It was perfect timing for me; I was on holiday at home so my parents and siblings were that evening glued on the black and white television set. We were all seated on the edges of the chairs watching the spectacle unravel as if all our lives depended on it! An awkward silence followed but then as if on cue, we all stood up, cheered and ulululated.
I remember Neil Armstrong’s famous words as he took the first step on the dusty Moon surface: “ This is one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.’’
Closing my eyes, I can see both Neil Armstrong and Buzz
Aldrin in their white, multi-layered, flexible spacesuits, space goggles and a
backpack containing each one’s life support system. They had gone on to plant
the American flag in the surface.
President Richard Nixon ‘s message to them said it all: “
Because of what you have done, the heavens have become part of man’s world.’’
Now I know and understand that for centuries, man had wanted to step on the moon. The Moon race was in earnest by 1957. The unmanned Luna 2 mission of the Soviet Union was the first unmanned spacecraft to reach the Moon’s surface successfully on September 13, 1959. The Soviet Union launched the unmanned Luna 15 on 13 July, 1969 to land on the Moon’s surface and collect the lunar rock and dust. It crash landed on it on the 21st July just a few hours after Armstrong , Aldrin and Collins had landed on the Moon but before their lift off from it.
The Americans had beaten the Russians to the finishing line
of the lunar race. It was never really the end but it was the starting line for
the second phase of the study and exploration of the Moon.
The three American astronauts in NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft
had set off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on the 16th
July with one mission: to land safely on the Moon. It took them three days to
enter the Lunar Orbit. The Mission was under control of a team of NASA
engineers at the Space Centre in Houston, Texas. Making the historic landing on 20th July at 9:32 am. EDT, turned
the three men into America’s most famous astronauts during NASA’s golden era.
In not more than eight minutes, they collected the first geological samples from the Moon surface- rocks and the fine granular lunar dust. Some samples were collected thirteen centimeters below the Moon surface. Since then more Apollo missions have brought back lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles and dust from the Moon. The Moon rock is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Scientist claim that every sample brought back from the moon has been contaminated by the Earth’s air and humidity. Strictly adhering to the principle of Astronautical hygiene, Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s spacesuits had to be vacuum-cleaned and the inside of the lunar Module, to ensure that lunar dust and particles were not transferred to the Columbia Command Module, destined to return them to planet Earth. The Columbia Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on the 24th July 1969.
The astronauts had spent eight days in space. They were immediately quarantined in the Mobile Quarantine Facility for twenty one days! This was a safety precaution to ensure that planet Earth was not contaminated by lunar germs in case the two astronauts had picked any from the Moon’s surface. NASA considered this as a better-safe-than- sorry operation.
It was indeed a giant step in Air and space exploration and technology!
Between that Moon
landing of July 1969 and 1972, NASA sent five other Apollo Missions to the moon
and each planted an American flag at the landing site.The last American
Astronauts walked on the Moon surface in December 1972 under the Apollo17
Other countries like Japan, China, Israel and India joined the space exploration activities. Only the United States of America, the Soviet Union and China (December 2013) have succeeded in landing safely on the Moon. China with its great power status wants to claim its position as a world power off planet Earth.
India wants to test and prove its advances in science and
space technology. On the 22nd July 2019, India’s ISRO launched in 1969, sent off a spacecraft
scheduled to land on the Moon’s south pole by the end of August 2019. It is
possible that deposits of water-ice could be hidden at this pole.
South Africa’s study and exploration and utilization of
space for peaceful uses began in the 1950s. It launched its national space
agency in 2010.
The celebration of the 50 years since man first walked on
the Moon has opened a new lunar race for exploration and inspired a whole new
generation of astronauts. The Vice President of USA, Mike Pence assured
Americans that America was returning to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis Project.
America would be sending men back to the Moon by 2024, four years earlier than
NASA had targeted.
Indeed, the Moon has become a focus of exploration once
For the developing countries like mine, it is a matter of
national priorities; our governments have the great task of lifting their people
out of poverty, creating economic opportunities, technological empowerment and
improve the quality of life for all.
Both the developed countries and the developing ones have the collective responsibility of improving Planet earth: the environment itself , the people and animals and plants. The effects of increasing global temperatures affect all of us and so are the effects of pollution and violence. Food insecurity, unemployment especially of the youth, lack of education and government corruption affect our security and well-being.
Now that the Moon race has been set in motion once again, I
hope that the Moon and the planets will be harnessed under the Utilitarian
ethical principle: with the greatest amount of good for the greatest number and
at the same time be protected for the future generations too.
Where were you when Neil Armstrong first stepped out onto the Moon?
The second historical first of the same month and year will
be covered in Part11.
My last post on this blog was about communication, the
bedrock of all human relationships and a necessity for survival. Reading around
this subject led me into the physical, mental and social benefits of laughter.
We all know that smiling is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious. Many times, we have been advised to love simply, laugh often and love deeply. The cliché of “laughter is the best medicine”, could be said to be as old as civilization. I was even reluctant to include it in this post but then I remembered one proverb in King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs: Proverb 17 verse 22 : “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.”
A genuine smile is a facial expression conveying one’s deep
feelings. The smile is expressed more with the mouth other than the eyes. The
Americans are good at displaying their emotions and to them the smile expresses
happiness and respect. The Japanese are not very open with their emotions so in
a smile, they focus more on the look in the eyes other than the mouth. The
Germans do not show their emotions often so they smile less often. In my
country, Uganda, a smile expresses warmth and in my local area, the central
region, we can laugh out loud with family and friends until we cry. The over
600 years old royal dynasty of Buganda in Uganda, has always had singers,
drummers and comedians at the royal court to entertain people and make them
laugh. World-wide, a good belly laugh makes each one of us feel good.
Since 1995, the unfatiguable Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India, a country where
people laugh until they hurt, has been advocating for laughing for health and
happiness. He has become the world’s Laughter Yoga Teacher. He is the founder of
the laughter Yoga Clubs in over sixty countries. He arranged for the first
World Laughter Day in 1998 to increase awareness about laughter and its health
benefits. Since then, the first Sunday in May, people gather in public places
just to share laughter.
Dr. Kataria is
popularly known as the “Guru of Giggling”. As a medical doctor, he explains that
a good belly laugh expels air from the lungs allowing them to take in more
fresh air. The oxygen in the fresh air is made available to the cells in the
body to convert biochemical energy from nutrients: sugar, amino acids, fatty
acids .This energy is then used by the cells to run the essential cellular
activities or processes.
Studies have proved how laughter improves our health and
It improves cardiac health by increasing the
blood flow to the heart, lowers the Blood pressure and this reduces the risk of
stroke and heart attacks.
It reduces the stress hormone levels thus
reducing anxiety and stress on the body. Stress and anxiety have adverse
effects on the body.
It tones the abdominal muscles that are used in a
It boosts the body’s immune system. The T-cells,
the specialized cells of the immune system are activated by laughter. This
improves the body’s resistance to disease and cancer.
It triggers the release of the endorphin
hormones one of the “feel good/happy chemicals” from the brain. Endorphins
improve one’s mood; adding joy and zest to life.
Endorphins are natural pain killers that
temporarily relieve chronic pain, leaving you feel better.
The relief of physical tension and stress which leaves your muscles relaxed, goes on for up to 45 minutes after.
Human beings are programmed to be social creatures and laughter has been proved to have some social benefits.
Laughter connects us to other people- it attracts other
people to us.
It helps to diffuse difficult situations.
It promotes group bonding.
In intimate relationships, sharing laughter strengthens the relationship and keeps it fresh and lasting.
Over the years, I have learned not to take life so
seriously. I laugh at myself and at life itself.
I make a conscious
effort to laugh several times during the day. After a long day I put up my feet
and watch Just for Laughs: Gags or a
good comedy on the television and by the time it ends, I am enjoying a happy
I intentionally spend time with fun-filled, playful people
like children and old friends. With such people, I find myself more relaxed,
more positive and joyful.
I never forget to find my inner child- I claim the
spontaneity and the ability to laugh at ordinary things.
I spend 10-15 minutes in a day, doing something that I love
and that makes me laugh; like reading a funny story.
Sometimes I just decide to do something silly like making
funny facial expressions in a mirror or mimicking funny voices in my past. In
such situations, I focus on having fun.
And in a group I allow myself to be drawn to where the
Sometimes all I need to do to make myself laugh is to
remember a few funny experiences in my life.
Strangely, as I enjoy a happy high, I find myself admitting
that Laughter is the best medicine. It is also free, can be self-administered
safely and can also save you time and money at the doctor’s. It adds years to
“Trouble knocked at the door, but hearing laughter, hurried away.” – Benjamin Franklin
Simply find opportunities to have a hearty laugh every day.
How often do you give yourself permission to play for fun
and to laugh out loud every day?
According to Aristotle, a Greek philosopher of Ancient
Greece, human beings are social animals; they naturally seek the companionship
of others as part of their well-being. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers
and those who worked together well survived and passed on their genes to the
next generation. This explains why each one of us needs to be connected to a
family, community and a nation. In these diverse groups we become more creative,
diligent and hard working and thrive. Group interaction is to one’s own good
and to the group as a whole. Hardwired to be social beings, each one seeks to
be accepted in the group, affirmed, approved and acknowledged. It gives a sense
of belonging and stirs us up to want to do more, be more and brings out the
best in each one of us.
Franklin Roosevelt said: “It goes back to the basic idea of
society and of a nation itself that people acting in a group accomplish things
which no individual acting alone could even hope to bring about.”
When you are rejected
by the group, you feel inadequate, unlovable, you feel not nurtured, cherished
or guided. You grow up yearning to be more perfect and lovable and to be more
worthy. You go through life looking for a home.
Like the wild animals, our ancestors first communicated with
each other by sounds and movements but as they evolved and the environment
changed, they began to communicate their thoughts, ideas and feelings through
the spoken word. Language, a form of complex communication, was born out of the
need to how best to survive. The language helped them to communicate with each
other as they hunted, helped them to depend on others thus giving them a
survival advantage. As there were numerous groups of people in different areas
, many languages were created and continue to change up to today. We have come
a long way from hunting and gathering and yet communication still remains the
bedrock of all human relationships as a necessity for survival.
Social interaction is essential for our emotional and mental
wellbeing. Any interaction between two or more human beings takes the form of
verbal(30-40%) and 60-70% Non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is by
means of a spoken language while non-verbal is portrayed by facial expressions,
gestures and postures, tone of voice and tactile stimulation such as touch and
body movements. We use our five senses during the interaction:
83% sight, 11% hearing, 3% smell, 2% touch and 1% taste.
Children learn early how to communicate by mere observation of the adults
around them. Psychological research in social and behavioural sciences has
revealed that such non-verbal communication also conveys cultural values as
The English naturalist and biologist, Charles Darwin (1809-1882),
non-verbal communication as early as 1872. He observed that human beings could
use facial expressions to express their emotions and attitudes about others.
One quote always reminds me that of all the things I wear, my
smile is the most important.
While I was researching and writing the last post entitled:
Embracing my Age,
I read extensively
about facial expressions. The common ones well known to all of us are the smile
and the tears. Each facial expression communicates the emotion deep down. The
movement in the mouth determines the intensity of the smile while the sparkle
in the eyes conveys genuine happiness. Many of us bare our teeth in a rage.
The American anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell (1918-1994) who
pioneered the study of facial expression, gestures, posture, gait and visible
arm and body movements in the late 50s, collectively called them kinesics- the
human body language. He estimated that humans could make and recognize around
250,000 cultural-related facial expressions conveying emotions and attitudes.
While my children were growing up, they could tell what I required of them by
simply interpreting my facial expression. In their cheekiness, they would say
that I could ‘beat’ them with my eyes.
Fast Forward, the first SMS was sent from a computer to a
phone in UK in December 1992. Since then, text messaging has become the order
of the day in this Digital era. They have changed the way the world
communicates in the smartphone era.
In the late 1990s, a Japanese telecommunications company created emojis-communicating in pictorial faces and symbols- info graphic. The Western world adopted this form of communication from 2010. Emoji was added as a real word in the Oxford Dictionaries in August 2013.
They have become a permanent fixture in today’s Digital
communication. When I first came across it, it
reminded me of Hieroglyphics: the formal writing of pictures and symbols
in Ancient Egypt.
One linguistic professor, Professor Herring called emojis a
sort of pictorial pidgin language- the
primitive tongue that emerges out of necessity between two population with
no common language that lacks plural
markers and functions exclusively in the
It is a rudimentary
language. Emojis are not universal ; different messages can be conveyed by the
same image depending on the culture.
Some messages have been lost in the translation only to be clarified by text
Over time, all languages develop, more words are added and a
few may be left out. Emoji as a Digital language will continue to evolve.
We all have our languages of communication, the human body language and now we have added a Digital language that we use online, I would not be surprised if we borrowed the birds’ song and calls to enhance our digital communication. Anything is possible in this technology -driven age.
Have you ever tried to text a short paragraph without using
words, using emoji only? Did the receiver understand your message easily?
Louise Hay once said, “Know that you are at the perfect age.
Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once. Be
comfortable with growing older.”
Last Wednesday, I visited my regular supermarket to stock up
on my monthly grocery items. I took longer than usual not because the place was
full of shoppers but just because the items I buy are imported from several
countries. I spend more time checking the labels on the packaged foods than in
buying them. In my commitment to eat healthier foods, I check out the fat
content of the milk, yogurts, cheese and the mono-unsaturated fats in the
different types of Olive oil on the shelves. I do a lot of walking between the
shelves looking for wholegrain bread, brown rice, lentils, fresh tilapia fish,
fresh local fruits like pineapples, mangoes, oranges, watermelon and leafy
vegetables. For more than three decades, I have focused on eating to be healthy
so that I can build and maintain a healthy body, stay energized and get the
nutrients I need for proper body function.
I know very well that
if I want to live a good quality of life in old age, I have to engage in
physical exercise every day, eat a well-
balanced healthy diet and honour the regular medical checkups with my doctor. The old adage, “Prevention is
better than cure,” holds true today, more so in this digital technology- driven
and era of huge scientific advancement.
World Health Organisation(WHO) defines health as a state of
complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of
disease or infirmity. I have to maintain the enriching relationships that I
have established over the years. They form an essential element of my Social Wellbeing.
Later in the day, I was required to send some old
photographs to one of my childhood friends to include in the Thanksgiving
Service booklet for her mother. Long
before the invention of the Digital camera and the Smartphone, I used to be a
keen amateur photographer so I have a big collection of photograph albums. I
spent some time scrolling through them, I was reminded that I had been taking official
photographs on my birthday since I was that little sweet sixteen girl! As you have
guessed it, I have a catalogue of such photographs. Little wonder then that I
got so wrapped up in these photographs that I forgot why I had opened up the
albums in the first place. I looked at each photograph carefully as fond
memories flooded in. I could see how my face and body had changed over the years.
Having taken each photograph on my birthday , I noted that I was relaxed and
calm. It turned out that they were all great photographs communicating the joy
within. They went from a simple genuine smile to a wide grin, capturing moments
of true joy.
The most recent one taken last year in August , showed that
the once plump lower face had grown small as the jaw bone grew smaller making the
forehead, the nose become more
pronounced. The lips were becoming thinner and a few permanent wrinkles had
developed round the corners of the mouth. However, the eyebrows and eyelashes
had not yet gone grey and the eyelids were not drooping.
I was thrilled and excited that despite the years, the eyes
had remained sparkling , conveying happiness and confidence. The confidence had
come with age and endowed me with more beauty!
William Wordsworth said, “The wiser mind mourns less for
what age has taken away than what it leaves behind.”
Franz Kafka said that: “Anyone who keeps the ability to see
beauty never grows old.”
My experience in the supermarket and now this treasure trove
of photographs got me thinking about growing old and other major life changes.
Undoubtedly, change is an integral part of life and
therefore inevitable. The world around us is constantly changing though most of
us prefer to cling on to the old and familiar. The psychologists tell us that
most of us fear change just because we want to have control over the future. We
tend to demand for certainty in a world of uncertainty. This is what creates
anxiety and stress in us. Dr. Elliot D. Cohen, PhD, a psychologist and critical thinker advises
each one of us to strive to find a comfortable place between blind fearlessness and cowardice – not being
too afraid and not being afraid enough.
It is the only thing that will keep each one of us balanced and relaxed.
For the young ones, they have to be reminded that the
present affects their future; today’s choices will create their tomorrows. They
need to acquire more knowledge and skills to help them accept responsibility
for the choices they make about the future. They still have the power to control
their desires, hopes and wishes but have to be reminded that external things
like approval of others and guaranteed success are not in their control. Making
informed choices will give them some degree of freedom over their future.
As for the likes of us, the senior citizens, we need to keep
ourselves busy doing what we love and reading more to understand the changes going on in our
bodies and in the world around us. We have to keep ourselves relevant and
useful. We can do this by using our
knowledge, skills and experiences to serve others , to mentor the young and
help them to achieve their goals and full potential.
We have to summon the courage to face the uncertainty of the
future other than cave in to the fear of uncertainty. According to the
psychologists, we can age gracefully by embracing our age then keep moving
forward happily and remaining optimistic that we still have a lot to offer to
Embracing the natural process of ageing has its rewards:
feeling energetic and youthful internally.
Many times in the past, I have asked myself why I should
fear what is inevitable instead of accepting death and allowing it to
guide me through life for the rest of my
life . When we are still young , we tend to be guided through life by our
ambitions, success and achievements. By
middle age, most of us have come to accept our mortality so we start focusing
on being good, wise and generous human beings.
Being led through
life by death, has proved extremely
liberating to me; humbled and grateful and endowed with the wisdom and
hindsight of old age, I have been able
to live a relatively relaxed , happier and meaningful life. I wake up each
morning filled with gratitude and ready to take on the day’s adventure.
Jackie Joyner- Kersee, a 1988 American Olympic medalist, once said, “ Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”
Sophia Loren’s quote about ageing made me extremely comfortable with growing older. She said, ” There is a fountain of youth : it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of those you love. When you learn to tap its source, you will truly have defeated age.”
I can’t wait to celebrate my next birthday and to pause for
the next official birthday photograph.
Last Sunday , I was among the group of medical doctors who were given the privilege to join Mr. George Kamya, an Emeritus Professor of Surgery of Makerere University College of Health Sciences ,celebrate his 94 th birthday at his home in Kololo, Kampala.
I had not seen him for more than twenty years but I was amazed at how robust he was. He was full of life , very alert and relaxed. All you needed was to introduce yourself to him and then he would say a word or two indicating that he had recognized and remembered you. Apart from losing the use of his legs, I would say that he has changed very little in the time I have been away. He felt comfortable with his wife of many years seated beside him. It was a real celebration of his long, rich life. A worship service followed by a few speeches and the traditional African lunch of plantains, millet, rice ,chapatti, sweet potatoes, sweet plantains, yams served with beef and chicken stews, groundnut sauce, a variety of local vegetables and a variety of fresh fruits like pineapples, water melon and mangoes.
The ambient atmosphere reminded me of my teachers, mentors and sponsors .
My favourite author, Kahlil Gibran(1883-1931) , the Lebanese- American artist, poet and philosopher said: “You give but little when you you give of your posessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
This nonagenarian has lived a professional and exemplary
ethical life: many years ago, he had
mastered the art of balancing family responsibility and serving his country as
a surgeon. He gave a part of himself to all of us who passed through his hands
as undergraduates and post graduates. He was a pillar of strength, support and
discipline. He intentionally picked those with great potential and encouraged them and showed them how to become noble surgeons. He invested in them and they
responded because they wanted to be like him and to make a difference in their communities.
Among the crop was my late husband, the first Ugandan woman surgeon, Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe. She later went on to become Uganda’s first woman Vice President( 1994-2003). For over fifty years, he left fingerprints on those he worked with and indelible footprints where he passed for others to follow and create their own stories.
The Association of Surgeons of Uganda is a
vibrant one where women are visible as general surgeons , neurosurgeons,
urologists, plastic surgeons and pediatric surgeons. Its members are also
active members of COSECSA- the College
of Surgeons of East and Central and Southern Africa.
Jim Rohn (1930-2009) an American entrepreneur and author said: ” All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”
And Shannon L. Alder , an inspirational author said: “ Carve
your names on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of
others and the stories they share about you.”
Most of us remember how he created his own brand, success and managed and protected it on what came to be known as his ward up to today: ward 2A, the Blue firm ,of the New Mulago Teaching Hospital .
He always acted with honour and truthfulness and his
patients always came first. He paid strict attention to detail and time. He was
positive, had strong self-esteem, was patient with himself and others and kept learning. He stood up for his values
and spoke against unethical behavior. He lived his values in relationships with
the co-workers and patients. He created
his life out of the truth of his soul and what he was taught by his parents,
teachers and life itself.
He helped to create a culture of teamwork, inclusiveness and
reward and recognition for great performance. Each member felt a sense of
belonging to something bigger than herself/himself, worked with integrity and
was empowered to explore. Things ran like clock –work whether the seniors were
present or not. Responsibility and accountability were their badges of honour.
He retired officially in 2000 but those he mentored have
been able to lead and carry on his work with enthusiasm.
Over the years, as I interacted with him, I came to respect
and admire him for his wealth of knowledge, skills, experiences and his passion to share it with the
young generation but more for his humility and easy demeanor. No task was
either too big or too small for him to perform. He performed them all with a
The psychologists always help us to understand why human beings think, feel and behave as they do .As soon as this seasoned surgeon came to know who he truly was, he became secure in it to become a professional of the world while at the same time opening himself up to learn from others. He knew who he was and appreciated that he was a human being who had strengths and flaws. He learned to tolerate others , lifted the weak up while pushing the strong ones higher up the ladder of success. He left the ladder leaning against a solid wall for others to climb up as he did.
I pray he lives for more years to take the credit for all those whom he has created through mentoring, sponsoring along with his own family. His legacy lives on through them.
All in all, I was
glad I had been part of the celebration of
a man who did the best he could with what he had and became all that he could be. Amazingly,
he never stopped at creating himself, he helped others create themselves too.
As they say, what you gladly give away comes back to you multiplied many times
Writing this post has challenged me whether I know for sure
that each day I live, I am writing my own legacy and on how I have been able to
empower others to succeed.
After creating your own life , how have you facilitated the
young generation to create their own lives too?