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What my wife’s 17-month long illness, death has taught me

Pharis Kinyua Mwangi
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Joseph Mungai Kariha, husband to the late Grace Mungai who was a teacher at the Salvation Army Thika High School for the blind. [Source/Gladys Chania]

Just how do you deal with the loss of a loved one after a protracted period of illness that renders them incapacitated for months?

Many would imagine all sorts of things but for 60-year-old Joseph Mungai Kariha, the loss of a loved one to a terminal illness can only strengthen your integrity and commitment.

Mungai recently lost his wife of 26 years, Grace Mungai, after a long battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

She had been bed-ridden in the hospital for 17 months until she passed on mid this month at the Nairobi West Hospital.

Doctors describe ALS as a progressive neurological disease that affects the nervous system ultimately leading to disability or paralysis. Its symptoms worsen over time.

The deceased, 54, was buried on Monday at the Lang'ata cemetery.

Mungai who has been in the corporate world for long said his composure at that trying moment came from accepting the situation.

"Once you accept, it becomes easy to deal with it and even cope emotionally. I never gave up. We went to China together [to the hospital] and she spent two months there. She was incapacitated but I had to stand up for her and assured her that I would support her all through,” he recalls.

The father of one opines that in such situations, it is always advisable to make decisions and assurances which you will not rescind no matter the circumstances at hand.

“If you are honest and you tell somebody that you are going to support them, then, you don’t go back on this. This is integrity,” he observes.

Mungai had a unique way to handle the situation as he explains. His church, PCEA Embakasi was the first in the line of support for his family.

"I meditated for 10 minutes daily, exercised for 20 minutes daily before 7 am - skipping and stretching. My breakfast is a bowl of tasty vegetable salad and herbal tea. No alcohol, no smoking, no junk food except I have tried stopping eating chapati but it is futile. I eat the brown ones though.

"I avoided pessimistic news and people. I discovered poison of pessimism can cause harm to self.  Grace was equally courageous and smiled all through. Cedric is equally courageous and focused. Together we formed a formidable team," remarks Mungai.

He also says that he avoided being idle by every means possible through reading, watching documentaries and sharing humour with friends and relatives.

The deceased served the community in the capacity of a teacher, teaching French at the Salvation Army Thika High School for the blind for 30 years. 

She is survived by one son, Cedric Mungai, 24.

Her death sparked outrage among sections of Kenyans on social media after the family was slapped with Sh38 million hospital bill by the Nairobi West hospital.

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Thank you for reading my article! You have contributed to my success as a writer. The articles you choose to read on Hivisasa help shape the content we offer.
-Pharis Kinyua Mwangi

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