By Carol Natukunda
Life has spelt doom for 45-year-old Muga and everyday brings more sorrow and fresh wounds. Despite his unrelenting quest to find happiness following the death of his first wife, life took the same twist but he still refuses to cry.
She was laughing that day, joking with her husband. As she sat down in the hospital compound, someone was plaiting her hair. No one perhaps not even herself — would ever have guessed she was biding farewell to the world.
When it started raining, Ruth Mirembe was taken inside the ward. She felt cold and experienced breathing difficulties. Her husband, Arthur Muga, jumped on a bodaboda and rushed to the clinic to get some pain killers for her.
But before he could get there, he received a call. It was Mirembe’s mother telling him to return, urgently.
By the time he got to the ward, it was too late. She died. It is a statement Muga says about three times, without even realising it. “She died. Just like that, she died,” he says.
Yet this is not the first time the 45-year-old was losing a woman he loved. Muga’s life has been shaped largely by death. Despite his unrelenting quest to find happiness after the death of his first wife, his life took the same twist.
But he has refused to cry. “I have never cried,” he says, “Maybe if I cried, I would feel better.” Muga’s voice trails off as he speaks.
There are moments when the sadness overwhelms him, like when he listens to the church songs Mirembe loved. His big house in Jinja, where he lives, worsens the situation. It is so quiet; you can hear a pin drop.
His daughter, Angeline, whom he had with his first wife, calls with good news about her studies, and there is no one to tell about it. Holidays and parties, walks and quiet dinners at home all pass by Muga.
Mirembe had been a sickler (sickle cells sufferer), but it was a disease they had managed for some time.
Three days before the fateful day of July 17, 2008, she had malaria and was rushed to Rana Medical Centre in Jinja, where she was admitted and was improving.
“But at 3:00pm, she died. I could not believe it. It was a big shock,” he says.
Muga has fond memories of his first wife, Josephine Choda, who died on February 2003.
She remains embedded in his mind since they had two children, Angeline who is a second year student at university and Clare who is in S.5.
Muga met his first wife in 1990 in Kapchorwa. He was in his final year at Ngetta National Teachers’ College (NTC) doing teaching practice and Choda was in her Senior Six vacation.
The two lovebirds soon decided to live together. Choda was later to join Kaliro NTC while Muga had enrolled for a Bachelor's Degree in Education at Kyambogo University.
Later, Muga paid for Choda’s university education.
They both enrolled for a course in counselling and guidance. Even when the children came, the couple was determined to finish their studies and build a life together.
They had a poultry project and were looking forward to buying land on which to build a house.
Choda started falling sickly all through her course at university. Upon completion of their courses in 2001, the couple settled in Kapchorwa.
Choda suffered a bout of cerebral malaria. She was transferred to Mulago hospital.
“I remember she was admitted on Monday and on Thursday, she passed on,” Muga recalls.
Perhaps it would have been a lot easier to accept had she been attended to by a doctor. But there was never anyone.
“She had been given a hospital card, with records of her treatment. All the doctors who saw her said, we needed a consultant to take care of her. And there was none,” he recounts.
At 4:00am, on a February 2003 morning, Choda died.
Muga had stayed by her side the previous night, but had gone home at about midnight, leaving his wife with her mother.
But his night was restless.
“I couldn’t sleep. So I woke up as early as I could and rushed to hospital. Everyone was dodging me. No one wanted to talk to me. I proceeded to her bed, but she was not there. Someone led me to the mortuary. That is when Ibegan shaking. I knew it was over,” he says, looking down.
“I actually thought life had just started,” he finally says of Choda. “Imagine, we had children, and I thought we would have time for each other now that we had finished school.”
And how would he break the news to the children?