Sunday June 28 2020
Days after Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore learnt he had a cussed pressure of blood most cancers, he began scripting his funeral – what it might appear like, how lengthy it might take, what tune can be performed. He scripted all of it, besides what outfit he can be cremated in, which his spouse did. She selected to place his physique in a white linen go well with, with no footwear, no jewelry, nothing else – simply him, in his purest kind. Right here, on the primary anniversary of his loss of life this Wednesday, Wambui Collymore speaks on shedding a husband and her sense of scent and discovering a brand new function in life.
Wambui Kamiru Collymore’s current story has lots to do with chemical substances. From the day her husband Bob Collymore had shivers and he or she thought it was malaria, to the second medics pumped harsh medication into his system making an attempt to kill cancerous cells, to the day his physique was positioned in a crematorium as per his needs – and as much as the current second.
Now, one thing in her physique appears to be tinkering together with her sense of scent, she says. After the loss of life of her husband on July 1 final 12 months, her capacity to scent has by no means been the identical. In March, she tweeted that the sense disappeared for “quite a lot of months”.
She added that she was glad that that sense was returning, although it had its hitches: “Burnt toast smells like rose petals. Nonetheless, I’m grateful.”
Wambui Collymore, the widow of former Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore, at her artwork studio in Westlands on June 26, 2020. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
And that’s the place the Sunday Nation begins off throughout a night interview at her artwork studio off Waiyaki Means in Nairobi.
“I misplaced my sense of scent. It returned a couple of months in the past after which disappeared once more. It’s again once more; so it goes and comes,” she says.
“In grief, any variety of issues can occur. You may lose your sense of reminiscence; your eyesight could be blurred. Grief is a chemical response in your physique and it has a chemical impact in your senses, and so, for me, it was my sense of scent – which was an indicator of the magnitude of the trauma of loss of life,” she says.
She is talking with us in a constructing that’s an embodiment of her calling – artwork. On this residential home that she has transformed right into a studio, there are all method of instruments. Work dot the partitions and adjustable lights stare down at us, nearly condescendingly.
Portraits, she says, should not her mainstay however she will strive one as an indication for us. It’s a present of deftness and finesse as she makes use of a pencil to sketch a boy’s face on a mounted piece of paper in a matter of seconds, referring to the unique picture off her smartphone.
“I can’t precisely say once I discovered I used to be an artist however I all the time appreciated to attract and to color,” she says. “I’ve by no means been one to do portraiture. I believe my work is extra in set up, and that’s what I’m really recognized for: Set up artwork.”
Newly-weds Bob and Wambui Collymore. They tied the knot on April 2, 2016. PHOTO | COURTESY
This reporter has no concept what set up artwork is. “Go google it,” says Wambui. Then shortly explains that “it entails creating artwork on a sure website to change how folks understand that area”.
She runs The Artwork Area, a web-based platform that engages corporates to construct artwork collections. On her web site, wambuikamiru.com, the artist who studied historical past for her grasp’s diploma at Oxford College within the UK has listed greater than 24 exhibitions she has participated in since 2011 at varied websites in Kenya.
However that isn’t the explanation we’re right here. We’ve got visited her to speak about Bob Collymore, the person she lived with between two “firsts” – from their marriage ceremony in April 2016 to his loss of life in July 2019. Brief as that point may need been, she says she would do it once more even when time had been to be wound again and he or she met Collymore figuring out beforehand that it might final solely some time.
We’re curious to know why he needed to depart so shortly. He died on a Monday and on the subsequent day, he was cremated at an occasion the place only some friends had been let in. Absolutely, the CEO of East Africa’s most worthwhile firm deserved a public viewing, lengthy dignitary lists and all of the razzmatazz at his burial.
Seems “he had chosen a strictly easy exit. And he didn’t simply say it; he dedicated to it in writing. Consider it as an instruction handbook written to be ticked off if you die.
“A few of the particulars had been in that doc, which he signed over by means of a lawyer,” says Wambui.
Bob Collymore someway managed to maintain his non-public life away from the prying eyes of the general public. PHOTO | COURTESY
“He used to say, ‘I don’t wish to grasp about. It’s like I’m achieved; don’t preserve me round,” she says, clapping dramatically at “I’m achieved” to imitate one in every of Collymore’s signature gestures.
She provides that there are different particulars Collymore left to her and to his mates – the famed boys’ membership comprising KCB Group CEO Joshua Oigara, journalist Jeff Koinange, politician Peter Kenneth, inventory market dealer Aly-Khan Sachu, Scangroup CEO Bharat Thakrar, Customary Chartered Financial institution’s Lamin Manjang and the then British Excessive Commissioner Nic Hailey.
The chums stood behind Wambui in guaranteeing the burial occurred because the late Safaricom CEO had deliberate it.
Bob Collymore. PHOTO | COURTESY
“I’m grateful for the individuals who supported me when the strain was on to have an extended ceremony and have viewings,” says Wambui.
As he felt his loss of life drawing ever nearer and as he bade these near him farewell, together with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Collymore assigned varied roles to the members of his interior circle.
Mr Bharat, as an example, was alleged to work out the cremation logistics whereas Mr Koinange and others had been to make sure the memorial went easily. The memorial occurred that Thursday, two days after he was cremated.
“He (Collymore) scripted all of it,” Wambui says. “All of it, besides what outfit he can be cremated in, and that was my selection. And I selected to place his physique in a Mudi go well with, which is a white linen go well with with flowers on the entrance of it. And he was barefoot, with no jewelry; none of these different possessions. Simply him, in his purest kind.”
Has the boys’ membership been reaching out? We ask.
“They’ve been very supportive. They’ve checked on me always,” she replies. “I really feel like I’m a part of a household with the boys’ membership.”
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore and Janet Atika, the corporate’s head of retail, through the official opening of the telco’s first platinum membership retail store at Sarit Centre in Nairobi on July 10, 2014. PHOTO | CHARLES KAMAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP
She has additionally been wowed by Kenyans, some who had been whole strangers to her earlier than Bob’s loss of life, however who’ve reached out to help.
“I’ve had assist from unlikely locations,” she says, recalling a day she was at a restaurant in Nairobi, weeks after Mr Collymore’s loss of life, and broke down.
“After I bought house, there was a stunning message in my inbox from a complete stranger who mentioned, ‘I noticed you cry and I wished to strategy you however I believed that I shouldn’t. However then I simply wish to allow you to now that I’m enthusiastic about you and I’m praying for you,’” she remembers. “I get numerous messages like these, even now.”
One 12 months later, Wambui has learnt that one of the best ways to manage is by being simple on your self. Even together with her fledging sense of scent, she determined to readjust.
“I began to get pleasure from my different senses,” she says. “I wasn’t getting annoyed; I wasn’t getting indignant with myself for not therapeutic. And I believe that’s one other a part of grieving. There may be acceptance as a section of grief, and it’s additionally coming to phrases with the truth that the grief will not be going to go wherever; it’s all the time going to be part of me. What I’ve achieved now’s construct a brand new muscle that helps me dwell with the grief, versus saying, ‘I’m over it.’ You may’t recover from grief,” she says.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore died on July 1, 2019 after a protracted battle with acute myeloid leukaemia. PHOTO | COURTESY
Trying again, Wambui thinks she has mourned for 2 years, and never one. It is because Mr Collymore, on being informed he had acute myeloid leukemia, a uncommon sort of most cancers that impacts the blood manufacturing mechanisms, mentioned all of the situations with Wambui, which concerned sensible talks about loss of life.
So, what has she learnt of this “monster” referred to as most cancers? First, she will not be precisely happy with our reference to most cancers as a monster, noting that her husband defeated it twice.
Bob and Wambui Collymore. PHOTO | COURTESY
Mar 18, 2020
The Safaricom CEO died on Monday morning after a protracted battle with most cancers.
Learn full article
“Most cancers will not be a monster, and folks do heal from it. Bob beat most cancers. He beat it twice, however the third time spherical, he was unable to beat it,” she says. “When folks say that most cancers is a monster, it issues me as a result of there are literally worse illnesses and that kill quicker.”
Whereas at it, she is fast to induce folks to all the time keep match, as a result of Mr Collymore’s wholesome physique noticed him face up to some very harsh therapy focusing on most cancers. He mentioned in a 2018 interview that he had by no means been admitted to hospital till round 2017 when he was being examined whether or not there was most cancers in his blood.
He died at 61.
“Bob used to train day-after-day and we agreed that you simply train not due to the physique you need at present, however for the physique that you simply wish to dwell in,” she says.
Wambui has spent the previous one 12 months enthusiastic about the great instances with Bob, a person who beloved artwork and music, hated corruption and tried all he may to maintain a wholesome work-life steadiness.
“In Bob I discovered anyone who was like me, in that we prefer to name it as it’s. And since he referred to as it as it’s, it wasn’t simple to derail him. And I appreciated his honesty. And since he was trustworthy, it meant that the folks round him had no room to be dishonest round him. And that’s why he may name out corruption,” she says.
President Uhuru Kenyatta consoles Wambui Collymore throughout her husband’s memorial service at All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi on July 4, 2019. PHOTO | PSCU
She remembers a time once they agreed that nobody of their family would ever have to offer a bribe to anybody.
“We had a no-bribe coverage,” she says. “For those who had been ever in hassle, you had been to search out your manner out of it, however not by bribing.”
Bob shocked many when, in December 2015, he made a declaration of his wealth, saying he earned a median of Sh9 million a month and that his internet property had been price $2.7 million — within the type of financial institution deposits and a home in London.
Wambui says that was Collymore’s manner of aligning to the beliefs of the United Nations International Compact, a New-York-based organisation he took half in steering that encourages companies to work clear.
“He used to say that corruption begins with companies, as a result of companies are those with cash; and that corruption can finish with companies,” Wambui says.
Then there have been his rules on getting an eight-hour sleep and never permitting a cellphone to take over one’s life that left a mark on Wambui. The couple had determined that nobody would use their cellphone throughout dinner. He additionally prevented speaking over the cellphone after 10pm and Wambui says he usually saved his cellphone in one other room.
Even within the morning after waking up, he didn’t attain to his cellphone to get updates as many individuals are wont to.
“First he would rise up, do his morning rituals – whether or not it was having breakfast, shaving, no matter it was – after which he’d come to the cellphone after he was prepared,” says Wambui, noting that it is a trait she finds onerous to emulate.
In January 2019, he issued an announcement on how Kenyans ought to deal with telephones with warning: “It’s ironic that the cell phone, the machine that retains us linked to the world round us, can also be disconnecting us from the folks closest to us.”
Requested what she misses most about her husband, Wambui says it’s his sense of humour and his love for the humanities.
Figuring out she was a fan of artist Ai Weiwei, Collymore as soon as attended an Ai Weiwei present whereas on a enterprise journey within the UK and shared the expertise with Wambui by means of pictures and movies.
“He despatched them to me. And he purchased me a ebook about Ai Weiwei’s work. I believe that was essentially the most extravagant or largest expression of his love, which was attending the present for me,” she remembers.
Darkness is quick engulfing the Westlands skyline as we conclude the interview.
Are there particular folks she want to thank for her journey since she was widowed?
She takes a protracted pause, then says she would like to not identify names in order that some folks gained’t really feel disregarded.
Later, she sends this reporter a YouTube hyperlink to the classical tune Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber – as she had promised to.
It’s eight minutes of melody, with violins being the predominant sound from begin to finish.
It’s a tune Collymore appreciated a lot he wished it performed at his memorial. And it was performed in its full size through the memorial at All Saints’ Cathedral.
“The primary time I ever listened to that piece with him was after we had first met. It’s such a robust piece that brings tears to your eyes,” says Wambui.
The identical tune was performed on the funerals of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco.
It was additionally performed on radio through the loss of life bulletins of American presidents Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.
The place did Collymore’s ashes go after cremation?
Bob’s ashes had been deposited into the ocean in Diani. Diani was his favorite seaside in the entire world, so we thought it greatest to place his ashes within the sea there; in order that regardless of the place any of us, his household or mates, are on the earth, so long as you might be close to or out at sea, then you might be within the presence of the place his stays are.
On the memorial, President Uhuru Kenyatta mentioned Collymore had requested him to deal with you and your loved ones when he departs. Has the President honoured the request?
I might say that Uhuru has been very supportive. And he has been supportive not as a President however as a good friend of Bob’s. I’m appreciative of the truth that he has been there with my household and I’m grateful for the truth that he was good friend of Bob’s.
Collymore died at house. Had been you scared?
Sure, I used to be scared after we knew that Bob was going to die and he was going to die in a short time. However then, a part of being an individual who’s accountable, or who’s within the area of anyone who’s about to go away, means you need to eliminate your personal concern or emotions and give attention to the one who is dying, as a result of that’s actually their time. For those who can put aside what you might be afraid of, then you may assist the particular person die in a peaceable manner and in a manner that they really feel beloved.