Her last video call with her father, mother and two siblings was on June 7. It was her 24th birthday and Norah Borus was in her typical bubbly mood.
This was the fifth year in the United States for Norah, the fourth-best student in the KCSE exams of 2013. Her family joked, sang and wished her all the best in exams that would come the following week. They then ended the call with prayer, as they always did.
Little did they know that this would be the last video chat she would have with the family.
A week later, she was found dead in her room at Stanford University — where she had gone in 2014 to study computer science and was a master’s student.
During a requiem service yesterday at the Africa Inland Church in Lang’ata, the family was mum on how she died. Her eulogy said: “We received tragic news of Norah’s passing in her campus room on Friday, June 14, towards midnight after repeatedly trying unsuccessfully to reach her on phone.” The death happened as Norah’s elder sister Fiona was on her way to the US to visit her. Her father, Dr Peter Borus, told the gathering that when he entered Norah’s room, he found an open Bible.
“And I believe Norah was praying,” added the father. A crestfallen Dr Dinah Borus, her mother, tearfully revisited that last call and hoped she could savour it forever.
“If only I knew that that was the last time I would see your smile and hear your voice,” she sobbed. “I would have hung on the phone.”
Tributes at the event painted a picture of a multitalented young woman who was eager to help the world and who was big on singing.
Besides her academic ability, she also played the flute, guitar and piano.
Former schoolmates at Precious Blood Riruta recalled how she used to sing with confidence, as did a representative of Stanford University.
“She turned strangers into friends and then friends into family and then she was the roots of that family,” said the representative. A statement on the university’s website said specialists would give a statement on the cause of her death in due course.
The statement concludes with a message to students about personal well-being.
“We on campus will be available to all of you throughout the summer and into the fall. The significance of our ongoing conversation about supporting student health and well-being has never been greater. You have our commitment, along with that of fellow university leaders, to engage fully in these critical issues and needs,” it says.
Norah, her family said, had worked with Equity Bank as a teller before heading to Stanford, which had awarded her a scholarship.
While at university, she visited Kenya at least twice a year. She also worked at the university library and was a teaching assistant. In the course of her studies she had secured an internship at top firms, including Facebook. She will be buried at the family’s home in Uasin Gishu County on Saturday.
Elvis Ondieki, Daily Nation