His stoic speech at Nairobi Hospital on July 29 to announce the death of his wife, Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso, caught many by surprise.
It was only hours after doctors had switched off life support machines on Laboso but Edwin Abonyo hardly betrayed any emotion.
The man who had spent decades working behind the scenes would during the period before his wife’s burial to worm his way into the hearts of many by his dignity in loss.
Laboso succumbed to cancer after along treatment both in Nairobi, the United Kingdom and India.
Exactly three months on today, the father of Ted, Brian, Marco and Mina told the Star in an exclusive interview that he has been living in hell since his wife’s demise.
Abonyo said his family is still struggling to come to terms with the loss.
Describing a difficult phase of his life strength and humour, Abonyo told the Star that though he appear the strongest when the grief was fresh, he was the most affected of his family.
Abonyo said watching his wife endure the pain and see life slowly ebb away from her body sapped strength out of him, leaving a gaping hole in his heart.
“I have cried a lot in private. Whenever I step in our house, our room, in particular, the emotions come fresh. I remember everything and the memories kill me,” Abonyo said.
At some point, his eldest son Brian and his foster daughter walked in to join the conversation with the Star.
“June and July were the hardest as her situation got worse. Organ failures, swelling of the leg, her inability to walk and being bedridden went in quick succession,” Brian said.
Even more excruciating, he said, was watching her choke in pain with intravenous tubes all over her as the aggressive tumour grew, undeterred by the rigorous chemo and radiotherapies.
Even more gut-wrenching, Abonyo added, was the fact that he knew his wife had a slim chance of making it “as science records very few treatment success rates for second-time relapse of cancer.”
“In fact, at some point, I told the doctors not to actively resuscitate her as the pain became overbearing and her chances were growing negligible. I did the same for my mother, mother in law,” he added.
Abonyo said that he has not re-arranged the house and even the wardrobes in his city, Sotik and Fort Ternan homes.
In fact, there is still a picture of the former governor, a condolence book and four reddish candles sitting on a small table at the entrance corridor leading to his living room, depicting a mourning mood in the Kilimani, Nairobi home.
Even at Fort Ternan home, they put fresh flowers every time they travel back, which is every weekend, he said.
Abonyo said when Laboso’s cancer recurred, he was a fearful man, knowing that her survival chances were rapidly dwindling.
“When my wife first got diagnosed in the early 90s at Nairobi Hospital, I stopped all I was doing and drove to Nyalenda in Kisumu where my parents were living to cry at their feet,” he said. “I told them Joyce was dying.”
Though Laboso survived this, he relived the experience when Laboso gave him a call from the US that she had been rediagnosed with it, only that this time, he did not run to cry to his parents.
Abonyo and his son Brian Ochieng’ said Laboso’s relapse was detected at MD Anderson Cancer Centre in the US when she went there on an official trip, sourcing for medical equipment and areas of partnership for her Bomet administration.
“She then just decided to take advantage of the trip to the facility to check herself. She was not feeling any pain at the time but I had observed she would complain of being tied frequently while here,” Abonyo said.
“When I got that call, I was devastated. I told her to wind up her trip and travel home so we start treatment,” he said.
As his wife received care from medics, he would feel a part of him was waste away.
“I had been away for 15 years and I thought coming back would allow me to be with mum and the family for a good time. This was not to be. It’s been a tearful period,” Brian said.
After the burial, Brian said, he remained at their For Ternan home for two weeks after everybody had returned to the city, an experience which left him lonely, only accompanied his mother’s grave.
“Every time I would see the grave, I would be broken. But we have tried to smart out of it because we are not the first to be bereaved,” he said.
For Mina, entering her parent’s room and seeing the belongings of the former governor brings back the pain afresh.
“It has been a traumatic experience. All of us lost weight and I, in fact, got white hair,” Mina, who served the governor as her private secretary in all her public life, said.
by Gordon Osen