Friday, June 12, 2009

We Have Lost Godfrey

(an excerpt from my journal the day Godfrey died.)

We have lost Godfrey. I don’t know what to say or write but somehow I hope that if the words come out they will replace the tears. We had heard that Godfrey was in the hospital and then the news came that he passed away on Friday morning at 2am. That was midnight for us--I was awake then, lying in bed and praying for his recovery, sure that he would be okay, that Dan and Rachel would not grow up without their father, that we would not lose our friend, that we would see his amazing smile and clap hands again with him in September. We were looking forward to coming back to Uganda to share sorrows and trials and laughs with him and hear the sound of his unique gravelly voice. Godfrey was a good friend to us. For three years we helped to carry each others burdens, made decisions together, cast vision together, mediated conflicts together. We realized more of our potential because we did everything together. I loved working with him. We were a good team. In all that time he rarely lost his cool in anger and even when he did the only indication was the way he would widen his eyes and flare his nostrils. He didn’t act hastily but thought things through and acted in ways he believed would be in the best interest of others. He was a trustworthy man who kept my confidence and shared his life with us. We loved how proud he was of Rachel and Dan, especially how Rachel danced so well and how Dan is a stubborn ‘pocket’ version of him. It is so painful to accept that he is not with us anymore.

I was in the bus when I go the call. I couldn’t hold back the tears. A woman near me handed me a tissue. This odd community of strangers on their commute to work sat with me while I cried. A woman behind me made a phone call—making plans for Sunday lunch with her mom and it struck me that these were everyday things. People go from home to work and back again. They make weekend plans. And they die.

None of us knows how long we will be here. We could lose anyone, anytime. But I didn’t expect to lose Godfrey so soon. I took for granted that we would have many more everyday moments together: birthday parties, Sunday afternoons with slip and slide, drowning work and life stresses in laughter. Uganda is not the same country without him. The world is poorer for the loss of him.

A few years ago we celebrated his 35th birthday together and one of our elders (Emmanuel) said that he was now welcomed into being a Mzee (elderly man). He only had 2 years of Mzee-hood. He had dreams of starting an NGO to help young people in Apac and of running for parliament. He would have been a great MP. He could have done so much more for his community and his country. He would have been a great friend to have all our lives. He would have been a great old Mzee. He was a good man, a good friend, and I miss him.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Remembering Godfrey

Dear friends,
Last week we learned of the death of our good friend and colleague, Okello Godfrey. His sudden death was shocking and it has been hard to be so far away. We had a small memorial service for him at our church in London, and wanted to share a few of our thoughts and pictures in remembering Godfrey.

By Ben:
Godfrey was a thoughtful man. Each word he spoke had meaning and direction. Whether he was mediating a dispute between the youth group and a staff member, talking with beneficiaries in an IDP camp or presenting strategic plans to the board of trustees-every word was carefully placed.

Godfrey was a collected man. I never saw Godfrey lose his cool. He faced crisis the same way he faced ordinary life events: calm and collected. I remember driving with him to get his car fixed when he made a joke about having good “shock absorbers” for dealing with the stress that came across his desk, better than the shock absorbers on his car. At times, I wanted him to express his anger or frustration, but he knew that life was too short to be bothered by the small stuff. Godfrey preferred the sounds of boisterous laughing, meaningful dialogue and the hiss and clinking of bottles of Club.

Godfrey was the guy we trusted to keep an eye on our place when we were out of town and the person we could openly ask questions of a sensitive subject, knowing that we would get his most thoughtful response.

Godfrey was a forgiving man. Even when things at work were tense, he would happily invite us for drinks at the end of the day. He was able to compartmentalize his work from his fun and relaxation. I was really looking forward to hanging out with Godfrey without the influence of the organisation in our relationship. Godfrey would brag about Holly and I, telling his buddies that he had the best mzungus, and his friends would often tell him, “Hey, I saw your mzungus in town today…” He stuck his neck out for us, and invited us to integrate into the life and culture of young professionals (through weddings, funerals, birthday parties). We were proud to be his mzungus.

I think Godfrey knew how much I loved him. I think we were both surprised at how close we could become, given the cultural obstacles. He was open to knowing me, and I was open to knowing him. His life has enriched mine in so many ways. He has taught me lessons that I will carry for my lifetime.

Godfrey was one of the good ones. We will miss him dearly.