Hold onto dreams, For if dreams die, Life is like a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.. Hold fast to dreams, For when dreams go, Life is a barren field, Frozen with snow. (Langston Hughes)
Three weeks ago, on our wedding day, the priest at our service read a Langston Hughes quote reminding us to “hold fast to our dreams”. The start of a marriage feels like the perfect beginning for dreams filled with endless possibility. The beginning of our journey has taken us to Kenya.
Having hosted Gideon at our home in Bristol for the Bath Half Marathon in March we were so thrilled to be able to come to his home here in Kenya and to spend time with his family. In Bristol we talked a lot about where Gideon’s passion for running came from and what motivated his endless and gruelling training sessions. He told us, “whenever you help me here it just doesn’t help me, it helps more and more people”, something that we have only just come to understand. Gideon is a man with incredible responsibility. He is the sole provider for his parents, ten brothers and sisters and their children, his own wife, daughter and two nephews who he adopted after his brother passed away. Despite all this his generosity appears endless and we witnessed him give freely to those in his community who don’t have enough to eat.
Gideon built his home from trees planted and grown by his father and grandfather. We were honoured to sleep in one of these wooden huts where our mornings were filled with sounds of roosters crowing and sheep, goats and a cow ran freely past our window, all of which the money from his winnings at the Cardiff Half Marathon, Bath Half Marathon, Belfast Full and Half Marathons etc. have permitted. With no electricity a paraffin lantern illuminated our nights filled with conversation and laughter – in these moments life for us felt very much filled with perfect dreams.
Our time with Gideon, however, was also dominated by trips to the local government hospital. Gideon had informed us about his father, James, being unwell and we arrived to find a man so incredibly warm in his welcome and delighted to hear us greet him with the local Kalenjin language. He was wearing a running top from the Carmen 10Km, surely a gift from Gideon and his races at home. The ward was overcrowded and there were no doctors that we could speak to.
The next day things seemed worse. James looked unwell and his abdomen was severely distended. An x-ray had been done and we were able to ascertain that he had a hernia causing a large bowel obstruction – in the UK or indeed anywhere in the world this is a textbook emergency. We were able to speak to a doctor who agreed that he needed immediate surgery. However, things were slow and we frequently struggled to understand what was happening. Eventually we were informed that the hospital did not have a surgeon and Gideon arranged for an ambulance to take his father to the nearest hospital, still a two hour drive away. However, when we arrived the only hope that he had we were informed that the hospital had no electricity and with no functioning generator we both knew that the hope was no more. Gideon and his brothers held their father’s hand as the hours disappeared and just as the “emergency” theatre that he needed slipped away so too did Gideon’s father.
James Kimosop died last night at 1am. He was 64 years old.
Gideon and his brothers did everything that they could in a world filled with complex challenges that we can never fully comprehend and cruel harshness that we will never know.
Having been to Uganda numerous times and experienced how limited resources are within a medical setting, perhaps we should have been more prepared for the devastation that we feel at the loss of Gideon’s father in Kenya. It has even been suggested that we should have “expected” it, “TIA (this is Africa)” and yet our hearts feel broken at this entirely unnecessary loss. Yesterday was the London Marathon and Jemina Sumgong, despite falling got back up and went on to win the race. This is the Kenyan spirit that we have witnessed in Gideon, a gentle, kind, modest man. We can only hope that when the time is right he too will find the strength to get back up.
Hold fast to dreams Gideon.
NB-If you wish to make a small donation to Gideon and his family, you can do so by clicking the link below
Edward and Lisa.