Today, I got a call from my brother out of the blue. I was giving a lecture, so I set the phone aside with a note to call him back immediately after. Then he called a second time. He never calls twice, unless it is urgent and important. I had to excuse myself to take the call.

Before calling back, in my usual fashion when I assume there is an emergency, I checked my phone for unread messages that might give me a hint. He had sent me a succinct message – “Osarenmwinda has passed.”

I dropped my phone and took some deep breaths. I needed to make sure I was composed before I started connecting with other family members.

Osaremwinda is a cousin that I grew up with. She had a strong presence. She was the kind of person you would celebrate having by your side, and rue having against you. She was family, and I loved her.

I take solace in the fact that in our last face-to-face engagement on February 13th, which happened to be the burial of a dear Aunt, we had a deep conversation about life, and she offered her take on some of the crosses I carry.

I am thankful that her reflections on life, which she shared with me on the same day, were filled with gratitude. She was proud of her husband, her children, her extended family, her work and her network of friends.

Death is ever-present wherever there is life, yet it still shows up as a surprise.

I will miss you Osaremwinda. Thank you for asking questions and being a listening ear, when many others preferred judgment.

I will grieve for you today, but I will celebrate you every day after.

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