Tributes to a special dad

There was nothing I felt unable to tell my Baba… so me telling him how absolutely devastated I am, how much of a void he has left at my core and how lost and forlorn I feel even surrounded by everyone who had meant everything to both of us would not surprise him. There was and will always be a spot in my heart that can only be touched by his tenderness… by the softness of his gaze and by the smooth strokes of his hand on my back. Every conversation ended with him telling me how much he loved me… once we got over the debate of the day, the telling-off of the week and when we finished exhausting our list of hashed, rehashed and re-rehashed jokes (new ones were saved for special occasions).

Every visit came to an end with him praying blessings over me…and it was the same for everyone who came across him, it was like he knew exactly what would make everyone of his children, our respective husbands and all his grandchildren feel specially loved… he was the centre of a complex solar system that worked perfectly but little did we know how central he was to it all… nothing will ever work quite how it was… we all assumed it was a spontaneous gathering of his children and grandchildren- ‘the Hagersebs’ as we call it, but nearly a 100% of the time it was because he needed us, or we just knew he would want it that way; he had the power to make all of us drop everything and come to be in his presence and he didn’t even demand that we do. And, once we were there, oh how much he enjoyed, the noise, the laughter, the jokes and the pranks, there was nothing he wouldn’t do to create an atmosphere where everyone was valued, absolutely enjoying the time together.

When it is just the two of us we debated current affairs, mostly Eritrean politics, and he always considered my views aptly making me feel like more of an expert than I really was, and from him I gained an insight, an uncluttered thought process that would shade light on the meaninglessness of some of the discourse we were debating.

My father was a decorated army officer but he never considered that as a pinnacle of his achievements. He was a husband of over 50 years to my mum, they stuck it out through thick and thin all those years… he had many flaws… but as a father he was absolutely faultless, he really was perfect. He could be suffering untold pain, but if his children and our respective families were ok… he was absolutely fine! This became clear in the last few months when he was ill… he would lie in bed all day not wanting to eat or drink and then what it took to lift him totally out of his pain was the noise that his children and grand children make… it was as if he drew strength from hearing us and touching us and knowing we were all there. This was the case right to the very end… when it was time for him to go, we were all gathered there singing and agreeing with the will of God and there was no mistaking the peaceful crossing he made to the other side; in true form he waited until everyone arrived physically and spiritually and with his signature simplicity he left us with an unmistakable smile.  If I cry, I cry tears of confusion over how we are going to fill this void. I am not bitter for Baba left no room for bitterness, nor did he recognise guilt as an emotion he lived every moment leaving no room for regrets.

Lydia, Aida, Didi and Baby you girls know precisely the size and dimension of the void he left, but soon we will learn to find Baba in each other…his gentle gaze is etched onto Lydia’s eyes, his uncluttered approach to life is identical to you Aidina, Didiye the way you accommodate the near and far is the substance of how baba managed to hold so many people close to his heart and Babye just like Baba you are loved by everyone who meets you, you have his gentle spirit. In all of you I will always find my Baba… our togetherness was his number one objective and we are custodians of the fruits of his life-long project.

Maminaye you kept crying that Baba was your brother, indeed he was. And like siblings you bickered, but always managed to find your way back to pulling every strand of your entire family and keeping it going together to the very end. Thank you for persevering, thank you for raising us intact as a family and now thank you for being the exemplary, courageous fearless woman of substance. Baba would be proud of how you are coping.

Ashiye, Geze, Josh and Danny you boys are the sons that Baba gained and it is true, what we always say about him, I don’t think he ever made any distinction between us, his blood daughters and you his sons-in-law… you were his sons and what amazing sons you are! Caring in every sense. You thought about everything from his comfort to his appearance and entertainment, thank you and may God bless you.

Ababy’s little cococs, kumanas, Anbessas and princesses, no one can tell you how much Baba loved you, you know it yourselves, he loved you with all his being, you were his joy and his strength. Your love he considered the biggest achievement of his life. He often said he was rich for being the grandfather of such amazing children. He delighted in your achievements big and small and he will continue to delight in the many more to come.

To the extended family his brothers and sisters and our cousins old and young your love has become a strength that we keep drawing from. We are loved, Baba is loved and that will strengthen us and keep us going.

Our great community of London… our London, the home that took us and allowed us to belong. Your love cushioned our fall and it feels like we are floating rather than falling… we will get there, we will be ok and, as Eddy said on the day that baba left, ‘our house will know laughter once more’ my baba was not a man of many words but many laughs and that will be his legacy.

Babaye your integrity and righteousness will forever be my joy… I am proud of you always and proud to be called your daughter.

The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.

Prov 20: 7

Selam Kidane

October 3, 2019