Love wins. This sounds cliche but not when almost every love story of our times is marked with heartbreak and rejection.Lillian Wafula Onyango bears the countenance of a woman who has been truly loved; oozing a vibrancy that only love can offer. In fact, she is an embodiment of nature and God conspiring to give her the very finest of life -peace- a sure anchor of the unknown and an unwavering life support. Read her story as narrated by Erik Mutei.
You can easily deduce the quality of someone’s life from the subtle nuances that you observe as you step into their zone. Like house-helps or neighbors making courtesy calls and children with shikamoo Mamake. I meet Lillian Wafula Onyango one fine evening at her new home. Lillian and her husband had had just moved in, and the packed boxes showed of a people in the process of making a home. Our conversation cuts across various topics, angles, perspectives and the entire medley that makes our lives.
In the beginning…
Lillian begins by telling me of her childhood memories. Not the conventional stories of how she came from a humble background, or started from the bottom and what not. Nope!
“I had an awesome grandpa. It is in him I found safety, I felt appreciated, cared for and with that had the confidence to conquer the world. Growing up and going through conventional schooling was a medley of experiences. I had my low moments, but at the back of my mind I knew I had a family that got my back.
I knew I was different, from the curious looks I got. Sometimes kids pinched me to see whether I could bleed. However, I think being misunderstood, mostly by my teachers who thought I was pretending that I couldn’t see, was the greatest reminder that I was different and perhaps that I didn’t belong. It took the courage of one teacher, while in class three, to actually figure out what really worked for me. She had discovered that if I sat at the front row of the class my grades improved exponentially. She would have me sit on her desk during her lessons. This discovery was a turnaround for me. It is in those moments that I learnt to fight my battles, fight for my space and I got voice. I remember my grandma always reminded me the only way I was going to succeed and conquer the ignorance that surrounded me was to do well in education. That was enough to drive me to into books and pursue this magic that would change my life.
Of faith, firm backgrounds, and turning point
Remember the adage you shall know them by their fruits; this stuck with me always. My growth was in phases and I had my share of heartbreak, joy and self-discovery about what worked out for me. I developed the guts to face the world albeit with its challenges. From the onset, my family knew I needed protection from the sun. The gesture from my family really going out of their way to care about me gave me a sense of security. My faith in God and commitment in church kept me in check and helped me survive the murky waters of university.”
Listening to Lillian, you can tell she holds no regrets in life. She appreciates the phases of life that she has gone through as it has helped her grow a thick skin to conquer whatever hurdles she has encountered along the way. She remembers one day her auntie brought home a magazine bearing a story of a child who had albinism. For Lillian, this was enough motivation that irrespective of her condition, she wasn’t alone and that she too could build the future she desired for herself. She therefore buried herself in books and that has made all the difference.
Relationships and Marriage
“When you are different people want to date you for different reasons. At times, actually most of the times, the interest from others is not genuine. Anything successful in life has been built. Nothing stands without the courage and sheer effort to build. One thing I remember about dating Kevin, now my husband, is that he always had my back. Above all he was a man of his word. We were friends at first but he had this aura about him that was totally captivating. He genuinely invested in me as a person. My condition never featured anywhere in our discussions. We solidified what we felt for each other, during the two years we dated. So when he popped the question, there was no doubt I had found a partner for life. I have learnt that along these paths of our lives, if you find someone willing to go an extra mile for you without questions or explanations then, there is no mountain you cannot conquer together. Kevin has been my support system. He has helped me grow as a person in all aspects of my life.
“What about babies?” She quips smiling and adds “We have a son.”
“Was there a point you talked about the eventualities of the babies having your
condition ? Did this scare you?” I ask.
Lillian explains “Well, when it is a non-issue there is no room or time for deliberations. That was us and that has always been us. There was nothing to discuss. Kevin accepted me for whom I am, no questions or expectations, just acceptance. Above all, we trusted in the perfection of God’s will upon the path we had chosen.
My marriage is a fruit of friendship, God’s grace and providence, and a strong family support unit. I have served in several platforms advocating for persons with disabilities, pushing for exclusivity, honoring and implementing the policies set for persons with disabilities which I
know were made in good faith. However I have learnt nothing will ever change if
we do not genuinely love. The pangs of seclusion, discrimination, and loneliness that come with disabilities can only be conquered by sincere love. The only remedy for the myths shrouding disability is the altar of love.”
*Shikamoo Mamake– a form of greeting in Swahili language when a younger person is
greeting an older woman whom would be considered as her mother.