Remembrance Day

Is observed on 11th November to honor those who died serving their countries in World War I. There are poppies everywhere you turn on any street in England. On lapels. On billboards. On hats. Everyone has a poppy to remember. The tradition was instituted by King George V, grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II. This tradition is over 100 years old but it is as real as Christmas and as Thanksgiving. There is even an order of service for the Service of Rememberance

In October, I teach a session on the History of Uganda at Harvest Institute School of Leadership. The sessions have varied over the years, because wow, we live in interesting times. So this year, we were looking for history around us. Prior to this class, I found out from a friend that her grandfather whose home is in my neighborhood was a WWI veteran and a published author! Go figure. Do you think we have Remembrance Day in Kiwanga? Not in the least. If we were living in England, there would be a whole ceremony at the St Thomas round the corner from his home. And we would leave wreaths and little notes at the gate of his home. It is such an ordinary day.

Some of the students were not in Kampala so they needed help finding historical sites in the districts where they were. And that’s how I found out that Semei Kakungulu built a synagogue in Mbale. A synagogue. How could someone not remember to teach this in school? It is such a contrast to who he was and what we were taught that it should have found its way to the books. It didn’t.

We must choose to remember. And to remember not in part but in whole. Our lives did not begin with us so taking a moment to remember is us being grateful. Grateful for choices we did not have to make. Grateful for decisions that led to us being on this planet. Grateful for all who made it possible for you to live where you live.

On this last day of November, who do you need to remember? How can you express your gratitude?

they shall not grow old

The title is taken from a poem written during World War I. It was eventually set to music by Karl Jenkins. The somber rendition in the link, would have made a great sound track for my history lesson this week as I taught my students about the death toll at Verdun (700,000 men) and the Somme (over 1 million men). As we worked through the imagery of incessant shelling, gas bombs, artillery bombardments and the trenches, the words of the poem came to mind. Those who survived must have lived it over and over and over.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon, FOR THE FALLEN

World War I seems like ages ago but not death. Each time, I receive a notification about a peer who has passed on, it’s very jarring. Jarring because I guess I was sold a lie about growing up.

When you grow up, you shall be able to do whatever you want. You can do that when you are older. Be patient, your time will come. What once seemed like sage advice now rings hollow. Hollow and shallow platitudes.

Because some do not grow old. In my senior six vacation, just before, we joined campus, to study our desired courses….I received the news that a dear friend, Gordon Mulinzi had been in an accident with his family. Some members had passed away but he was still in a coma. Even after his brave fight, he passed away. What?! After the hustle of reading for our A’levels, the discussions, the winter, the jubilation over being admitted to Makerere University on government sponsorship…he will always be a vacist, never a graduate.

‘Annet has died,’ were the few words my distraught friend managed to choke out as we packed our bags to leave at the end of our university. Annet had told me about her plans to go conclude with her fieldwork supervisor. She did not return. A boda boda knocked her down. It was Annet who held my hand when I despaired of learning, she faithfully took down her notes neatly and dropped off her books for me to copy. She made sure I was always in her discussion groups so she could ensure my name got onto the assignment. She carried me to meet lecturers, so they would put a face to my name. Annet will always be a student.

Gloria, very vibrant with such wise and subtle cracks, lay on her sick bed. A shadow of her former self. Cancer. She had a baby girl and a dotting husband. She managed to get us all to laugh again, even though she herself could only manage a weak smile. A few weeks later, I woke up to a notification, ‘Gloria has gone to be with the Lord’. There will be no reunions for her. No baptisms. No graduations. No firsts for her baby. Gloria will always be a bride.

Simon, recently succumbed to COVID-19. We were appointed as managers together to lead a new imitative. I fluked his honeymoon, cause we had to go and study and he decided to carry his young bride with him. It was fun. It was exciting. There were challenges but we always cracked solutions. He loved his work. He loved taking pictures. He loved people. Ever early. Ever reliable. I retired. Simon remained. Simon will always be working.

I remember them. We remember them. More as we age. They shall never grow old.

Photo credit: Pinterest

And maybe neither shall we, in the end we are The Fallen. Carpe diem, my friends. Carpe diem.