Rest well Ija Apio

On the morning of 21st February 2022, I was given the sad news that my ija (aunt) Apio had rested. Ija Apio was a cousin to my late papa. She was the daughter of my late papa’s uncle, papa Opodo (RIP), who, as part of the King’s African Rifles, fought for the British in World War II. Papa Opodo was a brother to my late tata (paternal grandmother), Alinga, she who I am named after.

My late ija Apio, in fact, lived and cared for my late tata, her ija, until my tata rested. While her cousin brother, my late papa, was still alive, even after my tata rested, my late ija Apio lived at his home in Pallisa, until papa was taken ill and was no longer able to regularly go to his Pallisa home.

Apparently, an imposter gold-digger chased away my late ija Apio from living at her cousin brother’s home. When papa rested, my late ija Apio came for his funeral rites and she was prepared to stay on for a while and to take care of the chief’s burial grounds. But then again, apparently, said imposter gold-digger and other imposters chased her away.

As you may have already deduced, I am hurting and I am angry. I am angry, most of all, with myself. This is because I kept thinking about it and promising that I would go bring ija Apio back to her late cousin brother’s home, so she could live in my section of the home, so that I could care for her as she cared for the chief’s burial grounds. I never got to do so.

The last words of ija Apio that keep ringing in my ears are (translated from Ateso): “Ija, where am staying things are not easy, in terms of food”. Yes, she called me ija, because I am named after her ija, my late grandmother. She shared her circumstances with me while we were for my late papa’s funeral rites. Judging from what we have been told about how she died, I have this niggling feeling that ija Apio may have died of hunger; a death that could have been easily avoided.

Since, I was not able to physically go to her burial, I sponsored her grandson, and my two cousin brothers to go in my stead. I paid for the coffin and I bought aisuka (the burial cloth). Feedback from those who attended her funeral rites, which took place on 22nd February, gives me small comfort that, within Iteso culture, even though I was physical absent, my late ija’s people, my late grandmother’s people, my people, are happy I did well by my late ija Apio. I buried her well, they praise.

I pray that my late ija Apio’s spirit and her soul are in a good place, together with those of our ancestors gone before her. Hers joins the squad of my ancestors’ spirits that are watching over me. Rest well ija.

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