Life has not always been a swedge with misfortune for 66-year-old Lokei Leto. Despite her hazy evocation, there is one particular memory that remains entrenched in her elderly mind.
Partnering up with her late husband, they managed to forge an affluent existence with wealth measured in a plethora of livestock.
But when her husband submissively answered the stealthy beckoning of death, things began going downhill for Leto. As per tradition, her husband’s body was to be buried near his dead siblings to prevent him from feeling infinitely lonely in the uncertain realm of the afterlife. His body was transported to Isiolo County where his siblings lay in rest.
Devoid of a capable male figure in the principally patriarchal region of Kirimon in Samburu County, Leto became exposed and vulnerable to vultures in human form. Her children, too young at that time, could not dare defend their inheritance. Her neighbors abstained from interference. As though taking candy from a baby, the bandits walked into her compound without facing any resistance and drove away the most prized livestock. The sickly animals were left behind.
Victims of this twisted common crusade of cattle rustling and in pursuit of better fortune, Leto and her children scarpered to Isiolo where the remains of her husband lay.
Their arrival converged with the preamble of a long drought that perched the soil, decolorized the green vegetation and dried up water bodies. The few animals they had managed to abscond with perished. Leto and her children festered in poverty, but they survived on scanty means including a futile agrarian gambit. As they grew older, her children began vacating her vicinity and tracked their own survival. The daughters in particular were clawed by marrying poor men and left with scars of destitution to this day.
To add to her long list of grievances, Leto is agonized by ulcer wounds in her stomach, which flames up creating an excruciating illusion of internal combustion. The only companion who sees her through whatever remains of her trying life is a granddaughter who cooks, cleans, fetches water and firewood.
When asked about the inevitability of death, Leto dodged around the question before finally blurting out “No one loves it. I cannot even say that word. I know it exists. I’ve seen it even with my husband, but I don’t want to talk about it.”