Life Is What Happens To Us While We Are Making Other Plans

Fate and destiny are words that both deal with a predetermined future. Most people argue that fate is concrete and determined by the cosmos while destiny depends on the choices one makes in life. Death of every living being, for example, will happen by fate whereas the type of life one lives is heavily dependent on destiny choices. Imagine you are scheduled for a job interview. You wake up early sufficiently prepared, take an Uber, and get involved in an accident that paralyzes half of your body. You miss the interview; you spend the rest of your life jobless and in a wheelchair. That is fate. One day you wake up and decide to save some of your money in a Sacco, you decide to use another part of your money to invest in government bonds, and the remainder surplus you venture into farming, you have charted your way to becoming a wealthy person. That is destiny. We could throw a spanner in the works by mentioning chance and luck. Chance is the probability of you going to the bank and meeting an old friend from high school. Luck is any good fortune that happens unexpectedly. Is chance fate or destiny? Is luck fate or destiny?

I met Syombua through a longtime ally. She boasts of fully grown fraternal twins. She is the author of one of the best-selling Kiswahili Fasihi books. She runs a school of her own. She is a teacher by profession. She is a bold and admirable career woman. Whenever you converse with her, she radiates an energy that is rare to find in such a hard economic time. Through her story, I thought of fate and destiny.

We picked her up along the newly built toll expressway. She hopped in the vehicle with her twins, a boy, and a girl. The drive to her motherland was incredibly scenic. We passed through the famous road in Machakos where water defies gravity by moving uphill. Then I took interest in her life. Most of these happy souls usually have breathtaking life stories. Syombua was no exception.

‘Mose, have you ever been loved properly?’

‘No.’ I answered.

‘How unlucky! As for me, I have been loved to the apex extents of which one can be loved. My late husband loved me. His death came so suddenly that it took me close to a decade to move on. That I can narrate to you this story without breaking down, is sufficient proof that I got over him. Have you ever lost a loved one close to you?’

‘Not really. Though, my grandfather’s death of prostate cancer devasted me.’

‘At least you have felt the tip of an iceberg of loss.’


Dr. Matheka was a member of the middle class in society. Barely had he graduated from The University of Nairobi with a degree in Medicine and Surgery, when he got a placing at Machakos Level 5 Hospital as a general practitioner. For most men of the 21st Century, a job placing with a six-figure salary is more often than not a ticket to marrying a lady of their choice and starting a family. Dr. Matheka was no exception. He met one petite, light-skinned, charming, and fun-loving Syombua. He took her on dates. He took her on vacations. He told her how much she meant to him. He provided, protected, and preceded her. For Syombua, nothing else mattered other than to spend the rest of her life with Dr. Matheka.

Dr. Matheka did his due diligence and asked for her hand in marriage. He visited her parents a number without end. He eventually paid the dowry and married her.

What was to be a happily ever after, was cut short at the intersection of Mombasa Road and Namanga road. Dr. Matheka was on call for duty at 8.45 in the morning. His patient that day was a six-year-old boy from Kathonzweni. He suffered from a disease called pruritus ani. It is a dermatological condition characterized by intense itching in the anal area and in severe cases the anal area swells and pops out requiring pushing it back in by a practitioner. Dr. Matheka had prepped for the procedure as it is such a common occurrence.

He picked up his car keys, hang his stethoscope on his neck, kissed Syombua goodbye on the forehead, and headed for the parking lot. A sense of fulfillment filled him when he sat behind the steering wheel, powered his vehicle, and headed for Mombasa Road to Machakos Hospital to ease the pain of the boy suffering from pruritus ani. The discussion on the car stereo was of a woman who confessed to having cheated on her husband for the past five years without him noticing. Dr. Matheka shook his head slowly in pity at his fellow man somewhere out there unaware of how evil a woman he had for a wife. Kenny Rodgers’ song Cat Fish Bates followed and he could help but smile at the lyrics.

In front of his car was a trailer presumably headed to Tanzania due to its characteristic number plate beginning with T. The trailer moved at a relatively slow pace. Like any other driver would, Dr. Matheka attempted to overtake. First, by indicating then slowly moving out of his lane to the oncoming lane. His visual distance gave him a clear to go. His 2000cc diesel-powered vehicle could overtake the trailer swiftly and get back to his lane before the oncoming PSV matatu from Machakos could catch up with him. Foot on full throttle, Dr. Matheka set off. The oncoming PSV matatu lit the warning headlights. The trailer being overtaken hooted loudly and attempted to move to the side. In a split second, there was a loud bang and then darkness. The life of Dr. Matheka came to a halt at that point.

The boy with pruritus ani kept waiting. Syombua back at home went on with her house chores. Mombasa Road intersection with Namanga Road was an accident scene. The total number of casualties was six. By afternoon, all the dead bodies were checked in at Montezuma Funeral Home. Survivors were checked in at Kitengela Sub-County Hospital.


‘Can you imagine I kept on polishing his shoes five years after we had buried him?’

‘Unimaginable.’ I answered.

‘Do you know I used to set the table with his plate and cup every time for five years?’

‘Did any of those things you did make you feel any better?’ I asked.

‘Not at all. I think they made me feel worse after realizing the polished shoes won’t be worn and the food I served won’t be eaten.’

‘How has it been raising twins alone?’

‘It has been thrilling because you buy stuff in pairs.’

‘Does the family of Dr. Matheka support you?’

‘Not at all. They believe I am the cause of his death to this day.’ She replied sadly.

I asked her about her yearning for love again and she does. She has tried dating and she has been unlucky each time. I would argue that is fate.

Until Syombua speaks, you would never know she has such a back story to her life.

Cheers Syombua!


A man by the name of Roy Sullivan has been struck by lightning seven times in his lifetime and has survived all of the instances. His fate is probably being struck by lightning as long as he lives.

John Parr was the first casualty of the first world war in 1914. George Edwin was the last casualty of the first world war in 1918. Both of these men have been buried 15 feet apart in an unplanned manner. If that is not fate, what is?

Do you think the fact that some people will be in heaven and some won’t, is a matter of fate or destiny?

“People say fate is in our hands, and whether it turns against us, depends entirely upon our deeds.”

6 thoughts on “Life Is What Happens To Us While We Are Making Other Plans”

  1. Yes I admit it am a fan of your pieces but this one mahn beats them all.
    The emotions were intense I was sad reading this ,it brought tears then their was hope that we cling on that life happens and we always get better with time.
    Very nice piece ,remarkably touching.
    God bless you.


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