Every year since 2005, April brought soberness and reflection. The radio rang out with never-ending instrumental songs of sadness & forgiveness broadcasts. And this, would come to become a part of my Life even after leaving Rwanda because I gave my heart to the Rwandan people.

First time I encountered Death was at 15, in remembrance of the Genocide Memorial in Rwanda. I had Stepped out of our house to play and heard our caretaker sobbing under the guava tree. I asked her what happened and in Kinyarwanda she explained what “Kwibuka” meant and how she needed to take permission from my m0m for a while to go spend the time with her family. I had asked her where her family was and why we had never met them. She said they may be either under her house or in the gutter beside her house. My mouth hung open.

Hardly comprehending her words, that saturday, after my home chores, I sneaked out to her house and found the earth uncovered like a grave. There were some shreds of decayed cloth scattered about while some workmen stood off to one side enjoying their “Mandazi na Fanta”. She sat in a corner sobbing her ribs away. In my young heart, I knew something evil happened and I could never bring myself to ask why. I sat with her for few minutes as I let her lay on my chest while she wept. We never spoke about it again nor mentioned it to my mom but at that moment, my heart was torn and everything changed.

Here was I, a privileged child bothered about flimsy things of life like how long my skirts were from my peers while this young woman who had come to love me as her sister, felt very lonely as her entire family who were slain for no just cause lay unavenged somewhere where she could only ask neighbours about or try to make a case at the Gacaca Courts because she was off to boarding school during the genocide. Each year, she would dig different areas of her compound hoping to find even just one body so she could say goodbye properly.

A year later, I read “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Illibagiza and just then did I fully understand what she went thru! Nigerians have scars on their face as tribal marks but she had escaped a near death experience by a matchet slash from her forehead to the side of her mouth narrowly missing her eye.

Dear Rwandan,
You are a people of brave heart & courage. You’ve given forgiveness freely to those who oppressed you and together you’ve forged a united peace that has brought your nation to the forefront of Africa and taught the world about Hope & Reconciliation. Remain strong. Your loved ones have gone ahead to pray on your behalf and are watching over you proudly as you conquer in this world. I am with you in Spirit & in thought. Thank you for teaching me how to forgive, how to bear death and the important things in Life. My support for you knows no weakness. I Love You. I Pray for You. I Carry You in my Spirit. Live Long, My Rwandan Family 🎀🌹🌻🌞💫

To join the Rwandese people in Remembrance, you can donate or leave messages of hope & peace in the digital guestbook here: http://www.kgm.rw/guestbook-intro/.

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Love & Light.
Tope Hassan