About The Girl Who Lived

I typed “live today” into the search engine, and immediately, 5 prompts popped up. “live today as though it is your last”, “live today as if it is your last day”, “I will live today as if it is my last”, “live today as if there is no tomorrow”, “live as though today is your last day”. Try, and see it for yourself. The second last entry took me to www.scrapbook.com. Apparently, it is a site which peddles quotes. I was welcomed by “Dream as if you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die today, Love like there is no tomorrow, Dance like no one is watching”. Sounds sensible enough, you would think.

Nana Gichuru: “Life is a story…..make yours a bestseller! Or read mine….” Summing it all up rather nicely with “In the end, this is all about…..Another sunrise, another better shot at ANYTHING under this beautiful sun!”

Nana Gichuru: Music is what feeling sounds like

Enough about living and how we should do it. What about dying? There is something curious about death. In popular expression, it is something you actually do, expressed in a verb. So-and-So died: that is a positive statement attributing physiological collapse to the decedent’s deed. S/he died. Like you wake up early, polish your shoes, brush your teeth, and die. Yet the only time we actually die as a positive proposition is in the case of suicide, which is forbidden by and large. Otherwise, we stop doing things. We stop breathing, our hearts stop beating and so forth. We don’t die. We stop living. It is a negative proposition in actual sense. But we die anyway. The central idea in living and dying is life. Death is nothing. Death is a non-event. It is the sum total of un-happenings, failures and stoppages. When and how should we die?

Todd Henry expects us to Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day. This book, according to amazon.com is a tool for people who aren’t willing to put off their most important work for another day. When Dr. Myles Munro was in this country, he spoke at length about dying empty. In a persuasive and passionate pitch, Munro expressed the desperate urgency and pressure that inspired, creative, passionate people are under to maximize every moment. When later he died in a plane crash, Kenyan media was awash with theories about premonitions and a death-wish.

Bucket Lists
People have put together bucket lists: things to do before one finally kicks the bucket. Whether we like it or not, past adolescence, our feelings of invincibility and immortality wane, and we begin to plan our lives around death. Insure ourselves, write detailed wills plan the kids’ education, visit places, live fuller, richer lives according to our means and understanding. The certainty of death creates an urgency to really live every passing year. I have always thought that ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes” is the best pitch for life insurance every put together. It’s popularity lies in the fact that the lyrics juxtapose things that concern us most: death and love.

We are a society that lives in mortal dread of death. That’s ironic in the extreme. No way to live. We don’t march to our lawyers’ offices to write wills: our courts’ Probate Divisions are infernally clogged with complicated, acrimonious, wasteful and tragic litigations arising out of intestate succession. Intestate means that the deceased did not express himself in any plausible testamentary fashion, and the Public Trustee and Probate and Family are left to do the best they can under heartbreaking circumstances. We are desperately superstitious about death. We do not talk about our own deaths. We cannot talk about others’ deaths because when they inevitably occur, we will be ostracized as witches and murderers. We wallow in a trance, as though hypnotized by the fear of death. Anyone who speaks of it is either asking for it, or wishing it on others.

Shamanic Swamp of Superstition
In 2015, our moral thought is deeply immersed in the shamanic swamp of pre-colonial superstition. We may inhabit the greenest of leafy suburbs, wield formidable academic certificates, drive the beastliest, sleekest motoring state of the art and speak the poshest European languages. But let a black cat cross our path in the morning, and we will be sweating, nervous wretches, going crazy out of anxiety over’ Nux’, or whatever they call it. Harvard and its Veritas is nothing compared to a black domestic cat. Ponder that.

We are also empty moralists. We need our righteousness to be externally validated. It is not enough for us to be upstanding, decent people. Society must reward us for it. The reward can come in either of two ways: our prosperity and general advance from strength to strength. In the alternative, the punishment of the unrighteous, our putative mortal enemies, will suffice. There is no satisfaction in handing in our homework if those who don’t are not smitten by heavenly rage. Our piety is zero-sum. That is why we love the passages where Jehova went on a rampage, smiting Philistines and Amorites and Jebusites and Amalekites and other righteousness defaulters.

Nana Gichuru: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘HOLY CRAP!!!! WHAT A RIIIDE……!’ To lace, red lips and oversized headphones and this amazing ride!”

Nana Gichuru: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘HOLY CRAP!!!! WHAT A RIIIDE……!’ To lace, red lips and oversized headphones and this amazing ride!”

Sitting in Judgement
Those amongst us who have managed themselves into being satisfied with a limited life often sit in judgment of freer, more impatient, more impulsive, more impudent spirits. In our midst are people who can do much more, and live their lives intensely. These people are misunderstood. They keep irregular hours, dream a lot, take eccentric ideas very seriously and actually solve unique problems. They are outliers. They play their game in the right edge of the bell curve where high performance is the defining characteristic of the few. They are checked by the envy, misunderstanding and shock of the the middle passage, the deep pit of the bell, where the great unwashed find comfort in numbers, and define majority consensus.

“Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter,
Let me die in your arms,
Let me lay down beside you’
Let me always be with you’
Come let me love you,
Come love me again….”

John Denver belted out these words in Annie’s Song, one of the most epic articles of musical poetry, months before he flew his plane and crashed to his death. Many say that he had a premonition, or death wish.

Nana Gichuru: Her social media is replete with insights, yearnings, loves, peeves and joys. She has energy

Nana Gichuru: Her social media is replete with insights, yearnings, loves, peeves and joys. She has energy

“O Lord you know,
I have no friend like you,
If Heaven’s not my home,
Then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me,
From Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t be at home in this world anymore.”
These were the reverberating Jim Reeves’ plangent yearnings in one of his most famous numbers. Like Denver, he had died in a plane crash, obviously sometime after recording it. This didn’t stop the world from speaking about premonitions and a death wish.

Meet Nana
“Music is what feeling sounds like” quipped Nana Gichuru on her Instagram, captioning a picture of herself, eyes closed in sensuous transport, one hand holding an earphone next to her temple. It’s a beautiful picture. It’s a wonderful feeling – I mean, you can see the feeling in that picture. On point, as we say. Even her clever play on Georgia Cates is apposite.
Nana is that girl. Her social media is replete with insights, yearnings, loves, peeves and joys. She has energy. She is inspired. She loved to do things. She is always on the move, between different places and different things. She is beautiful, active and busy. There is a sense one gets that she feels all the time that there is too much to do and too little time. Perhaps wondering when she will ever stop, if she will ever stop. There is an intensity and urgency about her that is extraordinary.

Nana Gichuru: “Life is a story…..make yours a bestseller! Or read mine….”

Nana Gichuru: “Life is a story…..make yours a bestseller! Or read mine….”

“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘HOLY CRAP!!!! WHAT A RIIIDE……!’ To lace, red lips and oversized headphones and this amazing ride!” This is another caption to a totally gorgeous Instagram selfie. Nana has actually paraphrased Hunter S Thompson in The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman. Nana somehow had time to read all these wonderful books and retain excerpts almost verbatim. Thompson actually says “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in a broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

There is a picture of Nana in colourful bikini posing in readiness to dive into a pool. According to her caption, she wanted to dive headlong, and needed to steel her nerves for it. Inevitably, her caption picks up Benjamin Mee in We Bought A Zoo: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
I am still impressed by her memory. This is a girl who retains stuff. Nana’s caption reads: “Sometimes all we need is 20 seconds of insane courage, 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery….”

Nana Gichuru“Sometimes all we need is 20 seconds of insane courage, 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery….”

Nana Gichuru“Sometimes all we need is 20 seconds of insane courage, 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery….”

A Bestseller
And she thinks she has figured out life, in artisting terms: “Life is a story…..make yours a bestseller! Or read mine….” Summing it all up rather nicely with “In the end, this is all about…..Another sunrise, another better shot at ANYTHING under this beautiful sun!” This was a caption to a truly breathtaking sunrise, taken on holiday. Vacationing and travel seem to bring out the most reflective side of Nana. Perhaps that’s when she reads. Perhaps that’s when she reflects deeply. Most definitely, she is no stranger to ideas. Neither is she afraid of them. She brings them to life through creation and work.

“Hi, I’m an actor, writer, musician, voice artist, young film maker, entrepreneur, travel junkie, maaard thinker and an unconventional human in Nairobi…” is how Nana introduces herself on her Facebook. All those things! And she is all of them. So much to do. So much inspiration. So many ideas. What urgency. She is not an ordinary girl. An unconventional human in Nairobi.
Yesterday, Nana took to the wheel of her splendid ride. It was a two-door BMW 363i convertible, 2014 model. A beautiful ride. She was late to a work-related meeting. Another sunrise, another better shot at whatever she was rushing to do. Accounts vary, but all are plausible. She was swerving to avoid a pedestrian and collided head-on with a truck. A Prado was hurtling right at her, and she had to switch lanes to avoid it, then the truck. It didn’t go well.

Before her family even knew a thing about the tragedy, the Great Unwashed were trolling Nana, dead-shaming her in the most cruel and reprehensible way imaginable. They quoted her Instagram and Facebook captions to support their truly moronic argument that Nana was reckless and had a death wish or a premonition of her death, or both. Then they went farther and argued that she was speeding outrageously. Inductive reasoning from crooks who don’t know what reasoning is. At first, they decided that she was driving at 160kph. This was to accommodate the speeding argument within the bounds of our jalopy driving economy. Once they saw that Nana was in a BMW, they escalated her velocity to 200, then 300.They condemned her posts. They said that her tragedy should be a lesson to the rest of us on how not to live and, perhaps, how not to die as well. Really, profoundly stupid and shameful.

A beautiful young person lost her life in a road tragedy. She was on her way to work. If she hadn’t crashed, she would have been creating wonderful works and earning millions as your calloused thumbs trawled the net, gossiped and trolled. Surely. People with a death wish don’t acquire 3-series BMW convertibles for the purpose. They don’t work out until they have perfect abs. They don’t travel to London and to the Coast to relax and have fun, or work on scripts and roles and practice the hell out of themselves for a performance. They do not rise early to go for meetings.

People with a death wish sit all day surfing the internet, butting into every WhatsApp group and Facebook community and chatrooms with their malodorous and mouldy opinions. They neither have nor seek respectable gainful employment. They are happy to be paid 8k to troll everyone else. They never venture out of their tightly sealed, stifling and smelly cocoons, from which they launch crude fusillades at the talented, the creative, the diligent, the different. Those are the characters with premonitions: of poverty, despair, defeat, death.
To Live, Not To Exist
Nana rejected the cocoon of mediocrity and the comfortable throng of the average. She embraced the lonely, misunderstood world of the gifted and the inspired. She was clear about it. Very clear. This is what the Unconventional Human in Nairobi said: “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom in me in a magnificient glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live. Not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” She was quoting Jack London.
That is who Nana is: a young genius who knew Jack London. The trolling, judgmental Great Unwashed will ask: what is Jack London, American Whisky? The purpose of man is to live! Not to exist.

This is to all who feel stunned and stupefied by the utter retarded simpleness which greeted Nana’s demise. Those who knew her as well as those who, like me, did not. Nana wasn’t okay; she was a magnificent, fabulous, free, joyful spirit. She didn’t deal with ordinary. She didn’t make peace with the mediocre or average. She was true to herself in a world where few could be true to her. She worked hard. She was talented. She was inspired. Her accident will never consign her into the dreary oblivion of statistics: even now she stands out. Because she lived her life intensely. Because she led the abundant life.

It is only fair that I turn once more to her posts for what she would say at this point.
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you – Buddha”

We must never say about Nana that she is a young woman who died, because that in untrue. She is the young woman who lived.



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19 Responses

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  1. Lengo Letu
    Sep 23, 2015 - 06:05 PM

    Dear writer,

    My deep condolence and regret to Nana Gichuru’s family and friends who had to painfully and shockingly learn of her road accident death on Tuesday 22nd September 2015, through social media. Those who shamelessly shared her badly off photos and those identifying the car she was driving, should know that they robbed the family off a chance to mourn with dignity and privacy. Most importantly they denied Nana a chance to Rest in Peace. Poleni sana family and friends.

    Though I agree with you on several aspects of your tribute to Nana, I want to differ on your opinion about how she met her death. Even before the forensic experts give us the verdict of the accident, visual evidence indicates that impact was so severe to suggest high speed. The fact that you did not witness the accident either leaves your account of how the accident happened as a mere opinion just like those who mentioned speeds like 200km/h.

    On the other hand, my psychologists background tells me that her social media activities were indicative of suicidal tendencies. As a counselor, I would recommend immediate therapy after looking at those posts. Your tribute is a classic example of denial that several clinical psychological illnesses are increasingly affecting Kenyans, as the country experiences rapid development and modernization. She may have not specifically been committing suicide on the fateful day but she may have convinced herself that she will die in grisly thrilling circimstances, that is why she lived on the fast lane in her mind and reality as evidenced in her photos and posts.

    Having said that, whether she was suicidal or not is just but a minor point. The key issue is that she was driving on a public road where other equally deserving road users like motorists, riders and pedestrians are present. That calls for extra vigilance and caution. And that is why there is something called “speed limit.” In cases where motorists choose to be idiotic about set speed limits, bumps are erected.

    Now, why should we allow recless, speed thrilled or suicidal drivers continue to drive without speaking up or taking action? We have had enough of drivers denying other people the love, company and care of those they kill through causing accidents.

    I am not passing judgement in Nana’s case. Instead I leave it to forensic accident investigators. Though I stand by my psychological conclusion.

    One thing that Nana’s family and friends can do is to have deep collective reflections and turn this grief into a positive experience that will not only help them mourn Nana with dignity, but also give back to the public by campaigning for road safety in her name. This process will also help them heal from the emotional wounds and grief caused by the public nature of this tragedy, and most importantly restore Nana’s dignity.

    • jj
      Sep 24, 2015 - 08:34 PM

      Precisely. Sorry for their loss but just like a friend asked,why should we condemned the likes of pastor nganga and Condon Nana’s driving. I also do think her posts tend to lean on suicide. The people with the biggests smiles everyday sometimes hide the deepest pains. …. just saying.

  2. sally
    Sep 24, 2015 - 07:39 AM

    May her soul rest in peace
    That story is too long I find read through though

    • sally
      Sep 24, 2015 - 07:40 AM

      **I didn’t read through

  3. Robert
    Sep 24, 2015 - 11:23 AM

    Excellent writing! Interesting take on how morbid and judgemental our society can be.

    • Olive
      Sep 24, 2015 - 05:40 PM

      Oi, fancy meeting you here .. I did not know her personally but she challenges and inspires me to do and be more before I go .. I choose to take away the good she did because under such a powerful microscope, all our lives have cracks .. #choosingtobeinspiredbyNana

  4. TNgash
    Sep 24, 2015 - 03:05 PM

    Thank you for this. I knew her well- tomato she used to cheekily call me knowing very well how much it riled me, and this article I dare say, embodies what a wonderful soul she was, full of life, spirit and spunk. A beautiful life, well lived.Thank you

  5. Beatrice Kariuki
    Sep 24, 2015 - 03:58 PM

    Very well articulated!! Perfect read

  6. Jesse
    Sep 24, 2015 - 05:52 PM

    Nice and lovelly

  7. Vic N
    Sep 25, 2015 - 02:53 AM

    Mostly agree but I don’t think the BMW was a 2014 model. Not with a KBQ number plate.

  8. Nelly
    Sep 25, 2015 - 06:08 AM

    Very inspiring writing…loved her sensentional energy

  9. Lol (@NginaOkeyo)
    Sep 25, 2015 - 06:30 AM

    Amen to Living!

  10. Ken
    Sep 25, 2015 - 09:51 AM

    I wish Nana’s family strength from above and May God rest her soul in eternal peace.
    The other side of the story lies on what human beings consider ‘living life’ to be. For others traveling and seeing all these beautiful places around the world like she did is what ‘living’ is all about……For others it’s having dinner in the best restaurants around the world and meeting people from different cultural backgrounds….For others, ‘going to Nairobi’ is the best they can have as they were born, bred and brought up in ‘Mashambani’ and this is the ‘lot’ that tends to be forgotten when we are talking about ‘life well lived’. So many would want us to believe that going abroad and being fancy is what living life is all about….that’s besides the point. She lived the best way she could according to her definition of ‘living life to the fullest’…..
    However, it’s not about how well she lived that brought about this whole discussion as we would want to believe rather it is how she departed from us that brought all this ‘ Hullaballoo’ coz some of us barely knew her. We wouldn’t know what actually caused the accident but from logical conclusions we can ascertain that she was driving fast hence the impact. The flip side of it all is that we have a truck driver who will for the rest of his life question his ability to drive and have like a million and one ‘why’ on what would have been the case had he done it differently….among the supposedly questions lingering in his mind would be …..why didn’t I use another route on that fateful day? ….why didn’t I apply enough pressure on my braking maybe that would have saved the day?…..why didn’t I accept the soda that ‘Waiganjo’ was offering me at the site maybe I wouldn’t have been there at that particular time?…..the guy am sure is still traumatized as we pen these pieces.
    We also have the witnesses who saw it all unfold and they will have a story to tell for the rest of their lives. To these parties it was a traumatic experience…..
    The big question is ….Are these parties on Facebook or twitter or Instagram to see some of her posts and thoughts on how well or not so well she lived her life? Are they on Instagram to see ‘ Her current mood’ when she thinks ‘But did you die’ after a friend complained that she drove too fast? I don’t think so…..
    These people will always remember that incident and ‘ask themselves’ ,which is natural, on how it would have turned out had they done it differently on that particular day.
    As much as we are living life to it’s fullest, lets all remember that our actions affect those around us and whichever way we choose to live, other people have their right to life too. We are all equal before the eyes of our creator and we should respect each other’s right to life…

    • kay
      Sep 28, 2015 - 05:56 AM

      well, said man. my opinion voiced crisp clear
      Condolences to the family though.

  11. connie
    Sep 25, 2015 - 10:47 AM

    thats a wonderfull writing..my condolesce to the family and friends may she r.i.p

  12. Weru Mwangi
    Sep 27, 2015 - 06:45 AM

    This was a good read, quite inspirational, shared a few nuggets of wisdom but lacked the importance of road safety. All in all, when it comes to living life on the fast lane, I prefer to keep left unless overtaking.

  13. dedost
    Sep 30, 2015 - 12:39 PM

    nice read,R.I.P Nana.
    I choose not to judge anyone,but every life lived is a lesson ,and death doesn’t make any of us perfect,it’s a passage we all go through.
    I hope I meet her in the next life someday.

  14. Kimani Muya
    Oct 03, 2015 - 04:10 PM

    My condolences to her family and friends,may she rest in peace…….can’t help myself,so here’s a small tutorial to clarify the car details as a BMW wizard who knows them inside out, first of all there is no such car as a BMW 363i ? Secondly the car in the photos of the accident is a BMW Z3 pre facelift model,rear lights give this away,(E36/7) produced 1995-2000,a facelift was introduced in 2000 and production ended in 2002 when it was replaced by the Z4 ! So it cannot be 2014. As for the speed this car looks.(exhaust) standard to most certainly have m43B18 L4 or M44B19 L4 lump whose top speed at tip top is 205km/h. Unless it was otherwise modified…..This cars are very slow but obviously that kind of speed would be very dangerous on that busy bypass with the countless hazards on it that time of morning…not to mention the potential dui..ers going home after all night binge @ the nyama joints etc.

    • peter
      Oct 14, 2015 - 10:29 AM

      true justice has defended her name: may she rest in peace


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