Opinion

A different way of 'going' – Collymore's way

A different way of 'going' – Collymore's way
  • We are reminded that a continuing good and healthy life is not guaranteed to any of us.

  • We see the importance of being grateful, and maintaining a long view of life.

  • We learn that it is possible to be idealistic and still have an impact in your immediate environment.

He could just have done like other Kenyan men of similar stature and lived an ostentatious life, insulated from the struggles of the common citizen, ensuring that he only kept the company of the Kenyan elite and nouveau riche. He could have died and had our flag fly half-mast for a week before a State Funeral attended by African Big Men from every corner of the continent.

HUMANLY

Bob Collymore could have done all these things, because such was his stature in our country as the leader of the most profitable and most visible corporate entity in Kenya, and a continental giant, Safaricom. He instead chose to be human.

Reading his life story, it appears that Bob Collymore made a decision about his life’s mission about 15 years ago, when he decided that going forward his life would be about trying to make a better place for those in his children’s generation. The key thing that struck me during the memorial service held on Thursday was just how meticulously planned everything about his life and death seemed to be.

His friends recounted their last moments with him, from which his main message was that he had done all that was humanly possible to prepare for his death, and that while he obviously hoped to live a little longer and do a little more, he was ready to face death with his typical smile and defiantly sing Frank Sinatra’s classic, "My way". To the very last moment he was devoted to his family, to his friends, and interestingly, even to his work.

Mr Collymore learnt pretty recently that his life was going to end soon, and had relatively little time left to put his things in order. However, the way everything around his final days appeared organised, it was evident that a lot of thought had gone into it. It would appear that he had been preparing for these very moments for the past 15 years, guided by the philosophy he was building around his concern for the future of our planet and the state of Kenya in particular.

DELIBERATE

This intentionality is perhaps the most enduring lesson for me from Mr Collymore’s journey -- the attention to detail, the meticulous planning that involved thinking through all his deliberate actions. Our country, and the world, will definitely be better off if we all became more intentional in our actions.

The way he handled the diagnosis he got of a terminal illness, the fortitude with which he bore the inevitable physical infirmity that comes with the illness and its treatment, the equanimity with which he faced the remaining days of his life -- there are multiple lessons to be drawn from these. We are reminded that a continuing good and healthy life is not guaranteed to any of us. We see the importance of being grateful, and maintaining a long view of life. We learn that it is possible to be idealistic and still have an impact in your immediate environment.

Bob Collymore showed us a different way of "going", a way that is much more compassionate on the remaining family and friends, a way that left us with pleasant memories and eased the pain and suffering of those close to him, a way that was unpretentious and whose final rites were devoid of the self-praise and aggrandizement that our African Big men are so fond of.

Lukoye Atwoli is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Dean, Moi University School of Medicine;