My parents were inseparable. They had the same hobby - travel. That was their game. In the earlier years, they each travelled on business trips alone, and more recently, my mum was more an executive assistant to my dad on his marketing trips abroad.
As a young girl growing up I watched my mum from the corner of my eye with her designer shoes and handbags, her perfectly groomed nails, and her constant array of new outfits. Hoping I would secretly turn out like her. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was learning to be like her.
Mum worked for Kenya Airways and, as a result, I was in the privileged position of being able to travel the world from the day I was born. Through these experiences, my mother gifted me her passion for travel and I eagerly embraced it with both hands.
In the early days when dad was starting up the family business, Mum would regularly whisk me away to London, Bombay, Australia the US – just the two of us. Mum took me to Goa one time to her village Tivim & Mapusca once showing me off telling everyone I was her daughter and telling everyone she was Lily and Micks daughter It was so exciting. While we were away, she would teach me about how to live, how to shop for the home, and we always brought back beautiful products for us all to enjoy. She would tell me, ‘Travel is the best teacher’.
Although she was a director of Visit Africa Ltd she never interfered with the business, preferring to stand by me and encourage me as I built my confidence in the world of safari tourism operations. I confided a lot in her, with my petty problems at times. She always listened and offered me her sage advice and unwavering support.
When I moved to the UK to study, mum spent 10 good years between the UK and Nairobi, sharing her time with dad and me. She worked part-time while visiting me and always got better jobs than me, always with parking included. I was so impressed by this! Here again she would make sure I had everything I needed – buying me the goodies I deprived myself of, such as salmon.
She took me to University, handed me a 50-pound note and said, “You have a bank account, you know how to use it.” This was one of my scariest moments in life after the rollercoaster ride as a child in Disney Land. My friends and even the hostel warden thought my mum was a student at University when she came to stay as she always looked her best and young. It was mum who encouraged me to do my Masters abroad, which I thank her for. I thank her for making me, me!
I was brought up loving dogs and people. My parents’ network of friends reaches all corners of the world. I can’t count how many of their classmates and friends have reached out to me during this past week. More recently, mum became somewhat of a Facebook and Whatsapp expert, which allowed her to stay in touch with her friends and family.
Mum was a good cook she loved the finer things in life, yet she was so simple and unassuming. She was elegant in her own way. Setting the table with the finest and cooking us Cordon Bleu meals. She would cater for 30 people at a time single- handed. She loved to entertain around a beautifully set table.
After dads passing mum, cried every day, and I regularly reassured her that she would be ok. I am not sure she believed me; that she could see her way without my dad. She gave up, and I wish she could have been that strong woman I knew when I was born. I always remember thinking she lost her dad at 18, and how lucky I was to have my parents, not knowing I would lose them both in the same year.
I have very few words this time around. I have some very dear friends supporting me.
I would not have been able to stand here today if it was not for my Godfather Olly his wife Mel my nutter friends, my dad’s brother Simon, his sister Pam and their families, My mum’s first cousins, and, of course, my strongest supporter Clive, who my parents loved and trusted always.
RIP Mum, I know you are happy with dad fly now fly. Please watch over me always. I hope your love never died and you continue to love as you did – for yours was one love story that we will not forget. I will miss our chats. I love you.
Heather-Gail de Souza, M.Sc