‘I will always love you’
LIKE many of you who watched Eileen’s final farewell (December 22 2021) online, I was blown away by the love and affection showered on Eileen by her grandchildren (their paternal grandfather is the respected President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya) and other members of the extended family. I am sure she was grinning from ear to ear from up there! RIP.
By Marc Kibaki,
who delivered the first of several eulogies at her
final farewell in Nairobi
Hello, everyone. Thank you to all those who are here today in person or through the link.
My name is Mwai Kibaki Junior, and I am Eileen’s grandson. As cliché as it is to start a eulogy like this, Nana, was genuinely one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known, and I am honoured to be standing here in front of you today to illustrate her life’s legacy.
Eileen Vienna was born on the 26th of January 1944. She was taken from us too soon, in the early morning of the 20th of December 2021. There is so much that happened between those two dates, and there is simply no way I could possibly reiterate in a single eulogy the life that she led. But I’m going to do my very best.
Eileen was born to John Tetulian and Clarice Desa, in Nakuru. When she was 7 years old, she moved to Nairobi to begin school at St Theresa’s Catholic school, where both her mother and her aunty were teachers.
When Eileen came of age, she embarked on her professional career. Her first job was as a secretary to the commissioner of lands until 1962.
On the 26th of January 1963 Eileen was married to Alfred Vienna, a date you may observe the same as her birthday, which may have been a very strategic move from my grandfather, however, it is something she would later complain about on a yearly basis, that the idea that she only received one present for two separate events was simply not what she signed up for. In January 1964 Eileen gave birth to a baby girl – my mother Sheryl, and a year later her son Alister was born. Eileen took some time off work to ensure her children got the care and support they needed.
In 1969 when KLM airlines first set up in Kenya, she began to establish herself in the industry. Eileen served the company to the best of her abilities for 32 years. Following this, she joined Martin Air as a personal assistant to the general manager. During this period, she was also instrumental, playing an active role in the development of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, and then later retired in 2008.
After retirement Eileen began a hobby through her newfound passion for gardening, which advanced into something quite extraordinary, I’m sure the majority of you have seen her garden at home – and if that’s not sufficient I invite you to come and see the countless number of pots my mum and I have hanging around the house from every trip she’s made. Through her retirement, Eileen founded the children’s feeding programme at Our Lady of Peace School in Karen and at the Dagoretti Children’s home.
If I could describe my nana to you in only a few short words, it would be kind, generous, loving and very stubborn, perhaps this is what gave me constant reassurance that my own stubbornness did not come from nowhere. She lived life to the fullest and wasn’t afraid to show the world who she was. She made friends on every corner from the smallest of kiosks to the city’s nicest places.
The most wonderful thing about Eileen was that she didn’t live for just herself. Helping others, brightening other people’s lives also brought so much joy to her life. She was always helping and encouraging others.
I have many incredible memories of her, too many to share and not nearly enough time to. But I can’t not share these few special memories with you, ones that I will forever hold in my heart. From the times my mum would bring me over because she wanted to get some information out of me.
You see Nana worked somewhat like a CIA agent, she could extract information from anyone, at any time. She had the gift of asking very direct questions, yet somehow you still made them feel safe.
The greatest lesson I learnt from her is to believe – in people, in places, in God’s plan. To believe in a simple idea that we all have a stake in one another. That what binds us together is more important than what drives us apart. And most importantly, that kindness and compassion are where it all begins.
At this time, I would like to share a short quote that reminds me of her.
“Pray, then let it go. Don’t try and manipulate or force the outcome. Just trust God to open the right doors at the right time.”
In closing, I want to thank you all once again for being here today with me and my family as we prepare to say goodbye to our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.
All the support, encouragement, and words of comfort over the past few days will always be remembered.
Nana, finally, I want to say goodbye to you. You were such a special person to so many, and your legacy will live on in all the lives you have changed and all the beautiful memories you leave for all of us.
I will always love you.