I have been so sad this week that I didn’t feel like writing a post but I decided that perhaps writing about what’s been making me sad would be a good idea. My closest and dearest friend, Stella, died last Sunday due to complications following an operation. Just four days before her birthday which would have been today, June 27th. We knew each other since the age of seven, lived in the same neighbourhood in Nairobi, went to the same school and were inseparable until we went to different universities and our paths diverged. We kept in touch over the years and whenever we met, it was as if no time had passed and we were as close as we had always been. She was fun, loyal, smart, good-natured, beautiful, and had a quick and wonderful sense of humour.
As children, we spent our evenings wandering about the neighbourhood sometimes stealing fruit from neighbour’s gardens, amongst other adventures. She had a red guava tree in her backyard while her neighbour’s tree produced white ones. One of the funniest incidents was when we climbed the shed in her backyard to pick the white guavas from the neighbour’s garden and on the roof met the neighbour’s son doing the exact same thing in order to pick red ones from Stella’s garden. So we all picked from both trees and sat up there stuffing ourselves with guavas. There was a pond close to our neighbourhood and I remember going there with Stella and our other pals to catch dragonflies during school holidays. This would take hours as anyone who as ever tried to catch a dragonfly will know. Once caught, we would tie a piece of thread around them and fly them like kites. Seems cruel now but it was fun then! After the rains, we’d collect frog spawn and bring it home to watch tadpoles emerge. Such innocent pastimes we had then. Living in Kenya in those days, we had no TV and no phone and we amused ourselves in very simple ways. It was Stella who taught me how to ride a bike and thanks to her, I still cycle to this day to get around in Toronto.
Stella was very beautiful, tall with gorgeous almond-shaped eyes. Needless to say, as a teenager, she had many admirers not all of whom met her parents approval. One Valentine’s day as we were standing in her veranda, an Interflora courier delivered a bouquet of flowers. The sender was someone her parents had forbidden her to see. What should we do? Dump them in the bin, hide them? Quick-witted as always, Stella ripped off the card marched into the house and presented her mother with the bouquet. Her mother was thrilled, Stella avoided a battle, the flowers looked beautiful on the piano, and everybody was happy!
Stella had such a positive attitude to life. Despite her first husband Savio dying at an early age leaving her with three young children to raise, she soldiered on, developing a career in education and overseeing her husband’s business at the same time. When the children were grown, she met her second husband Tony, and finally was able to enjoy a few carefree years. I’m so glad that she had this time of great happiness.
Stella, we will miss you so much. Your name is synonymous with light and truly a light has gone out of our lives. One less star on earth but every time I look at the night sky, I will think of you shining up there in the heavens.
For friends who would like to keep Stella’s memory alive and are thinking of ways to do so, her colleagues have started a Stella E. de Wit Memorial Scholarship. Stella was associated with the Chilliwack School District in BC, Canada where she played a leading role in French language education. Contact Jacqueline Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wish to make a contribution.