Till we meet, Tiberius

My fingers rested on the keyboard after having just knelt in prayer before God and the only words I could utter were, “O God, Tiberius is gone. Tiberius is gone, O God”. It was a thought I never had, an inkling I never scratched, a moment I never imagined, at least not too soon.

His name is Tiberius Atuti, Orechi is his family name. Born in May 1992. He was a short man, had a bearded face and strong dark arms. I called him ‘Tib-Tib’, I don’t know why but it always came out with some vigour and strength and joy. Try to say that name in a mellow, weak tone – odd, right? But say it again from your diaphragm in a quick bullet-like form, better, huh?

Tib-Tib wasn’t just a great friend, he wasn’t just a brother, he was my business partner.

We studied together at The University of Nairobi. We met in 2012 but I have little recollection of our first interaction – I cannot tell our first greeting, the first meal we shared, the first walk we enjoyed, nor the first joke we laughed at. But we started noticing each other in our second year. Not the same way a boy’s eyes are opened to see the girl right before him, but similar in that my eyes were opened, opened to see the kind of man Tib-Tib was. He was gentle, couldn’t kill a fly. He was bright, the way he quickly grasped the concepts of ‘Engineering Maths’ and computations around ‘Engineering Surveying’ amazed me. He was humble, perhaps a large factor of his background and the grit and determination he had to show all through his life. He was shy and blushed a lot. Always whenever he smiled, he attempted to cover his mouth or touch his nose, while at the same time leaning his head a bit back. I would laugh, but my laugh with him was not just because of a joke but was soaked in joy. With him, I had happy waves of laughter. Fourth-year, we met often twice a week. We would meet at Lutheran Church, the exit at The University Way roundabout, from 1-2 pm. We would fast and pray. We came severally that the cleaning lady knew us. I’m reminded of the previous conversations of our plan to visit the same church during the week and seek out that lady, even just to buy her a cup of tea. Whenever we won clients, they wanted to know how we met, how one from Kisii and one from Baringo could meet and run a company. Tiberius would always start, sharing it with joy. But, Tiberius saw it fit, to also tell the people we’d hire for our projects, of how we met, but more so, how it all started. I guess, now it is left to me to continue the sharing.

It was in those wooden pews, that I believe kindled our coming together to start a land surveying company. The goal was always to start small, but professional. We did not know how big the company would be, or how much money we would make. It wasn’t the primary goal then. At least for Tiberius. The size of our quotations would get bigger, and some figures would scare us. We would win some, lose some. He had wisdom, applied it at the right time. Some of the clients we have today, wouldn’t be, without his solid, calm and assuring voice, “Chelal, let us first get the client, do the project, write the report, and the second project based on the quality of our first one, we can increase the price,” he would often say. We did cadastral and topographical surveying. He liked the latter because of the profit margin as compared to cadastral. He loathed engineering survey, especially levelling for he couldn’t fathom having a team on the site for two, three or more months, it wasn’t worth it, he’d say. We started on 6th December 2017, and we walked sourcing for clients. Every advocate’s and architect office in Hazina Towers and View Park Towers should be having our business cards. We walked from Lenana to the CBD. We called, and called, and called. We drove to Ruiru, to Juja, to Malaa, to Mlolongo, to Syokimau, to Ongata Rongai, to Kimuka, to Karen, to Nanyuki – at times on the road at 6 am, at times slightly past midnight. Clients loved him, I admired him. He should have been to every part of this country, be it the coastal towns, be it kapenguria, be it central counties, major national parks, be it in rift valley, you mention it, he has his fingerprints there. He was hardworking. He was always thorough with his work, at times he’d be angry if instructions were not followed or disappointed when people let him down. I always told the friends we’d go to the field together that Tiberius was my boss, if he told me to jump I’d ask how high, he would always blush, but he knew it was true, if I did not have his okay on any fieldwork done, I wouldn’t accept the results for clients dispatch. O, Tib-Tib. We made a lot of friends, and my heart goes out to Matara, Omucheni, Vincent, Anthony, Oseko and Faith – I’m so sorry.

It wasn’t all work. We introduced each other to our families. He had come to my parents, met them plus my siblings. I had been to his place, met the wife a couple of times, and his wonderful boy. He hadn’t been to where I lived, ‘though it was a warehouse of our tools’, as he teased me I lived too far. He introduced me to his brother, whom I met at his office and home. Tib-Tib loved them, he was proud of them. He thought of his wife as beautiful and lucky to have her. I met Maria when she was just a friend, then a girlfriend, and later as a family. He mostly never liked taking calls in the field, but if it was her calling, he would and they’d laugh as they shared niceties or passed each other information. He loved her. He had a son, who he referred to as ‘my boy’. He was proud of him. His name, TJ for Tiberius Junior. He cared for him and always thought of his future, in several occasions he would start conversations about what insurance package for TJ’s education would be best. He wasn’t one year old yet but started thinking of the kindergarten he’d attend. We talked to Absa and CIC representatives. He looked up to his brother, Alex, of how good he had done himself with the architectural firm he ran. We would at times get discouraged with the many doors we knocked and failed, but Tib-Tib would always reference Alex as a cheer-on. One time we left a Karen site and visited Alex. It was a project that took a day longer than we anticipated and so this particular day we finish early. Our shoes are dusty, trousers filled with black-jack. We quickly enter the Food Plus to get some milk, bread and yoghurt, but right outside Absa, where we banked, he had bought Tilapia to take home, I got some fruits and onions. We meet Alex, give him the yoghurt as we gobble down the bread and milk. On our way back, right before we turn to Kenyatta Avenue and then join Thika Road, he remembers he left the Tilapia at Alex’s desk. We couldn’t go back, and by tomorrow the scent would turn pungent and it would be bad. He called Alex, and that is how Alex had a sumptuous meal. Once he hanged up the phone, we laughed our way away. He was proud of his family. He, as well, mentioned his trustworthy sister, whom I never met. My heart goes out to his parents, whom he adored. O Lord, have mercy. My God, my God, stretch your comforting hand. He spoke of how his father always went to church in a suit and how prayerful his mother was. Our conversations would paint a picture of a father, proud of his son.

I received a text from our good friend, not only our lecturer but our bigger brother for the help and guidance he accorded us, firmly holding our hand, Mr. Matara, “Hi Chelal, it is sad to inform you that Tiberius went to be with the Lord yesterday [26th March 2021]”. I couldn’t believe it. A mixture of numbness and confusion fell on me. I called him but we missed each others’ call. Faith called me. Oseko called me and we muttered words that were ums and ahs, couldn’t make head or tail and decided to talk later. I covered my face with both my hands and wept for my friend. I did not want to call, Maria or Alex, for what would I say? It was Alex who first began with, “pole sana ndugu for the loss of your partner…” I asked questions and he ended with the words, “…but we have to be strong”. I could tell he was in pain, broken. I did not want to talk with Faith, for what would I say? Especially when after a day she mentioned how difficult she is finding it to deal with Tiberius’ loss. They worked closely together. I do not know how to face our clients and tell them that Tiberius is gone. Gone where? Where? O, my friend. What do I do, Tiberius, with the company?

Tiberius loved the Lord, he knew God and was born again. Our evening meetings in the CBD would have us close in prayer. Whenever he prayed the constant sentence all through was, “…we need you Lord and we cannot without you…” He repeated that line every time. In our Sunday meetings, he’d explain in depth what the sermon preached in his church was. He’d insist we pray before we started every project, and my favourite moments are when he turned to Vincent or Anthony and asked them to pray this time around. He wholly relied on God, he inclined his entire weight on Jesus. This moment, I can do only what he always did, look to Christ and call on God that, “I need you, Lord, I need you. Without you, I cannot. The family needs you, Lord, the siblings need you, the parents need you, the friends whose lives he touched need you. We cannot bear this on our own. You mention in your Word that when the cares of our hearts are many, your consolations cheer our souls. Comfort. Comfort. Comfort. Cover Maria and TJ in your wings, shelter them, fight for them, provide for them. Draw closer to them and according to your strength and enablement, use us and may we be a gift of hope and encouragement to the family. We don’t know what to say, we don’t know what to do. We need you. O God, we need you. I need you.”

I opened my bible and sought out words of encouragement. I was reminded to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15) and to do it in hope (1 Thess. 4:13), that Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me (Heb. 13:5), that he keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast for they trust in him (Isa. 26:3), that Tib-Tib had finished the race, kept the faith and in store for him was the crown of righteousness which Jesus will award to him (2 Tim. 4:8) and that he was with Jesus (Luke 23:42-43), that death is the destiny of everyone and the living must take it to heart (Ecc. 7:2) and in this Easter season, death has been defeated (1 Cor. 15:54-57). I still ended up yearning for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and may his family and friends – through the squeezing of the hand, the knowing look, the brief text, and the tight hug – feel the Saviour’s comforting and strengthening presence during this difficult and lonely period.

The same night I travelled for my schooling, I met with him in the evening, together with Maria and Faith. He was happy for me. O, my friend, my friend. We would talk on the phone, I’d hear TJ’s voice in the background and he’d encourage me, ‘you’re being prepared for big things,’ I’d brush it off.

I’ve not only lost him, but I’ve lost me too, the part only he could bring out, the words he only would make me say, the tickle he only could draw. Gone with him. I’m now, one friend less.

The world needs to know him, and as God wills, I’ll share of my friend. To his family and friends, his workmates and classmates, his clients and neighbours, I’m so sorry for your loss.

And it’s in the hymn that I close this small portion of a big life lived, ‘God be with you till we meet again’

Till we meet, till we meet,

Till we meet at Jesus feet.

16 thoughts on “Till we meet, Tiberius

  1. My utmost condolences to the family for the loss if A great friend, I cherish the moments we had together in highschool.

  2. Rest in peace Tiberius, you were the best thing that ever happened to my life. 😭😭 Am sorry I turned down your request to marry me because I was young and fresh from high school, my heart bleeds, it pains me so much to know that i will never see you ever again….
    I remember when you had a project with Bonyunyu dam.. The good times we had at keroka, it was nice meeting your friends.. Fly Tiberius my love♥️♥️♥️♥️

  3. IT IS HARD FOR ME TO CONTAIN THE REALITY THAT TIB TIB IS NO MORE. WHAT RINGS IN MY MIND IS THE VOICE OF TIB SAYING TO ME,’MY FRIEND ‘. REST IN PEACE BROTHER, BYE TILL WE MEET AGAIN

  4. Reblogged this on seliansays and commented:
    I have no words, and I’m grateful Chelal that you had them. Tibs was a great man, and God bless you for eulogizing him as beautifully as you have in these words here. Tears keep filling my eyes and my gut is wrenched over and over again. But despite this pain, I have hope…we all do, in Christ and the resurrection, that we can proclaim earnestly “Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where thy victory?”

    Till we meet again Tib-Tib, may the Lord comfort us till then.

  5. Still am in doubt that Orechi you are no more, I vividly remember in the year 2009 when you were new in Sameta High School and you met me as your first friend, I introduced you to many things, how the school calendar was running etc, you become a friend I will walk with always while in School. Tiberius you discovered my weakness in Mathematics and you sacrificed your time during your free time to spend with me in the library encouraging me on how maths was a simple subject of all the subjects, indeed because of you I came to love Maths , Come the year 2010 when we were in form four, you had a privilege to serve in the same cabinet , (Students governing council) as academics captain and I as the dorm captain and we couldn’t relent to discharge our duties diligently : You stood by me on my low moments ( msoto time) and you could always encourage me, you always wanted the best out of me and we promised to be successful people in future. Since I can not pen everything down about Atuti, I believe he is in heaven dancing with angels, may the Almighty comfort the entire family, friends and workmates during these trial moments: SHINE ON YOUR WAY COMRADE.

  6. “Omogambi! Go be the best. I know you are capable. Focus on your studies. Your ceiling is high. Put our kisii name up there. Good things will come to us. ”
    “Chelal and you have gone to study. I will hold and keep growing our things back here at home (Kenya). When both of you come back, you will take over so that I can also go study”
    Omogambi! 😭

  7. Wonderful tribute, can’t believe Tiberius is no more, he was such a gentle person, I liked him the first time I met him. May his soul rest in peace

  8. Rest in peace with the angels Tiberius, I don’t know you in person but I know your brother Alex. May God comfort the the family in these trying moments.

  9. Rest in peace with the angels Tiberius, I don’t know you in person but I know your brother Alex. May God comfort the the family in these trying moments.

  10. Not even a single page or two can describe the character of a man Tiberius was. He was the epitome of resilience, calm demeanor and every good you could think of as a man. That is who he was. I’m sorry we didn’t have a coffee meeting to catch up after campus. Rest in peace brother. Till we meet again.

  11. I never met you Tiberius but your brother Alex is my consultant. Alex used to mention you to me. Alex, this is tough man! I am glad you are a God-fearing family. His Grace is truly sufficient.

  12. my condolences to wife, parents,brothers,sister and friend Chelal for the loss of loved one. The Lord who watch over souls of men and heals them when wounded will heal and binded them. Tj the Lord is on your side he will never libe you nor forsake. Rest in peace bro

  13. My deepest condolences Kim, I remember how we worked together to design just the right logo for your start up. Words can never fully describe the deep sadness that death of a loved one brings. Yes, we have hope in Christ Jesus, but the reality that the physical absence is a reality, grips our hearts with such flesh tearing pain. Though he has left too soon, he is no longer in pain but at peace before the LORD JESUS.

    May the LORD GOD comfort you, Kim and Tiberius’ family.

    The vision must continue, my dear, the vision will go on. I’m here for you just as I was at the beginning, You can count on Michael and I

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