A Proverb (+video)

A Proverb

Agnes Mugo


A young woman on a chase for self-worth attempts to strike a cultural balance in the face of life detours. Through evoked memories of her (grandmother) Cucu’s stoicism, she now finds a shoe to connect with her again. While she couldn’t bring her beloved Cucu to Canada, she brings her story – and that settles it.


Positioning myself inside the trunk space of the 5-seater Subaru wagon, I placed my shoes by my side. The car was full so my niece and I rode to the airport in the boot.

I was leaving behind everything I had known. I knew no one in Canada, but I wanted freedom, independence, and education. The aching love for my parents, my family, and my country was deeply wedged in one corner of my heart. Nevertheless, I had made up my mind and I was leaving.

Fast forward, I arrived at Toronto Pearson airport, wearing white lace-up Skechers and ready, set, go, like a Kenyan runner, I embarked on my life marathon. I had only $200 with me, which I thought was a fortune, because I was converting it into Kenyan currency in my head. I found it arduous adapting to the Canadian culture. The feeling of social disconnect as an immigrant sometimes made me question my decision. But I constantly reminded myself, “I have to make it.” I developed tenacity, completed my BScN, and started working.

In my seventh year in Canada, I was heartbroken when I lost my grandmother, my Cucu. I had not returned to Kenya since my arrival. Grandmother was one of the most caring and enduring women I knew. I often spoke to her by phone, teasing her that I would bring her to Canada. She would laugh and tell me, “Oh Aggie, you may never find me here, I’m old now.” These words repeatedly echoed in my thoughts and I would beat myself up wondering, “Did she know she was going to die?” She was 110 years old and her name was Julia. I missed hearing her contagious laughter, her gentle voice as she told us stories growing up, and taught us traditional folk songs. Cucu would invite all her grandchildren to share a meal no matter how small. Her generosity and unselfish love for us was something I greatly admired. I had never seen a shoe on Cucu’s feet. She refused to wear them. Yet she was the most happy, healthy and content human I knew.  

I couldn’t miss Cucu’s funeral, otherwise I’d never forgive myself. I had to travel back to pay my final respects. I booked the flight and informed my family that I was coming home. But sadly, they buried my Cucu while I was in transit. All I arrived to find was her grave. “Couldn’t they wait for just one day?”

Although I was happy to reunite with my people, I felt bereft. Much had changed in just 7 years. Perhaps it was the grief, the loss of those tangible family unions and traditions. I felt apprehensive of the future I was once so certain about. I returned to Canada, and bought myself a burial site, reasoning that, if anything ever happened to me, being so far from home, I wouldn’t have to burden anyone. I suppose I was in a  state of cultural dysphoria.

My insecurities led to a traumatic marriage in Canada, beset with incredible abuse. Long story short, today I have two wonderful children that I love dearly. Despite all the adversity, my children give me strength.

 While I was building on resilience, I lost my dad. I felt like my world suddenly shattered. Helter-skelter, in Skechers, again I raced through airports with my children to bury my father. Today and forever in my heart, I have a profound appreciation of my father’s treasured proverb; “When you fall, don’t lie down there, get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving.”

Agnes Mugo migrated to Canada from Kenya and she is a proud mother of two. She passionately enjoys helping others. She also finds great satisfaction engaging in various charity work both locally and internationally. 

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