It’s that husky voice that I will always remember first.
That and the love story that I saw playing out between Shingie Chimuriwo and Fungai Tichawangana over the years.
The last time I saw Shingie and Fungai was late last year before I left Zimbabwe for the UK where I am currently studying. Shingie and I hadn’t seen in each other in a long time and we chirped on and on for a while about life and some of the controversial articles I had been writing (and there are always many!). She was, as always, amazingly forthright and self-assured; never one to back down from a hard argument and so fully supportive of free expression.
Fungai, my namesake or ‘sazita’ as we call each other, kept hovering about her asking her if she needed something – more food, a jacket, a seat – anything to make her more comfortable. Their love was like watching the characters of an epic romance movie peeling off the silver screen and taking human form. They loved so easily and naturally; so beautifully that you could see the vivid shades of their emotions light up when they were together. They were and still are soulmates.
Ever since I have known Fungai, there has always been Shingie. I remember how she would come to many of our poetry workshop sessions held on cold and unfriendly winter evenings back in 2005. I remember how in 2009, Fungai went on a hunger strike after the Norwegian embassy denied him a visa to go and visit Shingie as she studied in the European country. His brave and unshakeable love for his woman saw ordinary citizens as far afield as the Americas taking the time to lobby their own Norwegian embassies to take action. It was awe-filling to see a man so committed to the cause of love. It was even more special to see the happy pictures of the two in Norway when he eventually got his visa.
Something urged me to add Shingie as a Facebook friend last month. And on February 25, we became FB chums. Somehow, we’d managed to keep fairly up to date without relying on status updates and pokes and other things, but I was compelled to add her onto my list of FB Friends. We never did have a conversation in the 19 days that we were ‘Friends’, but on 16 March at 7:57 pm, I saw an FB notice flicker at the bottom left of my page. I had written a status update congratulating a mutual friend for winning a South African journalistic award. The status update I had written read, “I’ve just got to show off that I have got cool trail blazing friends! I am surrounded by GREATNESS!”
At 7:57 pm, Shingie’s finger hit the ‘Like’ tab and a message flickered at the bottom left of my Facebook page conveying her action to me. I am told that she had her car accident at 10pm; the fatal accident that killed a beautiful woman in her prime.
When I learnt of Shingie’s death, I kept looking at that status update wondering how someone who’d liked something could then be involved in a horrible crash just two hours later and be dead within a few more. I wanted to rewind time to the moment that she’d liked the update, wished I could have found her on chat and said, “Ndeipi.” Maybe if I had, we would have had a short conversation and she might have been running five minutes later and perhaps things might have turned out differently.
But who are we to know what life holds?
I will not question or challenge God’s will. He knows His own ways. But I thank Him that I have the honour of a thought, however ephemeral, from Shingie in her last few hours on earth. I am thankful for this potent message, painful as it is for I was having a horrible week of self-doubt and pain. Shingie has reminded me, through that flicker of her fingers that life is still with me, that my lungs drink in air and that I am still here to make a difference to this doubtful and painful world, that I am surrounded by GREATNESS, as I myself observed in writing that status update.
I am thankful for Shingie and for that lesson that she has left with me.
We will cry in the days to come. But we will celebrate too for Shingie is a woman who leaves behind a rich legacy of selfless deeds.
Thank you Shingie. And thank you Shingie and Fungai for the amazing story that your lives together tell.
I hold you in my heart filled with love and respect for both of you.