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Why dad desired a simple funeral, General Ogolla’s son pays moving tribute

Fallen Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) boss Francis Ogolla was eulogised on April 20 at his memorial service at Ulinzi Sports Complex.

Who would have thought he moved around with a Bible until his son Joel Rabuku said that at the memorial service?

Mr Rabuku praised the General for his generosity. “Don’t let those things remain in your pockets. Open your hands and God will bless you,” he told mourners.

Gen Ogolla was also praised for his simplicity. Mr Rabuku spoke of the Sh6,800 casket made of rough timber that was his resting place. His father, he said, would not have loved to be put in an expensive coffin.

He said the general would be buried while draped in sheets and without a casket.

“We’ll lay him on the ground so that he can return to dust as quickly as possible, following the example of the man he admired most – Jesus Christ,” he said. In Siaya, Gen Ogolla’s brother – Canon Hezekiah Oduor – said the family would make the burial as simple as possible.

The General, he said, believed that funeral committee meetings and fundraisers are unnecessary. He had also shown his relatives where he wanted to be interred. “He even cautioned one a family member not to get in the way of his wishes,” Canon Oduor said.

Kenya Golf Union Chairman, Philip Ochola, said the death is a loss to the golfing fraternity.

“Gen Ogolla was a paragon of integrity and beacon of truth. He never had two ways about an issue. He stuck to the straight and narrow,” he said, describing the general as a strict time-keeper and fitness enthusiast.

“Gen Ogolla taught us the virtues of patience and courage to meticulously execute our mandate. Excellence was his hallmark,” he said.

President William Ruto touched on Gen Ogolla’s virtues. Top officer who loved golf, praying and philanthropy “Even in death, he is giving us lessons and on humility,” he said.

The general’s village-mates say he interacted with them freely. “I have known him as cheerful giver. He attended to the needs of those who sought help. He did not like to postpone things,” Canon Oduor said. “What will happen to the widows who benefited from him?” The other side of the general was his love for books.

In a KBC interview last year, he said it is the passion he had been left with as he had little time for golf. “He loved reading and playing golf,” his son said.

The General was open with discussing life and death. He had spoken to his family about death and discussed mortality in detail. A video of him discussing life and death was played at the sports complex.

Gen Ogolla gave profound advice at Life Ministry Church when as it marked its 50th anniversary in October last year.

“In my military life, I have come to learn the reality of mortality. I have appreciated that life is finite, humans are mortal and life is short. One morning, you are with a healthy colleague, the next minute he’s ashes,” he said.

“Now you see him, now you don’t. Seeing colleagues die in war, accidents or sicknesses, the reality of human mortality lives with us every day.”

He then cited a Bible verse that says in part: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.” During the Ash Wednesday in February, Gen Ogolla spoke about death.

“He talked about human mortality, saying he had realised that life has a meaning when you entrust it to God,” Mr Lelei said. Standing at more than six feet, Gen Ogolla was conscious about staying fit.

Tuesdays and Fridays were dedicated to fitness in the army. His son recalled how he did 80 pushups, 50 press-ups and ran 3.2 kilometres in about 19 minutes two days before his death.

“It was phenomenal for his age,” said Mr Rabuku, encouraging others to borrow a leaf from his father who “even fit in his coffin without having to be squeezed”.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said Gen Ogolla had a funny side, and that he would crack jokes for the teams seeing off or receiving the President at airports.

Mr Gachagua also spoke of a man who showed up one day with a birthday card, when the Deputy President did not even remember that it was his birthday.

The military chaplain said he was sure Gen Ogolla would reject the naming of a Sunday school class after him. At his local Anglican Church in Nduru, he would visit unannounced, often electing to sit at the back.