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Princess Pherrie Kimbugwe: brave and gentle friend

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Princess Pherrie Kimbugwe: brave and gentle friend

Eight months ago, my wife and I were very privileged to meet a woman in Kabaare that made a very good impression on us. She was very brave, down to earth, and spiritual, with an evidently warm heart that radiated through her speech, her smile, her laughter, and her empathy towards the disadvantaged. 


Together with her friends, we enjoyed a trip to the beautiful mountains and valleys of Bufumbira and, the next day, to Lake Bunyonyi where we shared the blissful experience of beholding spectacular beauty from the comfort of the balcony at the hillside Arcadia Cottages. She later shared with me her struggle with inoperable cancer, and the experience of losing her husband to cancer a year earlier, while she was looking after her mother who was ill in Nairobi. 


Where many would have become emotionally disabled, she had weathered the losses with grace and fortitude, anchored by her faith and clarity about humanity’s transience on Mother Earth. In the weeks that followed, we developed a friendship that was so natural and meaningful that it felt as though we had known each other for years.


We continued a beautiful correspondence via WhatsApp, in which she shared updates about her health, along with frequent reminders to us that the discomfort of illness was just for a very short time, a reference to the relief and freedom that comes with death.


Our friend had no doubt about her impending death. She embraced it with a firm belief that life was just a transit in the journey. “Unlike many, I have no fear of the next chapter,” she wrote. “These days I even envy dead people. I feel like bano nga besimye. They are done with dunia” (The dead are lucky. They are done with the temporal world and its earthly concerns and possessions.) “Do you know that the dead ones should be the ones crying for the living who are still battling with dunia tests?” she asked.


Her empathy came alive on May 4 when I sent her images of a collapsed section of the Kabaare-Gisoro highway that we had taken on that memorable journey to see the volcanic mountains. “Oh, my goodness! Was anyone hurt?”, she repeatedly asked in a prompt voice message that revealed genuine concern for strangers. 


Her correspondence, peppered with plenty of humour and wit, gave us a glimpse into the heart of a truly good person, a younger sister that reminded us of the meaning of calmness in the face of a raging and unstoppable storm. Her prompt replies to WhatsApp messages were always reassuring that she was doing well. There was no self-pity at all. Whereas we knew the odds that she was up against, we held onto the hope that we would see her again.


Her last message was on Friday May 5. Suddenly, WhatsApp showed that the messages had not been delivered, let alone read. I called her brother, half-expecting the grim news that he delivered. Our friend had taken ill again. Our sadness was eased by the knowledge that she was ready, though we were not ready to say goodbye. One never is. 


Today we mourn our friend Princess Pherrie Erum Kimbugwe of Buganda with a mixture of sadness and thanksgiving for the blessing that she was to us.  Not surprisingly, she left a message of gratitude to her loved ones, with instructions that it should be the first speech read at her funeral. She willed that responsibility to Prince Abdul Kalema Kimbugwe, her oldest brother, who fulfilled that duty with grace and courage that must have pleased her.  


“Assalamu Alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh, (may the peace, mercy, and blessing of Allah be with you),” she wrote to her friends, relatives, schoolmates, coworkers, and acquaintances. “Thank you so much for having shared my journey of life with me. What a beautiful blessing it was to have shared this journey of life with each of you! Each one, in your own way, has loved me, adored me, treasured me, spent time with me, laughed with me, cried with me, and been there for me. I have always appreciated it all. Saying thank you is hardly enough, but from the bottom of my heart, please allow me to say: “thank you so much!” 


She went on to express her gratitude, love and best wishes to everyone. "May Allah fill your lives with positive abundance, grant you ease through all your dunia tests, but most of all grant you guidance and keep you steadfast on His truth.”  She expressed special gratitude to her parents, with a very moving recall of their selfless parenting that gave her “a golden life!”  She had no regrets and sought forgiveness for anything she might have done that had not pleased them.


“Papa, I mostly want to appreciate you for the excellent providing father you were,” she wrote. “From the time you knew I was coming into this world to the very end, you never stopped providing. Mommy, I want to appreciate you for your strength and selflessness. I am so certain that I got my strength from you. You have been a mommy to not only your children but to everyone.


"May Allah grant and reward you both with the highest station in Jannat ul Firdaus (the highest level of Heaven) because you took care of me in every special way since you birthed me until my last breath. May Allah continue to fill your lives with comfort and abundance of all things good. Most of all may Allah guide you and keep you firm on the righteous path, so that you can be my parents again in the next life.”  


Pherrie, born on July 27, 1976, was educated at Loreto Convent Nairobi, Kampala Parents’ School, Nabisunsa Girls School, Mariam High School, and Lesley College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. She worked at Radio Shark Boston, Liberty Mutual Boston, WBS Television, Kampala, Governor Clubs, and owned Private Clothing boutique. Her husband, Harun Muwonge, died of cancer in February 2022. 


Pherrie, died on Wednesday October 11, 2023. She was only 47 years old. Her body was buried on October 12 at her family home at Katale Busawula, off Seguku on Entebbe Road. The simplicity of her funeral, including the simple untiled grave, was the perfect epitaph to this remarkable woman. A princess of Buganda, buried without the opulence that has become the norm in Uganda.


Inspiring in life. Humbling in death. Unforgettable. Blessed to have met her. 


© Muniini K. Mulera





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