Tugi Mbugua Musyimi was a part of our family for nine months. God began knitting him together in his mother’s womb at some point in July 2022. From the moment we first learned of his existence, we were excited as God answered our prayer to grow our family.
Over the course of monthly visits to the doctor, we saw Tugi develop from a little bean-shaped blip on the screen to a full-blown baby. We heard his heart beat many times and watched him play in the womb. With every willful kick and strong heartbeat was the promise of a healthy and active son. In one of the scans, we got a 3D image of his face. I concluded he looked like me. His mom protested a little but eventually accepted that, at the very least, his lips betrayed the strength of the Musyimi genes.
Together with some friends, we nicknamed him “T5,” and we brainstormed to find a name starting with a T for him. Many name ideas, mostly from me, were tried and discarded in that search. His siblings—Taji, Tami, Tia, and Tando—had a couple of name suggestions that were also, more gently, rejected.
His siblings were very excited about him joining the family. While we called him “T5,” they called him “the baby.” We must have answered a hundred questions from them about the baby: “What does the baby eat?” “Can the baby speak?” “Is the baby sleeping?” “When will the baby come out?” “How will the baby come out?” (That last one was met with an awkward silence from my wife and me, and a “Have you finished your homework?”) Tugi’s immediate predecessor, Tando, set aside a little green cup for him to drink out of. They spoke to Tugi all the time: “Hi, baby.” “Bye, baby.” “Goodnight, baby.”
Even before his birth, Tugi was contributing much fodder for conversation among our family and friends. He was loved. He was cared for. He was provided for and protected.
And then came March 22, 2023.
Unbeknownst to us, while turning and playing in his mom’s womb, Tugi got the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Slowly, his life ebbed out of him.
My wife, Mumbi, noticed later in the day that she couldn’t feel him move as much as she was used to. She’d had a busy day making final preparations for Tugi with his grandmother, so we attributed the fewer movements to his being asleep. We’d heard that at 38 weeks it was fairly common to have fewer movements as the baby fills up more space in the womb, so we decided we’d go to the doctor the following day if things didn’t improve. We went. First scan—no heartbeat heard. Second scan—a concerned look on the doctor’s face.
“We have a problem,” he said.
“Is the baby gone?” we asked.
Our world was shattered.
Afflicted but Not Crushed
Amid tears of pain and disbelief, we informed close family and friends, who quickly came to our aid. Soon after, we were at the Aga Khan Hospital maternity wing, preparing my wife to go through the arduous process of labor and delivery. An unusual degree of fortitude was needed to birth our lifeless baby. Still, by God’s mercy, she did, and 24 hours later, we held in our arms the body of our little Tugi. A week later, we held a service and buried his body at the Lang’ata Cemetery.
In the wake of our loss, we’ve received and continue to receive exceptional comfort and care from the saints of Emmanuel Baptist Church. They prayed, visited, called, texted, delivered meals, and gave financially. Our families also served us selflessly throughout the nightmarish experience. Other communities extended their care and support to us in various ways. (In case any of you are reading this, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.)
Tugi’s life was full of dignity and worth. In his 268 days lived in the womb, this is some of what Tugi did for us:
Tugi’s life was full of dignity and worth.
1. He made us see and appreciate God’s power. Every scan was a window into the wonder of God’s intricate wisdom.
2. He brought us great joy. His very being was a delight to us. The sounds of his heartbeat, his kicks and movements, the picture of his face on the 3D scan, and our projections of what he’d look and be like when born were all a source of great joy from God.
3. He made us pray. He was often the subject of our petitions and thanksgiving to God. We asked for a healthy pregnancy and God graciously gave us one in Tugi.
4. He enriched our marriage. My wife being pregnant with Tugi created many opportunities for her and me to serve each other that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. That was good for us.
5. Even in his death, Tugi faintly but distinctly reminds us of the story of the gospel. You see, there’s another who lost a son. The difference is that he lost a son so that Mumbi and I and many others could have eternal life. God the Father gave up his son Jesus Christ, the incarnate One, who died to save us. His death, unlike Tugi’s, was not an accident but a voluntary act to make atonement for all who would turn from sin and trust in him. He didn’t stay dead but rose again victorious over the grave. His resurrection guarantees that one day Tugi will also be raised along with us. We’ll be reunited once again to an indestructible life, and together we’ll behold our God.
We’ll be reunited once again to an indestructible life, and together we’ll behold our God.
Though Tugi’s life was short, it wasn’t wasted. He was a gift from God, though he was intended only to be enjoyed and stewarded for a brief time.
As for us, though we’re under dark clouds, we have received deep mercy from our Lord through his people. Our grief is great, but his grace is greater. Crushed as we are by Tugi’s sudden death, we kiss the rod that smites us and say, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
No better words could be found to conclude than those of King David when his own infant son died: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23).
A version of this article appeared on John Musyimi’s blog.