By Godwin Muzari
She sat by the bed side as he breathed his last. He motioned for her hand and he gripped it tightly. She felt his energy and had a new glimmer of hope. She thought the energy was a sign of rejuvenation.
Then his hand shook and the grip loosened. The life monitoring machine sent out a sound and she became suspicious. The nurses walked in and told her to leave the room briefly. She knew it. Her husband had just passed away. That was January 23, 2019. This is the story of Oliver Mtukudzi’s last minutes on earth as it was narrated by his widow Daisy Mtukudzi during an interview at Pakare Paye Arts Centre last week.
It has been a year since the great musician passed away, but the memory of his last breath sometimes haunts Daisy. So, as she narrated the tale of her last days with the Superstar, Daisy started with the horrific experience of seeing her husband dying. She had slept in the car park at Avenues Clinic for many days hoping that she would embrace her lovely Samanyanga (Tuku’s totem) again.
“The last days were really straining, but I had hope that he would get well. I spent most of my time at the hospital. Sometimes I would sleep in my car in the car park. I would only drive home to take a bath. I just felt I had to be as close to him as possible at any time,” Daisy recalled.
“There is one nurse at the hospital who was surprised to see me lying on the ground using a fuel jerry can as a pillow. I was feeling so exhausted and I needed to lie on flat ground to stretch, but I did not have a pillow so I had to use the jerry can. That nurse thought I was getting too stressed and she tried to comfort me.”
Daisy’s brief period of comfort came when she was allowed to take Tuku home for Christmas.
“He asked the doctors to release him for a few days because he felt better. They had agreed to release him on December 20. They had to reverse the decision saying they needed more time to monitor him. They finally agreed to release him on the 24th and the family was happy when he came home for Christmas.
“I knew he was in pain, but he tried to be strong. On Christmas day he lay in a reclining stretcher under a tree shade with his family members around him. His grandchildren joked with him and sang for him. He looked relieved. We stayed with him for a few days and took him back to hospital.”
Some moments of comfort came during her hours at the hospital when Tuku would say a few words to her. She recalls the last time they had a good chat.
“One morning when I got into the ward he removed his wedding ring and gave it to me. He said he was going into a new ward and the nurses had advised him to remove the ring. He gave me the ring and said ‘don’t put it in your purse, put in on your finger’. I put the ring on my finger and he smiled and joked about how it looked good on me. He said ‘Dee, I love you’,” said Daisy who still has the ring on the middle finger of her right hand.
Tuku was never to put on the ring again. When he was transferred to the new ward his condition deteriorated until he breathed his last. Getting the ring was like a goodbye gesture. A symbolic act that seems to have a special place in her heart. The way she toys with the ring when she speaks says something.
It seems to remind her of the good days with Tuku. She speaks of the trips and holidays they went together. She speaks of being in the home studio with her husband in late hours when he needed her inspiration. She speaks of the relations she had with so many people through her husband. She speaks about how young musicians came to get advice from their mentor. She still talks to most of the musicians. They have become part of her family.
“One young musician who showed so much love to Tuku is Jah Prayzah. That young man has respect. He is the only musician who phoned every day to ask about Tuku’s health when he was ill. Even when Tuku came home, he visited him. He bought him a few things and gave him some money. It was a touching visit.”
Daisy said Jah Prayzah checks on her periodically. He has become a close family friend and he regularly uses the studio at Pakare Paye.
Daisy and Jah Prayzah are actually working on a Valentine’s Day show to be held at Pakare Paye Arts Centre on Friday. The event will start with a dinner for couples that Daisy will host. Jah Prayzah and Black Spirits will then stage a show later that night in a separate venue.
One of the organisers of the event, Tungamidzai Simango, said the event will also be an occasion to celebrate Tuku’s life as some musicians that were groomed at Pakare Paye Arts Centre will also perform.
“It is good to see Jah Prayzah working with Daisy. Although their events have different settings, with one being a dinner while the other is a big show, the planning has been handled in collaboration. There will be a lot of surprises at the show. We want people to come and celebrate love. They will also celebrate Mudhara Tuku’s life at the home that he built,” said Simango.
Daisy will have time with guests and fans that will attend the event. She will tell how she misses Tuku. She will share stories of special moments with the man who could have said “I love you Dee” on a special day like this Friday.