On Monday when I visited a workmate and friend Takavengwa Cledywn Muparutsa (45), who was battling with cancer at a private clinic in Harare, little did I know that it was the last time I would ever see him.
Report by Ropafadzo Mapimhidze
Taka, as we affectionately called the NewsDay Deputy Chief Sub Editor, lost his battle against the lethal disease, which had apparently spread into his lungs and head, on Thursday night. For five months, he had fought this form of cancer called renal carcinoma.
Though he initially recognised me at first as I stood by his bedside, he gradually drifted off, perhaps into some place where we could hardly reach him.
That night I struggled with sleep. I slept for no more than three hours, which was why I was constantly dozing off at work the following day. Something in me, involuntarily just told me that Taka had reached a point of no return. His face kept flashing in my mind.
In his last moments, Taka reminded me of my own father who had suffered from prostate cancer. During his last days, he also had a distant look on his face, as if gazing into space. He was in pain. I will never forget that pain. It made him lose his dignity. He would walk about my home naked as the pain drove him nuts. I would call an ambulance, but when it arrived the pain would have subsided. It was the most stressful period of my life. When he died, I did not weep at his funeral because I had already mourned while nursing him. It took me years to get over his death.
I wept bitterly when I visited Taka in hospital.
I met Taka when he joined NewsDay about two years ago. He had a very good command of English, and meticulously edited this column week in, week out. In fact, when the column was created, he coined the name Saturday Dialogue. His knowledge, especially of the arts and entertainment section, which he regularly worked on, was encyclopaedic. He was an outgoing, fun-loving creature who was a joy to work with.
After he fell sick and had to go on leave, I phoned him on several occasions promising to visit him, but the busy schedule at NewsDay made it impossible. The few that managed to go and see him would only shake their heads in resignation. They all knew Taka as a robust figure full of life and drive.
“You have to be a strong person if you are to visit Taka. He is not looking good,” said Chief Sub Editor Kamurai Mudzingwa, who had visited Taka at his home.
Taka had always said he had pain in the chest which he attributed to an accident he had two weeks before his father died in April, when the kombi he was travelling in crashed around March this year.
I noticed a strange change in the look of his eyes during the funeral church service at the United Methodist Church in Kuwadzana.
Walter Muparutsa, Taka’s father, was a celebrated actor and comedian whose loss was felt by hundreds of people from the arts industry. Most people will remember him as a man who made audiences laugh.
When Taka returned to work after his father’s burial, the look in his eyes continued to trouble me. The Editor-in-Chief, Vincent Kahiya, advised him to get a scan or X-ray so that he could establish exactly what was wrong and get the appropriate treatment. The diagnosis pointed to cancer. He told colleagues he would undergo radiotherapy and chemotherapy. But that never happened.
Taka suffered in pain to the day he took his last breath.
I tried comforting his wife Tsitsi telling her Taka would get better and come back to work. But deep inside, I knew he was dying for I had experienced more or less a similar encounter with my father.
A tumour protruded on his right breast, like a woman’s breast. The last time I had seen him during the better days, Taka was organising to go to the Chimanimani Arts Festival, which had been his father’s passion. Walter Muparutsa had loved and personally organised the festival.
Taka would confide in me later how his father’s death had hit him so hard. “I might have to leave my job and takeover some of his Arts projects . . .” he would say.
I also noticed a slight change in his physical structure for he had a muscular body which had since started waning. Taka was a gym enthusiast, too.
By the time he eventually went on sick leave, he had become subdued. You could hardly hear his voice. He must have suffered quietly for long. Pain was clearly imprinted on his face, but he never wanted people to know. He was never to return to work until his dying day.
Taka leaves behind his wife, Tsitsi and six children. His future had held so much promise. The NewsDay family is poorer without Taka. Personally, I will sorely miss him.