We arrived just as they were leaving. They were in a small group of about twenty standing there by the edge of the lake. The ladies wore black and the men were in dark suits. Most of the group wore dark glasses. They walked back to where they had parked their cars and then very slowly they drove away.

I recognised the big car that was the last to leave. It belonged to my friend the former police detective. My companion who was also gazing at the line of departing vehicles said, “That was an ash scattering service. I have been to one here before. Someone says a short prayer then they get the ashes of the deceased and scatter them onto the lake, then they all go home.”

“Wonder who it was that was cremated. I doubt they were African”, observed my pal.

Was he right? I had to find out. On monday I called upon my good friend the ex-detective. He showed me an orbituary and funeral announcement from the Daily Nation of the previous week. It was for Caroline Buxton, If I wanted the background I would have to buy lunch, he said. That is what I did and here is what I learned:

Caroline was born in Nakuru to Thomas Simon Buxton and Anna Waithira in 1956. Buxton worked in the Colonial administration at the time and Caroline’s mother was a Senior nurse at the Provincial General Hospital.

In 1977, Caroline then a qualified nurse, married Timothy Mokasa the son of a powerful Provincial Commissioner. Timothy had recently joined a law firm in Nairobi and with his good family connections he was expected to do well. Timothy was not a good lawyer and the firm was eventually forced to let him go. Caroline stood by her husband when he changed course and decided to set up in business. He used his connections again to secure GOK supply contracts.

During the early years of their marriage, Caroline continued to develop her career and was able to establish herself as a major expert in the training of junior nurses throughout the country. She was in contact with officials from the health and education ministries and all the big government hospitals and she published several training manuals that were used in these institutions. Her continued success was a source of anger and jealousy for her husband, who had not found much fortune in business.

It was just after the birth of their son that Caroline realised that her husband was becoming jealous and had started drinking heavily. Neighbours told stories of his physical and mental abuse of Caroline. At this time Caroline was the principal of a nursing school and had a busy writing schedule. Her successes had now opened to her doors to high society.

In spite of his jealousy and pride, Mokasa was able to convince his wife to use her connections to advance himself. Against advice from family and close friends Caroline used her influence to secure her husband a position in the health ministry as a financial advisor. In a letter to a friend her elderly father wrote…”It is no longer qualifications or what you know but who you know that determines things in this new Kenya. I have very little confidence in the future…”

Around this time a new director of Nursing Services arrived at the ministry. The high-flying doctor was popular with medical staff and ministry officials and it was rumoured that he was destined for big things in government. It was the nature of his position that he consulted with Caroline on a daily basis and they frequently travelled together on official engagements. The young doctor was now pursuaded by political contacts to stand for parliament in a by-election. It was hoped that upon election he would secure the health assistant ministry.

It was time for Timothy Mokasa to strike: without warning he sued the young director. He had hoped to stop the doctor’s political career in its tracks and get some money in the process. He cited the close working relationship between the young doctor and his wife as merely a cover for an outrageous adulterous affair. The case was over in 3 weeks. Mokasa the lousy lawyer lost the suit and the young doctor emerged with his cotton clean image intact. The vengeful Mokasa now vowed that he would never grant his wife a divorce.

Unfortunately for Caroline, Mokasa had used every dirty trick in trying to put his case forward. Now her reputation was in tatters. The intense media interest and declining health forced her to retire from public life. In 1985, Caroline left her husband. She managed to subsist on her earnings as an author, but Mokasa claimed these as his own. He argued successfully in court that, as her husband, Caroline’s earnings were his in law. All her book earnings were surrendered to Mokasa. Caroline got her own back by using the law to her advantage. She ran up bills in her husband’s name and when creditors came for payment she told them that they could sue her husband.

Caroline refused to go back home to her parents prefering to live in Nairobi. Her son studied medicine at the uni going on to become a succesful surgeon. Caroline was never divorced from her husband. The long years of stress took their toll and Caroline was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

As her illness progressed she wrote to a friend of her “strong desire to be free…. I have been locked in a cage of unhappiness for much too long. When my time comes to go please do not put me in a box in the ground. I don’t think my spirit could take it.”