Versatile female hearse driver treading on less travelled road
Wearing a green and white uniform that displays a badge of a local church, Margaret Wangari, goes about sampling coffins at a well-known dealer’s shop in Nyahururu.
She is particular on this order; two white coffins, fit for adults; a couple who passed on after a short illness.
Wangari checks the firmness of the well-finished coffins, she finds the sponge lining intact and fit for sending off the love birds.
The golden inscriptions on the two brown crosses are precise and accurate.
She is certain that the glowing wreaths she has picked will warm the gloomy faces of the bereaved. She then takes a deep breath.
Next, she ensures the consignment is delivered to a well-maintained white van that is fully decorated with blue ribbons, parked outside the shop.
After the loaders are done with their work, she jumps onto the driver’s seat, ready for another day of work.
Wangari is a hearse driver in Nyahururu, Laikipia county, and she carries on with her duties with pride despite some of her peers considering the job weird.
“Since my mother passed away the job of my dreams became clear on my mind. I admired how those people took care of my mother’s body, and their good hearts attracted me to doing this work,” she says.
“My dreams came true when the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) in Nyahururu believed in my efforts and employed me as their hearse driver,” she adds.
Wangari, who is a mother of two, tells us how difficult it was for her family to accept her job, which they thought was not fit for her.
“My family took time before accepting my job. Others kept asking whether they could find me a better job other than hearse driving.
My firm answer convinced them that this was the job I chose from deep down my heart and no one could change that, with time they accepted and they fully supported me,” Wangari says with a bright face.
Wangari is not only a hearse driver as she also helps mortuary attendants in preparing the corpse and also sets the coffin crane at the grave before burial.
The energetic woman says that it was not easy, at first, adding that she feared handling bodies and had to go for rehearsals at Nyahururu mortuary as an attendant’s aid.
She pointedly says that most jobs that people do not value nowadays are well rewarding as she explains how it has impacted her life.
“Since I started this job I have seen a big difference compared to other jobs I have done. I have given my children the best education that every child would dream of.
The job has never disappointed me as it is satisfying my requirements, be it food or clothing,” the driver said, adding that it only required courage and believing in herself to maintain the job.
Two kilometres from the coffin shop we arrive at the mortuary, a sombre mood hovers the surrounding.
Wangari goes for a fuel fill-up to prepare for her journey to Ndogino, Laikipia, and returns to collect the two corpses.
“In this journey it is not advisable to work alone I have colleagues whom I work with...,” she says.
“We help each other (referring to a coffin shop) with referrals, for instant when I have a customer who needs a coffin I advise them to buy from them,” she adds.
Wangari urged the youth to stop being choosy on what jobs to take up.
Towards the end of this interview, she drives the bodies to church for a memorial service and later leaves to set the crane before the corpses are brought for the burial.
Versatile. This is just one of the words that can be used to describe Wangari! -KNA