The elderly pilgrim who collapsed at Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo last Saturday, and died shortly afterward, had been restrained by family members from making the 300-kilometre Fort Portal to Kampala trip.
A devout Catholic, Teddy Kabagenyi Mbeeta, spurned her children’s counsel.
The 80-year-old after all made it to the Martyrs Day festivities at Namugongo, outside Kampala, every June 3, to redeem her faith and celebrate with millions of other Christians.
The children and grandchildren saw old age was evidently weighing her down, and stopped her from attending last year’s observance. She obliged.
Popularly known by her pet name Ateenyi, Mbeeta this time insisted on making the trip to compensate for last year’s missed opportunity. Like thousands other pilgrims, she had been upbeat about the D-day.
“She was so happy on Friday; she kept telling us how she cannot wait to reach Namugongo. We took selfies with her and our other relatives as she kept demonstrating to us how she will walk come the D-Day,” said her son Charles Businge.
That was hours before fate decided otherwise.
Mbeeta checked in at the Catholic Martyrs Shrine in time, and without any indications that her existing ailments would stop her heart beat.
“My mother due to old age had started getting sickly; [she had] high blood pressure, ulcers and suffered body pains. We would take her to hospital for check-ups, but she was never bedridden,” said Mr Businge.
When the choir at Namugongo delighted with great music toward offertory, Mbeeta stood up to cheer and enjoy. Unfortunately, she slipped and fell, unconscious.
Henry Rwakahangi, a grandson, said that: “Ateenyi stood up to watch the young girls who were dancing to Agutamba (song) and she accidently tripped-off and fell down. She did not die immediately, but the time we spent looking for a stretcher to carry her to hospital weakened her more.”
An ambulance took her to the nearby Angelina Hospital, but doctors there pronounced her dead on arrival at round 11:30am.
A postmortem done at Mulago National Referral Hospital, according to Mr Businge, showed that their mother died of “heart failure”.
Her grandson Rwakahangi, 26, said he grew up seeing Mbeeta trek to Namugongo each year until last year.
“She always walked to Namugongo but only last year was she stopped because my uncles deemed her not fit to go. Even this year they stopped her, but she refused and insisted that she had to come,” he said.
She is survived by five children and more than 20 grandchildren who eulogised her as a “great mother and martyr” who would do anything for the Church.
“I will miss her so much; she raised us single-handedly since our father died when we were so young. We have been surviving because of her prayers, we shall forever miss the moments we had with her during Christmas,” said Charles Businge, her third born and family heir.
Mr Richard Rusoke, a relative said, “Ateenyi took care of me from my Primary Four until Senior Four. I will forever be grateful for her love and care and for the moments we shared especially she taught me how to pray.”
Her granddaughter Teddy Asaba was crest-fallen. “She loved me so much, she groomed me up, she witnessed me get married, she took me to school and she was literally my mother,” she said.
Mbeeta will be buried on Wednesday, this week, at her ancestral home in Kitumba village, Fort Portal Municipality.
Scovia Moro, a pregnant woman trekking to Namugongo from Lira District, last Wednesday collapsed and died at Matugga trading centre in Wakiso District.