Something was wrong with Denis Ocaya, and Prossy Apiyo’s marriage in 2014. Ocaya had no desire for Apiyo anymore. With three children, he was running out of theories as to what could be wrong with what he had considered a perfect marriage.
She still loved him yet he did not do the same; it was the third time Apiyo’s marriage was near collapsing when her husband introduced a new woman he intended to marry.
How they met
In 1999, while winding up his primary education, Ocaya met Apiyo, a stranger then who would later become the love of his life. The pair first met eye to eye at Holy Rosary Church in Gulu Town where both prayed from every Sunday.
“We kept meeting on Sundays and coincidentally, we were residing in Kanyagoga village in Bardege Division, Gulu District. After completing primary school, we could not advance our education due to financial constraints. I started wooing Apiyo,” Ocaya recalls.
He says in 2003, they started living together.
“Apiyo is kind and respectful. Besides, she liked my friends and relatives so much that it encouraged me to decide on settling with her as a wife. It did not come easy to win her heart because there was another well-to-do man equally interested and asking for her hand in marriage,” he says.
The couple struggled to balance family life and his job, until 2014, when a misunderstanding caused them to drift them apart.
“I used to fear losing my marriage after living together for more than 15 years, so I struggled to accept the fact when he said he was leaving me. I spent sleepless nights as I tried to wrap my head around the new reality that had struck,” Apiyo, a vendor at Cerellenu Market in Gulu town, says of their relationship, adding, “However, I later admitted after realising there was no alternative for me.”
The couple could barely solve problems without conflicting, something, that did not make sense to Apiyo.
One day, last year Apiyo,36, almost lost her life in a tragic incident. While returning from Palaro Market aboard a lorry, the driver is said to have lost control at night.
The truck overturned, several people got injured while one died on spot.
“I never imagined surviving that accident because I suffered four fractures in my groin. Worse still, at Gulu Referral Hospital they initially said I would not heal because of the gravity of my injuries. When they discharged me, I resorted to prayers,” she says.
After being discharged from Gulu Hospital, Ocaya spent days at his second wife’s house which was in the neighbouring Layibi Division.
“I was on crutches for three weeks and I was almost immobile. Our children did the chores such as preparing food, boiling hot water to clean my body while my husband only came to check on our children and would not sleep over,” she recounts.
Two months after the accident, she says Ocaya, 42, brought his second wife home and ordered Apiyo to leave.
They spent the day around but to Apiyo’s relief, they left in the evening.
“He had rendered me unproductive because of the state I was in. I cried and pleaded that I stay but my pleas fell on deaf ears,” she says. Stuck and puzzled on what to do next, Apiyo got an idea of organising thanksgiving prayers before leaving their home.
“I invited Fr Charles Onen, the curate of Holy Rosary Church to preside over the ceremony in February,” she explains. “I had to thank God for saving me from the accident then think about what I would do after leaving home,” she relates.
The day they held Holy mass changed the situation. The homily Fr Onen delivered was heaven-sent and seemed to revolutionise their relationship. Ocaya surprised everyone when he rose up at the end of the prayers to promise Fr Onen that he was intending to wed me by mid-year 2020.
“The priest preached on marriage, beauty and the gift of children, a subject that touched me. I rediscovered that my wife and my children were the best gifts I would never find elsewhere. Also, for a Catholic that I am, life without the Holy Eucharist was damaging. I was ashamed because I did the contrary,” Ocaya says.
“We had always intended to have a church wedding but many things kept crossing our path and I gave up. She kept praying and doing her business in Gulu Town while I also proceeded with my plans until she almost died in an accident,” Ocaya adds.
Ocaya only found it wise to reconcile with his first love and enroll for premarital counselling.
The following Sunday, the couple approached the head catechist at Holy Rosary Church seeking to be registered for a wedding.
Apiyo says “his declaration to the priest to wed me was not surprising but I got shocked the day we went to the catechist and he asked to have us registered. Since the prayer day, everything has changed, my husband has reassumed all his responsibilities.”
“I have learnt to manage and adapt positively to the problems, I have also learnt new ways to resolve issues and address concerns by remaining solution-focused. This has been productive and [helped us be] focused again,” Ocaya said.
At Holy Rosary Catholic parish where the couple is meant to wed from has however indefinitely been suspended following a government directive approximately two months ago.
They had been planning their wedding for the last two-and-half months and were supposed to get married at Holy Rosary Chapel on May 16, 2020, the same day several other couples would exchange their matrimonial vows.
However, the parish has now cancelled the event and instead advised the couples to wait for communication after the lockdown is lifted. They have not revised their budget and they already had Shs2m in preparation for the wedding.
The couple says their plan to wed was born in February before the pandemic was declared and therefore Covid-19 is not their worry.
“We are going on with our preparation while we wait for communication from the parish about when churches will be opened to resume operations. We understand the pandemic is a disaster now but it does not affect our schedule,” Ocaya said.
Apiyo says they are yet to consult their families in order to consider the scientific alternative since the parish priest has okayed scientific weddings for couples who are willing.
“The catechist has just communicated to us that any couple who have been registered and have been undergoing matrimonial counselling can choose to go scientific if they cannot wait. That is what we are also thinking about,” she says.