of Fog and Cricket

fog on Table mountain Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa covered in fog

 

OF FOG AND CRICKET

‘Fog lies in different mountains’ that is literal translation from my language when we mean no condition is permanent. This we mean in a good way. When we say ‘the thing called a wheel turns’ we mean the same thing in a negative way. That today you can laugh at a person going through hard times tomorrow will come for you too.

I have seen the former manifests to so many people when they keep that as a mantra. It almost is linked to faith, that if it did not go well today, tomorrow might be your lucky day that the fog can spread in your mountain (life) too.

I have seen the wheel turning in so many people I know because of their mouths. What they say about others and how they say it. Now that I have become a mother, I count and calculate words I utter about others. I seek to help and uplift rather than see gloom and talk failure in others because I am scared on the think called wheel turning on me or my children.

The Mighty All Blacks.

Coming back to fog lying in different mountains. Last year we watched our favorite team in international cricket playing finals of the 20/20 International cricket tournament in Kolkata India. I must just mention that we are fanatics of cricket and rugby in our home. Our favorite teams are not our country teams although we support them up to a level.

In rugby we are the All Blacks of the great New Zealand and in Cricket we are what they used to call the might West Indies of the Caribbean. I do not know why but I suspect with New Zealand it is because of the struggle of the Maori people who in so many ways, their struggle is more like that of black South Africans, yet in rugby they kick ass. As for the West Indies I really think it is straight forward, these guys look like us more than any Africans in the diaspora. So much so when they are about to speak I almost always expect them to start talking with heavy clicks like my people.

In the final, the Windies played what is now known as the mighty English team. The odds were 80% against the Windies but I guess 20% was good enough for my non clicking brothers. When a fog has to lie somewhere it disregards statistics or history.

Oh the Caribbean….My Africa outside Africa

The only difference between these teams was their material backgrounds, their mental intensity and their emotional resilience. The West Indies (Caribbean) team left home with no uniform because their board was not supporting them. The board that is supposed to be their mother did not pay for the tournament because of pay dispute. Their country islands do not control cricket so Jamaican, Barbados , Granada, Trinidad and Tobago governments cannot be blamed for not caring. The death or the living of the team depends on the board.

The people from outside, also threw some slew on them, Mark Nichlolson, the English commentator called them a team short of brains. What was said by Shane Warne, the legendary Australian cricketer about them and in particular Marlon Samuel cannot be written in these pages.

In God we trust

So going to this tournament, the Windies as they are affectionately known were attacked at home by their so called mother by denying them material requirements like uniforms and playing kit and necessity of touring like a cost of flying to another country. They were attacked mentally by the likes of Mark Nicholson for being empty heads and continuously emotionally denigrated by Australians (but who do Australians not belittle?) through Shane Warne.

Going into India they had nothing but their mother’s prayers, their father’s name to protect and their  hope that this time, fog will lie in their mountain again.

When predictions were made about who was going to win the tournament. The Windies did not exceed the group stages. At the same time, their women team that was playing same tournament was almost not even allowed to compete because of lack of funds.

Going nowhere slowly

Besides these setbacks, the Windies won every match in their group but lost to a team worse than them in challenges, the Afghanistan which never qualified to play in the prestige tournament ever. The underdogs. Windies beat South Africa ( third favorites), Pakistan, Sri Lanka to be in the semi final.

In the semi final they met the Indians, the absolute favorites. The home team and the best over the 20/20 format of the game. That too was a tantalizing game they won by one run on the last over.

What was more than tantalizing was the final they played with England. They were short of nineteen runs on the last over. On the crease Marlon Samuels on 89 and Carlos Brathwait, the fastbowler at 7 from 7 balls. At this stage, my prayer was that Carlos hits a one so he can allow Samuels to face Stokes, the English brilliant allrounder.

Brathwait had never played in this level. No support of the mother body. Even though before the start of any match the entire team burst in song which is the board’s anthem to unify all the Caribbean islands in cricket.

He is not supposed to be facing anyone because he is a bowler and he has done very well bowling the English out in their innings. He was in this position because the English bowled so well that the top order Caribbean batsman crumbled at the crease.

The hope of a nation of cricket in the Caribbean lied in both him and Samuels for vindication. I thought to myself. At that moment, I realized that during the entire match, no over has made nineteen runs even when they had proper batsman on the crease. The ask was impossible, especially from a novice and a bowler.

I resigned to the fact that they will be runner ups. It was not bad. I mean South Africans and the loud Australians did not even make it out of the group stages. The Windies made it to the finals beating the home team to get there. That was an achievement enough for me.

What I did not know was that it was time the fog to lie in the Caribbean people again, like it used to do in the seventies and the early eighties when one could not refer to them without the prefix ‘Mighty’. When  Seymour Nurse, Roy  Fredericks, Sir Viv Richardson, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Brian Lara and so on, held high the same spirit of the never say die.

Carlos Brathwait, as awkwardly tall as he was for a batsman, brought me to the realization that when your mountain has been pointed out by the universe to carry the fog that moment, no matter the impossibilities. It does not matter that playing at the international level yet you do not have kit or airfare or shoes. It does not matter that you are short of brains as pointed out by Mark Nicholson or whatever the insults the Australians send your way.

The fog will just lie in your mountain and the think called wheel will turn for your nay sayers.

In that over, those six balls. England’s Champaign was out of the freezer for sure, and with good reason. It was just a matter of their hope Stoke, who had played extraordinarily well over the tournament and exceedingly well in this particular game to shut it down.

But then things did not go that way, first ball of the six balls left of the match, Carlos batted it over the stands for six. Now the required runs for a win are 13 from 5 balls. By now we all get excited still holding on to our sits, we feel he must change and let Sammy to face Stokes, because obviously Sammy is the most experienced batsman in the crease.

Stokes the medium pace English bowler comes again with the second ball of the over, it is a beautiful yorker that should have resulted in a bowling out of Carlos at the most, at the least it should have been a dot ball with no run. But as the universe pointed out, that moment the fog was lying and resting in the Caribbean. So what does Carlos do with it. He bowls it out of the field to the stands again for another six. It has never been heard of.  A number seven batsman bowling two consecutive sixes. This time the Windies team and my father are standing on their feet.

The scores are tied.

The third balls of the last over, Stokes the man who has made a superb contribution to both the batting and bowling of the English team is facing the universe. So he brings it on and Carlos once again bowls a six, by now the team is almost in the field. This is the staff expected from their Gayle, our De Villiers, Indian Virat Kohli when they are in form.

Myself, my mother, my father, my daughter everything in our house is screaming by now. ‘The scores are tied’. Remember the requirement going into this last over was nineteen, Carlos has hit three consecutive sixes to make eighteen. Now the scores are tied. Windies need to make only one run from three balls to taste the sweetest victory.

I prayed, ‘Please Carlos just one, don’t give away your wicket trying to make huge runs, one is enough’. God said to him, ‘have you seen my finger change and directing the fog to go the other way? So Carlos my boy whatever ball he serves you, hit it hard, I will carry it through the stands again. That Carlos did and God finished His work.

Needless to say the celebration was beyond. Earlier in the day the West Indies Women Team won the tournament too. They were carrying their trophy celebrating in their colourful style with the man. In February the junior team won the same tournament. In the history of cricket, such victories are not known even by countries whose mother body, governments and businesses queue to pour in money and support in their game.

sammy

As I watched Sammy the captain being interviewed by Nasser Hussaine, the English commentator and former batsman, his emotions showing visibly. In an interview that might be his last he pointed out that they received a message from the prime minister of Granada wishing the team the best of luck that morning. He also said they had unfortunately not heard from the West Indies cricket board since they entered the tournament. Abandoned by their mother.

A praying team

What touched me most is what he said next. ‘West Indies is a praying team’. Fletcher, one of their all rounders is a pastor who prays with the team in every situation.

I asked myself if my mantra that I have always lived by, that we live for our kids applies at any situation. Look at them and many children in my community who never had a mother or father to live for them, but God points the fog to lie in their mountains. They are successful human beings.

champions

They went through life being denied of basic material like shoes. They are degraded in their schools and told how short their minds are and everyday there is a Mark Warne in their lives who bullies them, yet they shine when God points the fog to their mountain.

No mountain has monopoly over the fog, it lies in everyone at anytime.

You need faith, tenacity and strong character to win, but even with those in hand, if the hand has not pointed at you as the recipient of the fog, those do not matter.

 

winners

Hold on, the fog is on its way

If you are being neglected by people who are supposed to love you, when people who do not know you call you stupid and when there are constant bullies on your way, never give up. They will never reserve the hand that points where the fog should lie. The thing called wheel will turn on them and fog will lie in your mountain.

“You need faith, tenacity and strong character to win- but the hand that points the fog needs to agree”

I am telling you, soon it will be lying in your life, because there is no condition that is permanent. Your time is coming, and even if you cannot see it right now, remember God opened a sea for his people to cross over. If He can do that to a raving ocean, what will stop Him on fog day.

Hold on and keep doing the right things, the fog is on its way!

 

Blessings always!

 

by Namhla Mbunge

 

 

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‘Death is no child’s play to the living’

‘Death is no child’s play to the living’

 

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These are the words of my dear mother on the death of the oldest man I ever knew from their neigbourhood. The man was hundred and one years old. Born in 1916 in the rural parts of the province. He never went to school but he could read, write and speak English and Afrikaans ‘like a true gentleman’, his words. Everyone who came to live here found him here. Blessed with a humble wife and one son who is almost same age as my dad.
It took over three days for his soul to totally leave his body.
‘Grandpa’, everyone called him that, even people who were older than him in his young age. I think among his very big family, he was the first to become a grandfather. I am told he was only thirty four years when he became a grandfather so it just happened that his brothers and sisters pulled his leg by calling him that. But this did not just end with his immediate family, everyone knew him with that title, so much so other people thought it was his name.
He was sick for a while, ‘Grandma’ his wife took care of him with the help of neighbors and her cousin. Grandpa was demanding in his death bed. In his youth he was a smoker, when old age and sickness took over, he seemed to have forgotten that he stopped smoking and would yell and shout at Grandma for a cigarette.
In his death bed he was a shouter and a complainer sometimes spewing insults like a drunkard, something he never was as long as we knew him. Grandma was overwhelmed by his new nature and resorted to prayer and silence. At night he would fall from his bed because he thought he could still walk.
The last three days of his life were a true testament to what my mother always said, that death is not a child’s play. Grandpa just did not want to die, he resisted death and when neighbors pronounced him dead after he took a long gasp that was exhaled heavily with no more inhalation, pulse or heartbeat until after an hour when he choked and breathed again. By then, as an old and respected member of the community and church, all his neighbors, church people, relatives and friends were by now filling up the yard as the house was filled to pay respect.
They came to do what church people call ‘farewell to his soul’, this happens before the undertakers remove his lifeless body to the mortuary. Instead of hymns and prayers, the pastor came out to say he was still alive. People did not know whether to celebrate, cry or be embarrassed for the family.
Strange thing death, it happens to so much young people so easily, yet to an old man it takes effort and struggle. People were advised to not leave because ‘it might be a fluke’, meaning his breathing might be a miracle that might pass. People waited and it looked wrong that they were waiting for someone to die again. It was an uncomfortable situation that took three days.
When night came most people but family was left behind. They were praying for him to ‘see the road’. Our people believe that there is a road that when one passes, they go through. Sometimes due to the things the people who are living cannot explain, the dying person cannot see the road or what other people believe is the light. Prayers and singing and sometimes talking to those who have crossed over (ancestors) to show him how to get there is done consistently until something happens.
I asked why so many endeavors when one can be left to live. The answer was that when the time has come it has come and there are signs that show that, pain and groaning or snoring in a peculiar manner being part of it. My mother told me that Grandpa was no longer of our world, his name has been called. We the living must help him to cross over.
It is sad when you still love your loved one to see people doing what seems like ‘killing’ him. When they ask God to do His will, that is a direct request that God must take him over. When he is lying on the bed having difficulty breathing and rolling his eyes in pain or discomfort people start singing sad praises to the ancestors to show him the way. Mothers crying because of the pain caused by the sadness to see life so well lived, so loved and so precious finding it difficult to graduate to the next step.
The wailing of the mothers, praying of church people and praise singing by the extended family happened for three days. The extended family left on the third day and Grandma was left with her husband and their great grand children. By now grandpa’s one foot was halfway leaving earth and the other, only God knew where. People got tired and emotionally drained. It was just an unending torture to them.
Until on the fourth day at night. I was at my parent’s when the lights of the whole town went off. As we were busy looking for candles, rain fell hard after such drought that we had experienced. It was hardly five minutes after that when we heard a knock. Grandma’s great grandchild that they were staying with came to report that Grandpa passed away.
It took three days of prayer to the living God and the persuasion of the ancestors, the songs and the mothers wailing for him to pass away. It was when everyone had left that he felt comfortable to let go, in the process taking with him our lights and left us with a welcomed flood of rain.
As my mother would say, death is just not easy not to the living and I would add, especially not to the dying.
I have seen things and I have heard stories, this one is not a story nor a thing. It is a life of a Centurion who lived his life so well here on earth so much so dying was not an option for him.
How we cling to the familiar even when it kills us, instead of letting go and let God. Beyond what we are comfortable with, God has a greater plan for us, plan to heal, bless, prosper us but the journey goes through some tunnels and unfamiliar roads. It is good to have friends, family current or past and neighbors that will help you through life’s journey. Grandpa had plenty and they did the best they knew how in his hour of need. They helped him cross over. If a hundred and one year old man can need help about life, why do you think you don’t? Everybody needs the power of the love from people who love him to open the road.
Life is a journey and pain, struggle, joy and death are just part of that journey.

 

Rest in Grandpa, as we say ‘those who have met, will meet again

 

 

By Namhla Mbunge

Those who met will meet again.

Those who met will meet again.

py6vilnl5r

 

This last week has been miserable at our house. My mom was admitted to hospital, Doctor said when he was admitting her ‘it is for observation’ because her high blood pressure was quite high. He said two days maximum, but now we are finishing a week without her here.

The reason she is sick is that, after my father came back from dropping my son at school on Friday last. He met their neighbor waiting for him at the gate, the lady neighbor told my father to tell my mom that Aunty Noma (full name- Nomathemba); my mom’s longest and very good friend passed away through heart failure. For some reason she did not want to face my mom when she passed this message.

My father was still surprised when he blurted the news to my mom. She was having tea but my father could not finish what he was saying, her tea cup fell and broke, not without spilling hot tea on her lap. She was overly leaning to the front as if she was going to fall. In the process of trying to stop her fall, I hugged her and whispered ‘It is not her’, remember she is in Cape Town to the wedding of her cousin’s daughter.

She opened her eyes, as if to say ‘yes I remember’.

This was very true to me. Only two days earlier I dropped her at the airport. She was meant to take the bus, but her daughter Thandi (Thandiwe which directly translate to Beloved) was worried about the distance and because flights are normally quite cheap around this time of year, she bought her a return ticket. The daughter and her three sons were to drive later in the week to the wedding.

Because our airport is quite small, one can see their loved ones when they board the plane and wave. So myself and Thandi waited to wave her off. When she was at the stairs to the plane door, she could not climb them. She laughed a little, I guess feeling embarrassed. I thought maybe we should have asked for extra assistance for her.

One of the plane hostesses tried to help but she failed. We went to the security to ask if we could help. They only brought her back to the Assisted Passenger office where we rushed to check. She smiled back and said, ‘it’s my legs, they swell for no reason these days’. I looked at them for the first time. They were huge and shiny. I told Thandi we should have taken her to the doctor first before the flight.

I was saying this because I remembered a colleague who died on the plane because of deep vein thrombosis. I did not even know of the existence of such a disease until I heard Lusindiso died from it. People said she should have taken an asprin before flying. I thought of offering my mom’s best friend the aspirin, but then I thought what if it thins her blood too much.

In anyway, they got her into a wheelchair and uplifted her up the plane. We laughed when we told my mom about the inconvenience her friend caused. She just said it was old age like her. With her, I know even as I book the plane that I must ask assistance. Not because she will not be able to get into the plane, but because she gets easily disrupted. I always worry that she would be confused and get into a wrong plane.

When we heard that aunty Noma landed safely, we moved on with our own preparations. She called my mom in the evening to tell her how beautiful the wedding dress was and how she thought the groom was made to pay little lobola. They talk about everything together. Sometimes I feel what they talk about most of the time is unnecessary.

So in the morning when she called to say she was tired she would not be driving around with the wedding planners to view the venue, my mom said she must take time to relax because when the wedding comes she would be asked to do so many things that could tire her.

In the evening they all went out for dinner with the family of the groom. Later I heard my mom giggling and laughing on the phone, I knew it was her so I asked when she was done, ‘what was the gossip about?’ She told me my aunt Noma was making fun of the groom’s father who did not have teeth.

When my father came in with the bad news, I kind of knew it was not a mistake but I needed my mom to be in doubt so she does not lose herself. My father too was not believing what he was saying so when I placed the doubt, it all made sense to them until the phone rang and a scream came from the other side.

It was hectic from there, my father slumped in his lazy chair and my mom fell on the ground. They knew when they heard the scream that it was Thandi and what they heard from their neighbor was true.

My mother was getting weaker by the second so I dragged her to the car so we could go to the doctor. I first shoved down her throat high blood pressure prescription tablets. Then shouted at my father to move. He was also in a world of his own, dazed.

We all drove to the doctor, but my mother insisted she wanted to go to aunty Noma’s house first. When we approached we saw droves of people going into her house. That is common where we live. Everyone gathers at the house of the deceased to make sure of what has happened and comfort the children. When we got there, Thandi and her siblings had still not arrived. She was still at work when she called our house to scream. There was aunty Noma’s husband, already prepared with his bags to travel to Cape Town with his children to the wedding.

He seemed confused when we arrived and asked my father, ’which Noma are they saying died today?’ my father could not respond and he continued ‘these people must not delay us we are driving later today to Cape Town’. I heard my father asking ‘for what?’ He said ‘wedding of course’. He giggled and said ‘shame you were not invited hey’. They are both 72 but my father looks a little older than him because he fought and defeated cancer in his sixties, that took some good health from him.

My mother was struggling to breath by now so I decided to take her straight to the hospital not the doctor’s rooms. She is still there as I write this. The doctor said it will be two days maximum but today is the seventh day. Her church friends shout at her when they visit ‘don’t cry like someone without hope’, ‘don’t give up like someone who does not pray’, ‘you will meet her on the last day’

She is sad, very sad. But she is sick too. She keeps asking what the doctors said was the cause of her friend’s death. Heart failure we tell her. With confusion she wants to know the difference between that and heart attack.

Yesterday was aunty Noma’s funeral. My mom could not make it. The doctor declined to give her pass for it. I had to go for her. Everyone was talking about their friendship and how it is going to be hard for my mom. Most people call them twins. They were friends since they were babies because their mothers were friends.

All I kept praying for was for good and long health for my mom. I knew it was hard for her but we are still here. Unlike Thandi and her sibling who no longer had a mother. I know how much she was close to her, but I hoped she would not give up on life because of one loss.

We love her too much and we need her always.

They were blessed because they knew each other for all their lives which is almost 70 years. All of us knew her less years than Noma did, but all those years we knew her no matter how few, they were all the years that we lived on this earth.

I went to see her after the funeral and she said ‘I think we were lucky, me and Noma. Few friendships lasts that long, yes we were blessed. Those who met will meet again’. This is one of comforting sayings in my language. How was her funeral she asked ‘the best’ I told her.

‘I spoke on your behalf, Thandi and her brothers needed to hear from you, I was you and I hope I did not misrepresent you’. I would not have spoken even if I was there, I don’t think I would have had the courage, you did well, you were going to speak even if I was there. She said.

Sometimes, some people are blessed to have the soul mate in their friends and their husbands. That they are separated through death even with friends.

I wish I could be like my mom and aunty Noma and be able to keep friends that long.

Rest in peace beautiful aunty Noma, till we meet again

 

By Namhla Mbunge

Remember dear?

Going through my wardrobe yesterday I found myself involuntary bursting into song. I wish bursting meant the song was one happy song, unfortunately for you it was one sad song of the days gone by.

I took a trip deep down sad memory lane with Anita Baker, the song ‘No more tears’ flowed out of the blue from my mouth. I must confess that when I first heard this song it was in the very early 90’s. I was in high school knowing not a single word of English but ‘because’ in my vocabulary. You see, in my time the medium of learning was English in our schools. But because we were in villages with no television or telephone at the time, English was heard only when one visited the city on holidays. When I heard it spoken, I could not even differentiate between it and Afrikaans. It did not bother me too that when I visited the townships people watched television and laugh at comedies or cry over something that was showing on TV. I was just not interested. I just did not understand. My friends were intimidated by it, I was not.

I remember my cousin irritating the others who had some clue of the language when we watched television during holidays. He would ask our elder cousins who lived in the city when they laughed or sighed over something they saw on TV, ‘what are they saying’. He would be shushed every time, yet he kept asking every time. Curiosity. I did not have it. Nonchalant.

Even though the teachers taught us English, they used our language. Therefore a pass was dependent on how well one was able to photocopy syllabus content with their brains. When I start reading my high school books these days, I laugh because I knew nothing at the time of the words that were used in those books. Do not get me wrong, I knew exactly what was said in those books, but not the English words that meant what was written.

So singing this song made me smile inside because as you know, now I know what the words mean plus, I can sing the lyrics very well. I started

‘we used to love, now all I do is cry, you used to make me happy now you don’t even try’

Before I could get any further, I heard my daughter laughing too. I thought she was laughing because of my voice. You know they call it old. They say it has distinctively 80/90’s vibe. I do not even know what that means. It embarrasses my son when I sing at church because, you know me, I sing loud and typically African. My daughter calls it a church music voice.

“baby, baby, baby.”

I deviate again; the reason for this story

She stopped me before I could continue. ‘Mom but why do all your 80’s or 90’s songs sound sad and baby, baby, baby all the time?’ I stopped for a second but do they really all sound like baby baby baby! I asked myself inside. Maybe they do hey, ‘at least they don’t sound bitch, nigger, money’ I answered still keeping the melody.

You see, whatever they may have told you about the 80’s/ 90’s, it was a beautiful era for us. I am sure the 70’s and 60’s were also splendid for my parent’s too. Every era holds something beautiful for its generation. For us it was baby, baby, baby.

I deviate again; the reason for this story is neither the English language nor it’s none existence in my vocabulary or the 80’s. But it is about not forgetting.  Never betraying who we are and where we come from. It is keeping in our heads where we want to be and why we want to get there.

Remembering is good for the soul. They say live your life so that when you go down memory lane in your old age you are able to smile and burst into laughter even if you are alone. Try not to live so you cringe and blush with humiliation when a thought of your youth passes through your mind.

Live for something, be part of something, stand for something. I used to have a colleague, as early as in her 30’s she said, ‘things we do, sometimes one wishes to take a typex (eraser) and rub them off in the history of the life we lead’ she was regretting a choice she made of getting involved with a married man. Her sister told her that nothing happens for no reason in our lives. She just needed to stop it and promise herself never to do it again.

Live for something, be part of something, stand for something

She did not; she kept on and off with the man until his wife died. She was eventually married to the widow after six months that the wife passed. That was the most taboo thing that I ever witnessed in my mid twenties. A man taking a new wife before he took off mourning clothes he was wearing. This is one of the reasons I left that town and moved to Johannesburg. I was ashamed to be associated with her, yet I was afraid to ask her why.

Everyone called her ugly names. They said she is the one who bewitched that lady with cancer. Yes I live in a community that still thinks like that. That cancer can be purchased from a witch person to kill someone.

No one really liked her. People still don’t but who cares she got what she wanted.

Last week Thursday I received a call from her daughter. It had been a long time since I saw her. She said her mom would really love talking to me can I surprise her with a call. I did.

My old friend, she sounded so frail and tired yet happy to hear from me. I promised to visit her. She still lives in the same town. I drove with my kids the 250km to her last Saturday. I wanted to see the place I spent my young adult life. To remember my youth with my kids next to me. To show them places that meant something to me in my young life.

Her daughter told us to meet as St. Dominic hospital as she was laying there sick.

I did not know this but we drove any way. I found my friend with her two kids. She was very sick, cancer. I looked around for the husband. He was not there.

After the pleasantries she asked our kids to leave us. I asked what happened. She laughed ‘I think someone bought cancer for me’. Yes cancer? Does she believe that nonsense that there is cancer causing powder? I found myself thinking that this place has not changed a bit. I wonder who could that be? I really did not expect an answer but she volunteered it ‘I guess what goes around comes around hey?’ Good. She remembers, I thought. She was still smiling but tears were forming in her eyes. At least you know you never bought cancer for anyone, I said.

‘Yes that one is true, but I really wished her death. I got her life exactly how it was because my husband cheated from the first day we were married and look at me now, at least she had the support and love of the community and family, I don’t. I am reaping what I sowed.

I remember thinking it must be hard for her to remember her life. It must be difficult to look back and smile or re-live that time in her mind. But she needed to; I thought, for her passage she needed to look in her inner self and make peace with her mistakes.

Remembering is good, but not everything we did was good. So sometimes remembering is painful. But at some point we must face it and make amends. The first step is to remember. To remember how we hurt others for our own gains so we can forgive ourselves, accept ourselves with all the baggage that makes who we were, learn to love the pieces of us that no one is prepared to love. In any case if we don’t, who will?

My friend had a choice to stop what became torture before it happened. She chose not to. Now, as her sister said before, there is nothing for nothing. Everything we do in this earth has consequences. Hers was very direct. Karma is a bitch. I somehow felt sorry for her.

In my language there is a saying that goes ‘loo nto uyanzayo uyazenzela’ loosely translated it means whatever you do, you do it for yourself’. I believe this, because when old age comes, all the things you ever done, you will remember. It is up to the things whether they make you cry or smile.’

I do not take light the privilege of being alive and aging. If I would ever be honored with a privilege a walking stick because of old age. If I am given that honor, I hope I carry the walking stick with pride and dignity like my paternal grandfather did, knowing that I remember my young life and its mistakes but walk tall even if my back has bended because of all age, knowing that I have forgiven myself.

I hope to be like my maternal grandfather and call my children and their families for an ‘urgent’ meeting every other weekend. Item for discussion being the day of my death. Talking about that in my 90’s while still as strong as the day I knew him to be my grandpa. With a smile as if narrating a party tell them exactly what needs to happen on the day of death and funeral. Having everyone laughing and debating the practicality of my wishes without feeling sorry for me, like my mother and her siblings did with their father.

I wish I could be able to give instructions with a pure heart that I want to be buried on top of my wife’s coffin that died more than thirty years before, without feeling guilty that she might be upset with me for things I have done after she died.

My two grandparents were not saints, but they remembered, forgave and moved on. Let’s do that while singing with Anita Baker with our distinctively 60’s /70’s/80’s/90’s/00’s/10’s voices in that churchy vibe, who cares? We remember but;

It’s gonna be no more tears for you……no more crying now….see my eyes have run dry, there’ll be no more tears.

 

Blessings

By Namhla Mbunge
Photo credit: Deirdre Prins- Solani / Cape Town

Memory & Remembering

Remembering can be bittersweet. It is like a taste that I can’t quite describe yet I know intimately.

In it lies all the textures of my soul: rough, smooth and everything else in between.

The memory of what I remember is sometimes a burden. I do not want to remember it, I do not want to feel all the feelings that come with the memory, but I do. All the unexplained feelings, the could haves- should haves and would haves that lie like dead weight at the top of the tongue waiting for expression.

Some of the memories are good, they fill the heart with joy. Some memories are sad, vacant tombs that vibrate with the hum of silence. I do not want to go there. I wish the brain would shut down and let it be. There is a struggle between my will and the brain, often I lose the battle and remember the things I wish I didn’t. With death & loss there is no filter, the brain somehow doesn’t allow for it.

There have been times when the numbness and forgetfulness that comes with experiencing a loss have all been what I wanted to have. Not the memory of my loved one laughing, not of them being happy but the protection of nothingness. The nothingness that allows me to navigate the day to day activities until I feel strong enough to cope. Memory doesn’t work like clockwork, nor does it have an on/off switch that one can press at will, it comes when it chooses to and steals into my mind and allows a release of the memories that had been forgotten.

Sometimes I wonder- is what I’m remembering true or is it a made up account of events that allows me to cope when the pain of grieving is too much? I don’t know. Doubt and grieving seems to be friends, especially as time goes by. One is not sure that what one remembers. What I am certain of is that some memories are clearer than others.

These are the lessons I have learnt about memory and coping with grief:

  •       Good memories can be like friends that provides comfort when little else seems to fill that void. They can provide a source of emotional comfort that no-one else can give.
  •       Remembering painful memories doesn’t make one weak, over time it provides emotional strength and resilience to cope better.
  •       Often remembering helps me to maintain my special connection to my loved one. This can be done by looking at a photograph of them, singing their favorite song, wearing their favorite item of clothing or color, or smelling their favorite scent.
  •       Sometimes you do forget someone or an event that is connected to a loved one for a while, this is common when we are grieving. It doesn’t mean that we will never remember again.
  •       When memories are too painful, it helps to find a way to release them. This can be done by talking with somebody else or writing in a journal or doing some meditation or breathing exercises.

Overall memory & remembering is about having parts of our loved ones with us all the time, wherever we go in the world.

 

 

 

rocks&water-by-jon-phillips

*All About the Messiness of Grief

When someone dies, do they really die or does a small part of them remain forever etched in your memory? Do they come alive in the occasional moments that catch you off guard as you see their face in your minds eyes, briefly, a fleeting picture? I have had moments when the memory has been so powerful and real that it seemed that if I reached out, I could simply touch.  Afterwards I have wondered if the memory is true or perhaps in some strange way I am making it up in my mind, to ease the dull ache that remains.

HIV/ AIDS is an epidemic that is global, distant and at the same time local, and deeply personal. I have known many people who have died but one never gets familiar with the visitation of death. It doesn’t matter how much you think you are prepared, there is something that feels disempowering about the finality of it all for those left behind.

When I was a young girl, Nozuko who lived up the street from me, died from HIV/AIDS or z3 as it was known in my township. Life for the most part was simple. It was not unusual to hear the sounds of cows as they contently chewed the grass and went about their business. There was a deep sense of community. It was shocking then, that when Nozi died, there was silence.  Gone was the mischievous light in her eyes. Gone was the music from her lips. When I think of her, I remember little details that seem to be inconsequential to me now, long forgotten pieces of memory drift into my consciousness…the way she used to stamp her feet down and bend all the way down to her feet when something was particularly funny, or her school tie that was always skew because she never learnt how to do a proper knot.  It seemed that with her gone, we lost our capacity to speak beyond the necessary. There were no gushing tears in public, no hugs of support at the funeral. We were all silent, trapped in our fear to speak, just in case you revealed too much of your weakness to others.

The strange thing about experiencing loss is that for a long while, one does not have the language to articulate all the pieces inside of you that become undone. Silence becomes a friend and corners places of whispered fervent prayer. Somehow you imagine that if you pray so many times, maybe just maybe it will all have been a mistake.

The most peculiar and helpful thing about witnessing death I think are the rituals which follow. There are those that are communal, socially and culturally informed. Some of these are the modern ‘after tears’, slaughter of an animal, wearing of a black button, shaving of the head and the making and sharing of mqomboti. Then there are those that we do in private when we are alone with ourselves in our inspired moments of courage and strength. Over the years, I have learnt that opening the wound does not happen immediately, despite ones best effort to appear to be “dealing/coping” with the situation nor breaking down and reaching out a decision you make in your conscious mind, but one that chooses you because of necessity.

 Over time these are some tips  I have learnt about creating rituals:

1. Set up your sacred space (where you will have your ritual) in a quiet place

2. Bring all your objects that you want to use (pictures, music, candles, matches, journals, a favourite shoe or shirt, a Bible, Koran, Rumi or other book of inspiration and thoughts) into your one sacred space. This will help you so that you don’t keep moving around

3. Start with a meditation for clearing your mind/ by burning imphepho or incense for cleansing your space/ a prayer or chant. (Choose a method that works for you and you are most comfortable with)

4. Give some thought to your method, it can take any form of remembering (it can be singing or chanting/ writing in your journal, writing a letter/ holding a momento/creating a piece of art using all of these as inspiration

5. Once you are finished with your ritual, take some time to be quiet within yourself as you end your ritual before entering into the noise of Life

What are some of the ways in which YOU remember?

[*] A Reference to the wonderful book ‘The Long Goodbye’ by Meghan O’ Rourke, 2011