Don’t mind me when you hear me mumbling hymns and staring blankly into nothingness. I’m experiencing the greatest peace I’ve ever known.
I’m praising Modimo, The Holy One, as I am standing at the doorstep of His palace. It’s so beautiful, and I can’t help but join the choir of angels, whose voices are glorious and enchanting.
I am overwhelmed with joy from seeing my beloved husband again. It’s been years since death separated us, and I missed him so much. He has come to usher me into the Great Palace, holding my hand the same way he did all those years ago on our wedding day. He looks so happy, so full of life, and I’m glad that we won’t be separated again.
My dear family and friends, I understand that my passing is causing you immense pain, but take heart in the fact I will look over you from the Great Palace, and celebrate for I have lived a great life.
A young maiden from Ngwaketse, one of the Tswana chiefdoms, gave birth to me on a warm June afternoon in 1936. That year must’ve been the birth period of revolutionaries as F.W De Klerk and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were also born.
Mom and dad ascended to the Great Palace when I was 6 years old, and so, my siblings and I were raised by my aunt. I had a great childhood. Some of my favourite things to do were listening to Aunty’s stories every night around the fire and helping her around the farm we owned.
I began to notice changes around our village when I was 15 years old. Men started leaving for Johannesburg to work on the mines, and women either migrated to the white-owned farms or to Johannesburg to seek employment. Our family farm was taken away by the government, and we were forced to move to one of the enclaves of the Bophutatswana homeland. Aunty was an elderly woman by then, so I too decided to migrate to the ‘city of gold’ when I was 19 years old.
It was indeed a bustling city filled with tall buildings and people from all walks of life. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. I lived with my cousin in Randfontein, and it wasn’t long before I found employment as a domestic worker. I worked for the Viljoen family, and they were mostly alright, not bothering too much with me. The labour was difficult as I worked long hours, often struggling with the pain from my chaffed hands as a result of hand-washing tons of laundry.
One afternoon, while having lunch at one of the restaurants in the township, my cousin introduced me to his friend, Chris. It wasn’t love at first sight from my end, as I thought that he was a classic Joburg man; a lover of the fast life and simply in love for the thrill of it. But he persisted and never left me alone, and the more I got to know him, the more I started to fall in love with him.
We had our first child in the summer of 1958 when I was 22 years old. I was afraid because I fell pregnant out of wedlock and this was frowned upon in those days, but Chris promised my aunt that he would marry me. From 1960, Chris and I spent many days apart as he was moved to the mine in Potchefstroom, an hour from Johannesburg. It was difficult raising our child without him, and I became lonely living without the love of my life.
I found solace in the company of Jeffery, my colleague who worked as a gardener for the Viljoens. He was also one of Chris’ close friends. He became a close companion and a great support when I needed help with anything.
One afternoon, when the Viljoens were not home, Jeffery came into the house, into the living room where I was busy, and started chatting as usual. He then told me that he loved me and wanted to marry me, to which I resisted by telling him that he knew I was with Chris. All of a sudden, he became angry, which was unusual because he had never acted like that with me before. He told me that he has been acting as my husband all these months while Chris was away, listening to my problems and assisting me whenever I needed help and therefore, I belong to him as his wife. Before I knew it, in a fit of rage, he grabbed me, covering my mouth so that my screams would be deafened, and a struggle ensued before he overpowered me and raped me.
The shame was unbearable, and to make matters worse, I fell pregnant. I told Chris what happened and instead of rejecting me, he supported me and encouraged me to keep the baby, promising to raise it as his own. Jeffery disappeared later that year, and judging by Chris’ rage, the disappearance wasn’t of his own making.
I vowed to take this experience to the grave and to love my baby girl unconditionally because she was a gift from Modimo, The Creator, regardless of the circumstances of her conception.
Chris and I got married in the summer of 1965, and we had our last born daughter the following year. We bought our first family home in Randfontein in January 1967, and I continued to work for the Viljoens. My husband relocated back to the mine in close by, enabling him to live at home.
We raised our children in Johannesburg, and once we were ready for retirement, we moved back to our ancestral home. We had no money saved for retirement because that wasn’t a privilege afforded to black people who worked during the apartheid era, but we survived through the state pension and help from our children.
Life has not been easy, but I’ve learned to be content and happy with what I have. I’ve learned that the only people that matter are my loved ones – my family- because they love me, and my legacy will remain with them.
The doors to the Great Palace are opening, and my husband is here by my side to walk in with me.
Goodbye my beloved family, and remember to live a life that you will be proud of.
I love you and I’ll see you soon.
*image from Flickr.