Growing Up – Chapter 41

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If I haven’t seen a person for years, I don’t expect them to invite me to their weddings or other happy occasions. I say this because I believe that happy occasions are celebrated with people who are important and close to you. I’m not one who will invite people I last saw in high school to my wedding because they aren’t as important as they were in high school. I have people who are important right now like Sihle, Tsiamo and the twins. Even though Bongile invited me to her wedding, I will not invite her to mine. But all of this is a different story when it comes to a person’s death and their funeral. People attend funerals because they know the person who is dead, or because they have heard of them or they are going to support someone who is related to the deceased…… oh ofcourse and some go to funerals because they love the free food and juice, phela they serve delicious food now at funerals.
If I am told that someone I attended school with passed away, I will most probably go to their funeral. I don’t know what was surprising me when I saw my mom’s ex-boyfriend, he was bound to find out about my sister’s death because bad news spread faster than good news.
I walked to him, he stood up and we hugged. A young man’s hug and a old man’s hug are very different for me, when you hug a old man the hug is full of protection and it feels fatherly. That is how I felt when I hugged Bab Pat. It felt good to see him after all these years, I was extremely happy to see him.
“Bab Pat how are you? Where have you been? I haven’t seen you for years yoh, are you married now? Who told you about Thenjiwe’s death?” I asked excitedly and he said,
“Haw Hlehle, ask me one question at a time please.”
I laughed and buried my face in my hands because I felt a bit embarrassed for my over excitement.
He said “I have live in Mpumalanga now because there was an opportunity for me to enlarge my business there and it has worked out for me because I met my wife and have been married for 2 years. My old friend Piet heard about Thenjiwe’s death and called me, so I can as soon as I heard. How are you doing Hlehle?”
“I’m hurt Bab Pat,” I said, “I’m very sad, this happened so suddenly and I don’t know how long it will take me to accept this because I honestly didn’t expect it. Maybe it was going to be better if she was sick for a while before she died, maybe that was going to be a bit better to accept because I would have seen her suffer with her health. This one is harder because she was fine and healthy, and was robbed of her life. It’s really unfair, really unfair”
“I am so sorry for your loss my dear, I wish there was something I could do to help you heal faster. But unfortunately there is nothing I can do, I just hope you will heal as time progresses.” He said.
I took him upstairs to meet the other people, when he went inside the room, my aunt smiled like she was a little child in a candy store. She stood up and greeted him by name, she even hugged him. Huuu my aunt was married but she loved men so much you’d swear she was single. I wondered how she knew his name but then I remembered that they met at my mother’s funeral. But I didn’t expect her to remember his name, he seemed to have forgot about her. He really seemed confused and overwhelmed, I, myself, was also going to be overwhelmed if she greeted me the way she greeted him.
My aunt said “Oh Pat Pat you seem to have forgotten me. We met just a day after my sister, Hlengiwe’s mother, passed away and we organised the funeral together and we got to know each other well during those days.”
My aunt was very dramatic, they never got to know each other and she didn’t help with organising the funeral because she didn’t want to use a cent in her own money. Yes they met each other because of my mother’s death but they didn’t become as close as she was saying.
Bab Pat just said “Oh ya I remember you.” Then he went to greet the other people in the room.
“Hlengiwe bring some Bab Pat some cakes and juice quickly.” Mdu’s mother said, and I responded
“Use the magic word mama ka Mduduzi.” She was shocked to hear me say that, I stared at her until she said ‘Please’. I was seriously going to teach her to not treat me the way she treated my sister.
The week went by very fast, we managed to organise the funeral with the help of Philani, my friends and some of Mdu’s friends. The week went by smoothly, with a bit of drama from my aunt and Mdu’s mother. Those two women were getting very close and were causing so much drama as a united front.
The day of the funeral was the hardest for me, I woke early and took a bath before other people woke up. I woke up Tsiamo and Sihle and they took a bath. I decided to wear a simple black dress and not put any make-up on. I knew I was going to cry almost the entire day, so having making up on would make it hard for me to cry properly. Have you seen how funny people look when they are crying and trying to not mess up their make-up? It is the funniest sight to see, and it becomes a struggle to save your make up and cry all you want, so I didn’t want that for myself. I wanted to cry as freely as possible, I didn’t want my tears to be limited.
At 7 in the morning I was called by my uncle to go to the room where my sister’s coffin was in, they asked me if I wanted to see my sister for the last time or not. I hesitated but when I saw Mdu standing there at the coffin looking at his wife, I gained strength and decided to do it.
There she was looking very peaceful, but she looked very different…she wasn’t alive, she wasn’t smiling, she wasn’t speaking or laughing…she was quiet with her eyes closed. She was wearing her favourite dress, a turquoise maxi dress. She wore that dress so much that we always joked and said we would put that dress away and we will bury her with it. Little did we know that our joke would soon become a reality. It was hard looking at her the way she was, she was fine just the other day and now she is dead……how cruel is life though? I looked at her for a long time, that my mind started playing games with me. I saw her eyes twitch, then saw and felt her breathe. I pulled Mdu towards me and I whispered
“Mdu, Thenjiwe is alive, I just saw her breathe and her eyes twitched.” Mdu looked at me and whispered back “Hlengy I wish that were true but it’s not. Thenjiwe is really gone.” I looked at him as if he was going mad.
I pulled my uncle towards me and said to him “Malume uThenjiwe is not dead, they are just playing with our minds. I just saw her breathe, she clearly needs to go to a hospital and then she will be fine.” My uncle just held my hand but didn’t say anything. I looked both of them and I realised that I was just being indenial, my sister was really gone and we were not going to see her again, not in this life time.
Baby Letho’s tiny coffin was on top of my sister’s, we were advised to not look at her because the way she was, was going to disturb us for a long time. They said that the accident really destroyed her tiny body and we weren’t going to be able to deal with seeing the way she was. The said it was better for us to keep the image of an alive and healthy Letho, than a badly bruised tiny body. I wished I did that with my sister as well, I wish I hadn’t seen her. The image of her lying on her coffin will be engraved in my mind forever.
I walked away from the room, tried to hold back my tears but I fell apart when I was Philani. He took me in his arms and led me to a room. We sat there and he let me cry, I cried until I had a headache. I took some pain tablets and asked him to leave because I wanted to take a quick nap before we went to the church. He left, I slept for about an hour before I was woken up by Tsiamo informing me that everyone was ready to leave for church and they were just waiting for me. I fixed myself and went downstairs, as I passed people they kept on looking at me and whispering “shame, poor thing.” Or “this is her little sister” and “she seems like she isn’t taking it well.”
I walked past them and all their whispers, I found the hearse ready to leave and the family car was full. It was really funny because as far as I am concerned my sister’s family consisted of me and Mdu. All these other people who were in the family car, were not my sister’s family. They were supposed to use their own transports, or use the busses we hired for everyone else. I was tempted to take them out of the car, but the good, drama-free girl in me told me to walk away and look for another transport. Luckily Philani saw me and he took me to his car.
We drove to the church and everyone went in, I asked to be left alone. I said a short prayer asking God to give me strength to face the day and the rest of my life from that day on. As soon as I walked into the church, everyone looked at me..I wanted to go and sit with family but I saw that all the chairs were occupied so I sat at the back. Mdu saw me sit at the back and he asked one of his cousins to come get me. I followed the cousin and sat next to Mdu because he saved a chair for me next to him.
People gave their speeches, and I was shocked to see that Mdu wanted to talk, this man was really brave.
“I met Thenjiwe at a friends’ wedding and she has been in my life ever since. We have had our share of ups and downs but through it all she has kept being a good and loyal wife to me. She gave me a new meaning to life. My life will be incomplete without my Queen and Princess. I will forever love and miss them.” He wanted to continue but he stopped and went to sit down.
The Pastor gave the Word and it was about to be the hardest time when we had to go to the cemetery. Maybe I shouldn’t go to the cemetery, I wasn’t ready to say bid farewell to my sister. I’m not going to the damned cemetery.

6 thoughts on “Growing Up – Chapter 41

  1. MY sister passed away when i was in grade 8 during final exams in 2010, reading this chapter just brought back all the memories of my sisters funeral.

  2. This reminds me of all the loved once I had to mom 1997 my sister 1998 then my father 2005.I really feel that I am not ready to go through the emotions again.

  3. Tears have soaked up my pillow tonight, saying goodbye for forever never ends. Each time you remember them and wish to just go home and make his favourite meal; reality steps in harshly… I’ll always love you daddy

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