I heard about my cousin’s death and screamed. My mind shouted at me, saying; “If you don’t get this out of you, it will never leave, it will eat your inner belly and grief will inhaliate you”.
I screamed and slid to the floor, it was hard gritty cement. I wasn’t aware of slipping down ,the painful map of indentations on my leg, brought the awareness. My mother, as gently as she could, told me Id’ lost my most beloved family member. It is the worst phone call I have ever received.
We’ve experienced much death in our family over the last three years or so. It’s been hard, but in the process, our hearts grew accustomed to it. Not an easy statement to make.
Our hearts grew accustomed to death
In the ritual of reminiscence and catching up, we often call people to memory as part of the conversation flow. Mxolisi and are catching up. Our conversation is spotted with disbelief for the number of beloved family members we’ve lost. Mxolisi tells me there’s been so many deaths, that none of them feel real.
It was in attending our uncle’s funeral that I saw and spent some much needed time with Mzoxolo, who is unashamedly my most favourite cousin. We laughed, made our grandmother cry with happy tears, took photos, made jokes. Each moment a treasure and privilege I would not experience again, this side of heaven.
I attended his funeral the following month.
The end of a funeral can either mean the beginning of the mourning period or a start of the healing process; it’s usually the start of healing for me. I waited for the inner trigger to click, for the wheels of healing to start moving.
Returning home to Cape Town; I unpacked my bag and put each item where it should be. I took my bus clothes off, washed the bus smell off me, made tea, to the soundtrack of calm hipster coffee shop music. In these menial tasks I listened to my inner belly. Attentive to the turn of the ignition, I was waiting for the “click” signal to my mind, body, spirit and soul, announcing start of healing. It didn’t come. So I gave in.
I sat on my yoga mat and cried fat chunky drops of tears. New fresh waves of sorrow assailed me.
You see, I keep thinking about that box going down that hole. I stared at it as it went down and willed the whole thing to be a bad dream or a terribly distasteful joke. I could not grasp that my cousin was inside that box.
My loving, kind, stubborn, hardworking, respectful, unifying cousin is now in a box. His eyes, his laughter, his thoughtfulness, his cheek, his love for his daughter. All the laughter we will never hear again, all the smiles we we will never see again. Reduced to a box in a dirt hole. My cousin Dolly asked a question to the wind when she heard about Mzoxolo’s death. “What is Unathi going to do?”.
I don’t know. I don’t know what I am going to do, but I know I want to be wholesome and restored from this grief. I want to talk about him without crying, as I am doing right now, without my heart turning sharp in my chest. It will happen. Not today, not tomorrow or next month. But it will happen.
I am putting this out here like this because I need to spill it out of me. My chest feels densely congested with grief, I haven’t learned how to put it away or unravel it nicely.
In the mornings I wake up shivering as if my bones are cold, for a few seconds I am confused. Then I remember. But this won’t last.
For the first time in a long while, I think I’m quite upset with my heavenly Father for this one. I wanna take this death and slap his heart with it as though He doesn’t love my cousin more than I ever could. As though He’s not the one who fashioned him in his mother’s womb and gave breath to his lungs.
The day I arrived at makazi’s homestead, I went to the four corner house where the church service was in process. There my makazi sat next to my grandmother. They both looked up when I came through the door and gently made room for me to sit between them. I was held by strong hands of love, two of the strongest women I know, outside of my mama held me. They don’t show affection easily these two, this is a moment branded in my heart forever.
My dear cousin.
When I think of that heartbreaking weekend. I drive that memory of your mama and our grandmother to the fore. I become a child pleated in love.
I think of laying you to rest; not in pain, not in hurt, not in mourning; but pleated in love. I will love you forever dear cousin. God is healing me, I haven’t arrived there just yet, but I know I will. Our family will heal from your devastating death. Perhaps one day when we mention you, there won’t be tears. You are in a much better place now, I look forward to seeing you in heaven when I am full of years and God calls me to heaven one day. Rest in peace Ntondo kamakazi wam.
Makazi:Maternal aunt. Ntondo: nickname meaning last born.