A selfless life

A  still  figure  standing  in  the  front  garden  caught  my  attention  as  I  moved  through  the  house.  The  children  were busy  outside  doing  what  farm  children  do.  I  had  just  completed  the  day’s  ironing.  I  walked  to  the  window  and looked  at  the  still  figure,  standing  erect,  both  hands  at  her  sides.  A  small  bald-headed  man  appeared  as  if  from nowhere. She did not move, just followed him with her eyes.

He walked up to the window and said in Zulu, “She needs to work. She had 4 children. She is a widow. She comes from  the  Transkei”.  It  wasn’t  a  request.  He  had  promised  to  help  her  and  was  being  true  to  his  word.  Little  did  I know that she would stay for 23 years. Many years later she told me the story of how her husband was killed on the mines  in  Johannesburg  and  left  her  destitute.  Her  husband’s  family  demanded  that  she  and  the  children  left  the kraal. They were supposed to support her at this time of crisis. Just the opposite happened. She never spoke much about her life as it must have been before. She missed the children. The political system prevented her from having them with her. Twice per year she would tackle the 400km to see them – a bus to Pietermaritzburg, then a train to Umtata, then another bus to Umzimkulu. During her absence, her aged mother took care of her children. Monthly she  sent  money  to  support  them.  To  her  horror  she  discovered  that the  trading  post,  which  served  as  a  postal collection  point,  removed  part  of  the  hard  earned  money.  Another  plan  was  made.  Her  eldest  son  would  travel  to her every month to personally collect the monthly allowance. She kept the minimum for herself. She spent her days doing her appointed duties, helping in and around the house.

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