God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. – Voltaire

It’s my birthday month and I am going through some sort of self/life/work-reflection overload. Weirdly enough, I am enjoying it.

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough for me is the realisation over the past 2 months that I have now made some sort of peace with my mother’s death. It’s taken a long time for me to let go of the anger; the desperate ‘why;’ the intense grief;  the eternal “I want her back;” and the overpowering memories of the losing battle with cancer.

I remember crying desperately alone in my car all the way home a couple of months ago, after watching a hilarious movie (yes, I laughed throughout the movie and yes, I can see the irony) because the manner in which the doctor delivered the “it’s cancer and there’s nothing we can do” line was exactly how the doctor said it to me. I also remember saying to God, “I can’t do this forever. I can’t hurt like this forever. I need to start healing. Please do something.”

Apparently, He did.

He must have been working quietly in the background because now when I think of my mum, I feel warm inside. When people tell me she would have been proud, it doesn’t make me angry anymore (I can not adequately express the anger I would feel when people would say this to me). I appreciate it. I randomly laugh out loud at the memory of the moments she truly dug deep to embarrass me in public (usually because she was proud of me) lol. Like that time I walked on to the stage to receive an award for coming first at school and she jumped out of her seat at the back of the hall and ululated and danced right down the centre of the hall shouting, “mwana wangu iyeye. haadyi chimwe chinhu kunze kwemabhuku!!!! ululululululu *dancing in circles for emphasis and extra embarrassment*”I could have spontaneously combusted in that moment. Who knew what incredible value that moment would have for me decades later.

I remember the hidings. They were the real deal. She took no nonsense.

I smile at the blunt honesty with which she delivered her assessments of some of my abilities. When I joined the choir she said, “Mwanangu (my child), I am assuming you joined the choir because all your friends are there because we both know you can’t sing.” I really can’t :). The lesson: know your weaknesses.

I also remember when I started trying to adopt a fancier accent when speaking English in early high school. *sigh* The foolishness of youth. She always spoke to us in English in order to force us to develop our ability to communicate and enunciate in English so when that twang started rearing it’s silly head she was right there to put a stop to it in short order. “Why are you speaking like that? You want to sound fancy before your ability to communicate correctly and concisely in English has fully developed? It will just make you sound foolish and uneducated. Learn and master the language. Your accent will change accordingly naturally.” She was right. This is a principle I still apply to work, life and sport. Master the basics before you open the top drawer. The fancy 1,2s will follow naturally.

I remember waking up from my very first epileptic seizure in a hospital. I remember the overwhelming confusion as I took in the needle in my arm, the white walls, the white bedding and the strong medicinal smell. I remember starting to panic and turning my head and there was my mum, asleep in the chair next to my head and just like that, the panic was gone. Mummy was there. It didn’t matter where I was. I would be OK.

The mother of them all was when I told her I was going to take back an ex: “Mwanangu, I won’t tell you what to do but you must never take back an ex.Nothing good can come from it. Have we not cried enough tears over this guy?” I did it anyway. Boy, was she right. And when her predication came true, she just held me and let me cry my tears then dusted me off and told me, “it’s ok. Now you have experience and your heart will heal. Eventually, someone better will come along. Hopefully, a better-looking someone.”

She didn’t wear makeup at all. I remember her watching me intently in my late teens as I fiddled with eyeliner I had bought for myself using my pocket money. I thought she would be mad when I added lip-gloss and nail polish a short while later. I saw her watching me paint my entire toe with my poor, inexperienced  technique. A few days later she said, “I spoke to my friend at work. She loves makeup and wears it everyday. She has agreed to teach you how to apply it. You can just tell me when you want to go.”

I miss her. I love her. I wish she could have lived longer. I wish she had had a chance to see her grand-kids. I am grateful that she was there to mould me into what I am. I am grateful that she taught me how to live without her. I am glad she taught me how to think outside the box and to challenge the status quo. I am grateful she taught me that it’s ok to learn from those who know. I am grateful she wasn’t afraid to let me see my flaws and learn to use them as strengths. I am grateful she cultivated in me a love of books, language, art and culture. I am grateful that I had a real chance to say goodbye and I took it. I am grateful that I had her for as long as I did. I am grateful she was there to take the bus with me to Johannesburg when I left the country for the first time to go to Varsity. I am grateful she came to teacher/parent days. I am grateful she religiously checked my grades right up to my law graduation. I am grateful she taught me how to look after and do my own hair. I am grateful she was there to patiently teach me to bring my short temper and intense emotional reactions to all things under control so I could control my epilepsy. I am grateful she was there on the occasions when I failed and it got the better of me. I am grateful that I had her as long as I did. I am grateful that I have an entire lifetime of her love to remember her by. I could write a book and the pages wouldn’t be enough to contain the list of all I am grateful for.

I am grateful for the tears that I cry now because they are tears of acceptance, gratitude, sadness and missing her not tears of denial, anger and a hopeless burning desire to tun back the clock or to know why. I am grateful.