Updated: Mar 1, 2020
My mom is my original New Year Miracle.
Premature and stressful, my mom's birth was a miracle. The first weeks of her life were touch and go. Her lungs were underdeveloped. Her little body was fragile. Her parents' resources were meager and they didn't know if she would survive. Her bed was a shoe box.
It took her a few months to outgrow her shoebox. By the time she did, winter had set in and the damp Cape air launched an assault on her little lungs that nearly claimed her life. My mom's resistance was determined and she prevailed. For more than 7 decades the damp Cape air would come to test her and each year, with quiet, deliberate determination, my mother would resist and prevail.
And this was the theme of Ghairatie's life. With quiet, deliberate determination she looked life's challenges in the eye. Not one to complain, not one to be showy, she did what she could with what she had until she could do better. And when she could do better she did.
Quietly. No fan fare. Ever.
My mother prized self-respect above all things. Her dignity was paramount. When poverty threatened all kinds of abuse and vulgarity, my mother would scour the inner depths of her soul to find the strength and the courage to stand firmly in her dignity and to respond to life's challenges with self-respect.
My mom's self-respect was borne of a deep love for her Creator. Inspite of the unthinkable challenges it would create for them, she and my dad chose a life of devotion to their Creator. They did so by serving their fellow man. By offering goodness and guidance and charity. And they did so even when it compounded the hardships in their own lives.
When my dad wished to make more 'prudent ' choices, my mother would encourage him to persevere in faith.
By the time she was the age I am now, my mother's commitment to her service of others was resolute. And life got hard. The more she committed to her cause, the more life challenged her.
And with dignified, quiet determination, my mother persevered.
Few people know this, but my parents would fast so that I may eat; so that I may be educated; so that guests could be served a gracious cup of tea; so that charity may be offered to others.
No complaints. Just dignified, quiet and deliberate determination.
How blessed am I?
My miracle mom gave the best advice. Positive psychology is only catching up with her now. When I contemplated a career choice she counselled me to above all else serve mankind. In the service of mankind I will fulfill my responsibilities to my Creator and I would find my passage to peace and to self-love. When she saw me pursue money she would caution me that money was an unkind companion if I didn't first settle the score with my soul.
Tirelessly, my mother would have a kind prayer and good counsel to all she met. She held people's secrets and she spoke her truth.
And so she was loved. Deeply loved.
On this day 8 years ago, I was shocked to my core to learn just how deeply she was loved.
Hospitalized after surgery, I had actually believed my mom was coming home. That was the night before. And then through the night, my miracle mom suffered a severe stroke and lost consciousness.
8 Years ago today I witnessed something so miraculous, I wonder if I will ever witness something like that again. I hope I do.
News of my mother's stroke reached the hearts of those who loved her.
On the days before her stroke, her visitors were already challenging hospital staff.
On this days 8 years ago chaos broke out in her ward. Visitors descended on her ward in the droves and security was called to block them.
But my miracle mom prevailed. Somehow, somewhere, someone in the hospital machinery whose heart my mother had touched learned of her decline.
Quickly, quietly, and with dignity my mom was moved to a private little room. Instead of blocking her visitors, security acted as crowd control; ushers moving her visitors in and out.
Prayer vigils, 'talils' were read for her throught this day 8 years ago.
Quietly and gently and dignified as was her way.
By 10:30 that night the visitors has subsided. All that remained were her 2 baby sisters, her brother in law, my dad and I. I greeted her. I gave her my thanks and my gratitude and my love. I wanted that moment to stretch into eternity. But by the rise and fall of her chest I could see her struggle increase.
I bade my farewell.
Moments later, my moms sisters sat quietly in prayer with her. My father read kalima over her, bearing testimony over our one true Creator and his Last Messenger. Then my father kissed each of her cheeks and upon kissing her forehead, my mother let go and made her passage to the eternal life.
Quietly and dignified. As was her way.
A day later, my mother was buried. People from all walks of life came to greet her. The ones that stand out for me are the gangsters; the skollies. They came too. They stood quietly in the distance. The most dignified I had ever seen them. They said they couldn't let 'Motjie' (as they called her) go without greeting her 'want hulle is lief vir haar'. They didn't all get along with each other, fighting brutally with each other before. But on this day 8 years ago, they stood quietly in vigil of my miracle mother.
I miss my mother. I narrate my children's milestones and quirks to her. I share my troubles with her. I visit her grave as often as I am able to and I pray for her and I tell her my stories.
And somehow she continues to mother me. To lead me with her example.
In the worst of the drought in Cape Town, the grave yards became sadly sandy. And yet, the fynbos I had planted on my mother's grave flourished. And because of who she is her fynbos spilled over in a colourful cascade of colour onto the graves around her.
In constant service of others.