Death, questions and revival of memories

“Lefu ke ngoetsi ea malapa oohle” is one of those sayings that Basotho evoke when one has passed on. A literal translation is: death is the daughter-in-law of every family. Of course, there is something to be said about the daughter-in-law comparison, but the gist of the expression is really to convey that death knows no boundaries and is an eventuality for us all—or as some Basotho would put it: “lefu ha lena hore o morena kapa mofo, bohle re tla finyella bo-ea-batho”, death cares not whether you are royalty or commoner, it is a destination all people shall reach. I know these words (and many others like them) are often uttered to bring some form of solace, but death always seems so unexpected for one to find comfort in them.

Each time death visits, we enter a new uncharted emotional territory. Random memories, mostly centred on the dear departed, flood in ungraciously, with absolutely no warning whatsoever.

In this post, I wish to share a memory that stems indirectly from being flooded by memories of one woman, worthy of being celebrated for living a life of very few regrets. Although this woman has passed on, I certainly believe her memories will live on. 

But, as I said, this post is not directly about her memories: it is about a memory that decided to suddenly resurface after hearing of how her mother responded to a statement that she must trust God in the dark hours of her grief.

The mother’s response, which barely came a day after receiving the news of the tragic death of her daughter, was: “ke tla ts’epa Molimo joang?”, how can I truly trust God? After some pausing and general silence in the room, the mother continued to explain how she had been praying to be spared the pain of burying another child she had birthed, as she had already buried three.

The mother’s question was, at least to me, very profound. I suppose primarily because it was unexpected. Women, in particular, are (culturally) expected to sit, grieve and accept all words offered in condolence. Some of these words, even though they are intended to be comforting, are said with little regard to the fact that with each mourner coming in to pay their respects, as woman, mother and grandmother in this instance, she is expected to relive the ordeal of her loss through the repeated telling of a story that captures how death entered her household. 

I am in no way making light of the intentionality behind any words offered in condolence. I am merely just trying to make sense of a few questions that are tormenting me.

Do I really have a basis to find the mother’s question unexpected? Is it really culture, or just evidence of my warped understanding of things? What is the possible significance of connecting the question to a memory of another mother in an entirely different context?

I have no answers. But I think I have provided the necessary preamble to proceed with my sharing of a memory that was deeply buried deep in my subconscious until not so long ago. This memory is still about words of a grieving mother. This mother, at the funeral of her son, who was being buried with his kids, literally stopped the funeral procession to the graveyard, and started praising and praying.

Even though this was years ago, I remember almost verbatim the words she started with. She said: “chehe! Ekaba ke lekoala le lekakang e re Morena a nketestse e be ke sitoa ho tlotlisa boholo bae …”. This, more or less translates to “wow! What a coward I would be if I failed to praise God and speak of his greatness when he has visited my family …” .

As she continued, I stood in absolute paralysis listening. I was captivated by the strength in her voice, but at the same time, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing was real. I suppose because I had bought into the idea that tears, within that space and time, were her only allowed form of expression. Please don’t ask me why; this is yet another question I cannot answer, especially in the context of understanding why in the unexpected, I seemingly have expectations.

I will hopefully find my answers, for I know it is no coincidence that the memory just decided to resurface…

Tears of Gratitude for a Rare Bird

[I] say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but in thankfulness that he was.- Hebrew Proverb

For over a decade, on this day I have a private sobbing session. This morning was no different! I woke up and allowed myself to succumb to overwhelming feelings of fondness from simply remembering memories of a life that is no more.

I snorted and cried like an inconsolable child, especially when I realised my own selfishness/foolishness. Until today, it never quite dawned on me that my loss wasn’t just mine. There are loved ones out there, who might have understood all this time, that I have this sobbing session to simply acknowledge that indeed I have experienced love in my life time. A love from an imperfect but caring uncle, who was very protective of his family. A man who convinced me, among many other things, that it is not blasphemous to declare Bob Marley a saint (and in my opinion, “a true heritage icon for the world” )!

My all-rounded uncle, malome-rangoane Sammy, graces us no more with his wings in the air, but I am sure glad that I remember with great fondness his flight. To me, he remains a rare bird that I am thankful to have seen fly and grace the skies of my existence, even if only for a fleeting moment.

So, with unabashed gratitude, today (and in the future) I will allow myself to sob and/or weep for this rare bird, for its flight (including the gliding away flight) remains memorable to me. In part, because a certain realisation of its glorious purpose (at least to my life) deepened in death, much like a thorn bird reaches its potential in death. (Arguably, this may sound warped, but I do believe in the idea of death bringing out the most glorious sound from a thorn bird.) For this reason, I cannot curse death; I can but cleanse my soul with tears of gratitude and let the words “memento mori” propel me forward!

If He Wrote a Letter

If he wrote a letter, it wouldn’t be to finalise a will.
It also wouldn’t be to justify an entry to heaven.

If he wrote a letter, it would only be to say: “I have lived and I am thankfully”!
And signed or unsigned, we would all know that in death his was the last word.
So death, listen and be not proud; for you remain a medium without expression.

Happy Moshoeshoe’s Day!

Given that Moshoeshoe’s day commemorates death, it may sound a little strange when I say: happy Moshoeshoes’ day! The truth however is that for Moshoeshoe I, death was like a gift. As I have suggested before (in this post), Moshoeshoe I understood that it is in death that he will be able to finally meet and thank his Creator and his ancestors (Molimo le balimo ba hae, as Basotho would put it ;-)) for guiding him in his journey. A journey in which he became the great leader that he yearned to be as a young man! For this reason, death was truly a gift to him, for his dreams did come true and all he needed was to express his gratitude.

I suppose when one fails to view life as a gift, it may be a bit difficult to see why death itself is a gift. Today as we celebrate Moshoeshoe’s day, it is therefore my wish that all will be inspired to live a life in which in death one will find joy and celebrate the transition to the next life. So, happy Moshoeshoe’s day! And lets remember that one day we too shall die — memento mori, memento mori!


“Lefu le qoleng ea kobo!” This is a saying that one often hears at home and its literal translation is ‘death lies at a tip of a blanket’ (remember that Basotho are a nation of proud blanket wearers and as such it is fitting to use blanket). This expression is often used to remind us of our own mortality so that we can live a meaningful life where each day is lived to its fullest.

Let me get straight to the point of this blog. About two weeks ago, whilst watching soccer and explaining why my support for teams is dependent on which team is least favoured in the room. Denis, a fellow resident at the village, remarked about my perspective on things. I had stated to him in the past that I believe death needs to be celebrated for no one is likely to leave this world alive. We all laughed at this seemingly hidden life secret whose reality only hits us when a loved one has been called to meet up with the creator. He thought that my aurgument was very unusual but being the nice guy he was, he made it a point to understand my point of view….

Today, I learnt that Denis answered the call to leave this world of ours. This came as a real shock but I guess it is true;”lefu le qoleng ea kobo”. With this expression coming to mind, I quickly remembered elements of my argument to Denis that much as we may feel pain or sorrow, we need to embrace death as the key that finally grants us a true peaceful dwelling with our creator. Denis has run his race with grace and kindness; for that he will certainly be remembered. I therefore hope that as his family and all who know him mourn, will also celebrate his loving and kind heart. It is also my hope that we will continue with own race in life with full appreciation that our time may not be as long as we hope; thus we need to live each day as though it was our last.

Finally,it is my sincerest prayer that his soul will rest in perfect peace and in time that his family will come to terms with his departure.