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…

Fury of Unuttered Words

On many occasions I attempt to express myself in silence. While I believe this can be a powerful form of expression, I often find that others interpret it as being docile or some oblivious fool/idiot. For yours truly, this generates a fury that far exceeds that of a supposed scorned woman.

This fury torments and fires the soul to hell with one goal in mind: to have words uttered, and not just for utterance sake. The fury demands absolute honesty! Paradoxically, the fury voices its demand in subtle but cunning ways. “You are a free individual”, a voice from within says. “Speak for you will remain a prisoner of (my) fury”. This voice continues until it can no longer be ignored: “speak; speak; speak!”! And what was initially an innocent voice of reason changes to a nagging that surpasses all forms of hell. A hell not imposed by another being/creature but one that stems (uncontrollably) from within.

To end this nagging/hell, free yourself and be bold to utter those words which others may not be prepared to say. Say what you must, for this is all that the fury demands of you. You ignore this demand, the fury of unuttered words becomes unrelenting in its pursuit for truthful words to be uttered –precisely because the fury also serves as an officer for the enforcement of the following law: ‘the truth shall set you free“!


Sometimes I express myself in silence and through observation.
Other times I express myself through laughter and dance.
And the rest of the time I express myself gladly in words.

Yet words have proven to be unreliable and unfaithful to thee:
They flatter and condemn even when my intentions are pure;
They delight and confuse even when my mind is filled with clarity;
They heal and injure even when I purposefully leave them unspoken in my heart.

Words, you are a double-edged sword that tantalises and taunts my existence.
You are a lifetime friend and foe that truly defines my essence.
So, I will never turn my back on you – the colourful ink of my soul.
For you give life and spirit to the (im)potency of my expression.