Thursday, March 24, 2011

What’s Life Without Death…

It’s been a crazy week for me in Umphumulo, but with being here for over 6 months now… you could probably say to yourself, “What’s something new??” Well as the sun rises each morning… so do the adventures of this beloved place called Umphumulo. A day after my birthday there was a crazy, unexpected accident with one of the co-workers for the SED Office, Samke (remember her from one of my previous blogs with the chickens as her children). Well to make a long story short, she recently passed away on March 5, 2011 due to heart complications. I knew of Samke’s illnesses as I would see her in the Umphumulo Hospital as I shadowed the doctors on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The doctors ordered tests after tests and we examined the results and did what they could. The day she became severely ill, a couple of her family members, Nomfundo, and me took her to the hospital in Stanger; the closest city that could help her condition more than the hospital in Umphumlo. It was then three days later at around 3:30pm that I received a phone call that Samke was gone. As soon as I heard of her passing, I had no idea what to feel… but I was informed that people were gathering at her mom’s home, just south of Msomi Village. So I just stopped what I was doing, grabbed my house keys, and headed for her mom’s home. After a good hour or so of walking through tall grass, slopes, dusty paths, and feeling the beating sun take its toll on me… I thought of nothing but the memories that were made on these paths when I’d go home with Samke; it was a feeling like no other, but I must simply state… I was in a bit of shock because I realized how sad I was to lose someone who really DID become a part of my family.

If you know me well enough you would then know how much family, friends, and relationships of all kinds mean to me. What it means to have their support, what it means to hear their opinions, and what it means to be there for them too. As I reached the doorway of MaSamke’s simple, yet beautiful home I couldn’t help but remember that this was the exact spot where I had FIRST experienced the feeling of Ubuntu that’s consistently present in my rural home of Maphumulo. But as I took off my flip flops at the front door (due to the dust that now covered me from my feet to about halfway up my lower leg), I respectfully walked in and made eye contact with MaSamke. Knowing that she speaks no English, I coyly smirked at her, nodded my head, and tried with all my might to bite my tongue and not shed a tear. As MaSamke continuously looked at me in my eyes… I felt she understood everything I was trying to say to her, but didn’t literally say. She then got up from the floor, nodded back at me, and gave me a heartfelt hug full of love, full of faith, and full of Ubuntu. That was all I needed and maybe that was all she needed from me too. I then made my way to other co-workers that were present and just heard the news themselves. I gave them hugs and then made my way to sit in the room that was full of Zulu mats placed on the floor.

As I sat, I watched how people of all directions were coming into MaSamke’s home at random times, introducing themselves with a Zulu hymnal or traditional song, and then saying a prayer. Here it was… the Ubuntu. How did they hear of Samke’s death? How did they know where her mom lived, as Samke’s home was in another village? With all the questions that were running through my mind, with all of the emotions of confusion, sadness, and shock I was feeling, and with all the beautiful Zulu traditions that were taking place in front of my very eyes… what I feel it all boils down to is how many opposites we all face in our daily lives. I remember playing over and over the song, “Life is Wonderful,” by one of my favorite artists, Jason Mraz, as I came back to my home at the church center. And then I found it odd that I would listen to this song as I went through this time of preparation, sadness, and then happiness for Samke’s funeral. If you’ve never heard this song by Jason Mraz I STRONGLY recommend that you take this time to look it up and REALLY listen to it. Life is full of opposites, but there are only opposites because there are two parts that have a role; that is what makes life wonderful. Some of my favorite parts in this song are when it states, “… it takes some bad for satisfaction… it takes the dust to have it polished… it takes some silence to make sound…” To realize when we become satisfied we have to have gone through some bad times, to realize how nice and polished we as human beings or even items are they have to have been amateur or a bit dull, and to realize the sounds, music, and tones that surround our daily lives we have to experience silence, stillness, and peace in our lives too. With all the opposites that I have experienced throughout my time in Umphumulo, I see it is the opposites that have molded me into the new person that I feel myself to be; it’s the blessed curses that have defined me even more.

Yes, Samke will be dearly missed… her light in the SED Office was one that shined in everyone’s eyes and contagiously made their own light shine too, but as with life comes death. And here, I’m learning death is celebrated as much as life is, and yes, there are those that mourn… but it’s knowing that she has now made her way to the heavens above, made her way home, and now resting in peace that had the community rejoicing and reminiscing without sorrow.

What’s life without death? What’s the sun without the rain? What’s sound without silence? What’s health without illness? What’s love without pain? These are all questions that lead me to, what’s God without faith? Throughout the Bible there are so many lessons on having faith in God and as a result your life will be exactly the way it’s supposed to be. To be devoted to Him, to trust Him in every way, and to have the utmost confidence in Him to guide our way… all comes down to your very own faith. As this melancholy time of Samke’s unexpected passing slowly drifts away, I remember that it is His will… period. Things around Umphumulo are becoming more spirited, life is moving along, and our faith still holds strong because “1faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NIV). And that my friends is enough for me. May you all continue to enjoy, struggle, learn, and grow from the opposites in your life… until next time.


Amanda said...

Valerie, this is beautiful. I'm proud to be your friend and I learn so much from you and your writing.
All my love,

Victoria said...


Thanks for the reminders and encouragement... even though you are literally on the other side of this world from me you still seem to help me out =) Love you with all my and heart and many MANY hugs from me...