Living in the light

It is easy for me to be the light in the lives of those I love.

Maybe easy is not the right word. For nothing about my life right now, would I consider to be easy.

Maybe it is simply that where love is strongest, light shines the brightest.

I made a vow the other day. A commitment, to reach out with light in my heart. To listen, truly listen to the voice of others.

It would happen, of course, that the day I chose to do this, was filled with personal darkness.

It started with a call from my elderly mother, who had woken in pain. There is something truly heart-wrenching about seeing your parent become frail; one who has held me and comforted me. One, to whom, I have looked to, for guidance and strength. One, who had once seemed so powerful and knowledgeable in terms of the world, my world.

As I gathered her up in my arms, she felt to me, as fragile as a bird with a broken wing. As I laid her on the cold, x-ray table, her arms paper thin and blue veined, her fragility and vulnerability were accentuated by her whimpers of pain. My strong mother; whose tears I had only ever seen were on the days my brother and father died; cried with pain.

As those little bird hands clung to mine, how could I not be the light? There was a deep well of love, that helped me to shine brightly.

Later in the day, I was with my daughter-in-law (who is making her way back after a brain injury) and grandson. We were playing in the garden.

He barreled at full speed towards her, with a child’s expectation that his mother would be there to catch him. She could not. She tried desperately. Instead he fell face-first onto the ground. He cried with all the hurt of a young heart, shaking off her hands of apology with a look of wounded trust. As he continued to wail, she too started to cry with the hurt and frustration of her inability to be the mother she once was.

As they both cried in my arms, how could I not be the light? There is an endless, bottomless pool of love, that helped me to shine brightly.

It was during the in-between moments, that I had to make an effort to reach out with light in my heart.

As I arrived at the hospital with my mother, a man directed me to a parking. In South Africa, we have ‘car guards’. They stand in parking lots and on streets and keep watch over parked cars. This helps to stop windows being smashed or cars from being stolen. They rely on tips given by motorists.

My focus and intent was on my mother. I did not feel like reaching out. I remembered my candlelight vow and smiled and greeted him.

He responded by helping me with the wheelchair and very tenderly and respectfully, greeting my mother. There was a recognition of a French accent. The two of them proceeded to have a conversation in French. I was grateful that she was distracted from her pain.

His actual story behind his story? He had fled to this country, from his country, during war and violence. He had fled in fear for the lives of his family and himself. He had been studying law in his country. He was now standing all day in a parking lot looking after cars. He did it with a smile. He was grateful. His children were safe, although Xenophobia rears its ugly head unpredictably. He had not been back to his home country and had not seen the rest of his family for years.

How little light, I had shone by my silly smile and greeting? His reply, “You greeted me with the respect, I used to receive when I was in law. Talking in my beloved language and being kind to a great lady who reminds me of my mother, is a blessing this day has brought me. Merci beaucoup madame.”

I greeted and thanked the radiologist for her kindness towards my mother (a common courtesy more than a light shining) She responded by hugging me when I could not help but weep at the sound of my mother’s pain.

Her words “Thank you for taking the time to thank me for doing my job, so many do not. Your love for your mother has touched me and I am going to phone mine right now.”

I sat with the lady who cares for my mother in the day. I asked about her day and her children. She told me all the niceties; until I asked for the real story — the one I really wanted to know. She saw that I was really listening — she told me of her sadness that her children live with their father, far away. She only gets to see them on occasion. They were coming to stay with her for the holidays. That day had arrived. She was with my mother instead. “How can I leave my Gogo (granny in Zulu) in this pain, to someone who doesn’t know her ways. No, God would not want me to do that.”

She refused to leave, until my mother was better. (She is, thankfully on the road to recovery.)

On the drive from the hospital. I passed an old lady, bent over, carrying parcels. I recognised her as being the domestic worker for a neighbour. The clock in the car told me I was late. The vow to reach out made me stop. I gave her a lift to her bus stop. She told me, she has been working for the same family for years. The children she carried as babies now have children of their own. I asked about her own family. We proudly, her in broken English, me in very broken Zulu, talked about grandchildren.

The longer I drove, the more taken aback, I became at the distance she had to walk twice a day, to and from, her bus stop. As I came to a stop, we shared photos of our grandchildren, like two boastful grannies — it was a touching moment. I could not stop her from thanking me a hundred times for the simple act of giving her a lift- a very dim light compared to hers.

When I arrived at my son’s house, I was stressed and tired and did not feel like shining any more light. Instead, I apologised for my tardiness to the lady who is helping to share the load by caring for my grandson and daughter in law and the household chores. I thanked her, really thanked her for taking such good care of this little tragic family and for loving them in the times, I could not be there. I acknowledged that she arose at dawn to be there on time each day.

She embraced me with tears in her eyes “Haibo Gogo! (really granny) It is me who thank Nkosi(God) every day, that a son should have a mama like you. That a son should love a wife like he does. That a child should have a gogo like you. I pray every day, that I am mama like you and my boy is like your boy, when he is man one day. Your son is good man.” Ngiyabonga Gogo (thank you Gogo)

So here is the real story. The story behind the story. I made an affirmation yesterday to be the light. To truly listen. To reach out into the darkness with light in my heart.

What actually happened is that I discovered my light is but a flickering tea light compared to the burning, blinding brightness of others.

My reaching out into the darkness with light in my heart, is one of the most illuminating and enlightening things I have ever done.

I affirm that I am light. Wherever there is darkness, I will shine.

This is dedicated to Tremaine L. Loadholt and Ayesha Talib Wissanji. I salute your courage. I thank you for the journey, it took me on. Your light shines like a beacon of hope to all those in darkness.

‘as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.’ Marianne Williamson

May we all continue to reach out in the darkness and shine. May we all continue to really listen without agenda or ego,to pay attention, be compassionate, be kind, be mindful, be sorry, be respectful, be courageous, speak up and out, hold our hands up and out, be forgiving, never stop working towards justice,truth and change and may we always take the path that leads to light and peace.

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