October 25, 2008

A Death in the Family

I had been planning on posting this picture without much comment, aside from something about how this child can wear a shirt on his head and too-small shirt on his body and still have a winning smile.There are a lot of pictures of this child - his name is Simnikiwe - on this blog because he is a regular feature of my days. His mother, Makiwa, works in the kitchen so he comes to work with her and hangs around, hopefully in the pre-school but not always.

We learned on Monday morning that his father, Bafo, had died on Saturday, quite suddenly. He had been at work on Friday, came home feeling sick, got really sick overnight, went to the hospital on Saturday, and died there.

It’s a tragedy anytime anyone dies here but this one hit everyone on the staff harder than usual. In part, it was the suddenness of the death but it also had something to do with the fact that Makiwa and Bafo were one of the few couples I know here who were actually married and - even more impressive - obviously still in love after many years of marriage. Both Bafo and Makiwa had jobs, making them a singularly exceptional couple in this town.

I took this picture a few months back of the two of them and was disappointed with how it turned out.
But I reasoned I would always have a chance to take another sometime. That’s one lesson - there’s always another time - I am trying to unlearn because too often there is not another time.

The staff made the usual pilgrimage to Makiwa’s house on Tuesday to pay our respects. It’s clear Simnikiwe doesn’t understand what has happened because he was so happy to see us and we quickly fell into our usual play routines.
But he still sat (mostly) quietly and watched us sing and pray. I wonder what was going through his head as he watched what was going on?