My minister of household for more than 12 years and I live in a rural area of Limpopo in South Africa. The farm my family resides on is about 40km from the capital city, Polokwane. She lives in a settlement called Bergnek, six kilometres further.
Two years ago my beautiful, soft-spoken friend was diagnosed with HIV. It was a harrowing time for her, as her husband was the cause of her getting this dreaded disease. She was gravely ill prediagnosis. So bad, that we spoke of dying and life after death.
Her belief in God, or Modimo in her language, is inspiring. She sees Him everywhere. We have many conversations about His greatness, grace and confounding everlasting love for us, so often silly and spiteful human beings.
Many prayers and weeks later she comes to the house. A letter in her hand. Tears streaming down her face. My blood ran cold. HIV positive. She is frail like a porcelain doll. Her usually bright eyes and shiny skin a dull shade of grey.
We fall into one another and have an ugly, angry cry. “Are you going to let me go now,” she asks through the sobs.
“Where shall I let you go? We are bound together. Modimo has put us in each others lives, where do you want to go. We stay together and live with this,” I answer.
In that moment we were embraced by grace and calm swept over us. Today she is fighting fit, her treatment yielding the results she wished for. She is living her best life, in spite of a disease which is a constant companion.
Last week she comes storming through the backdoor.
“Morena, morning,” she greets.
I say ‘Morena morning’ back at her.
She laughs. You see Morena can be translated as Mr Boss. So we Mr Boss each other. No-one in my household knows who the boss is between her and myself. So we are boss-partners.
“Morena, I surrender,” she says. That means something has left her in God-fearing wonder and awe.
She tells me of a impromptu visit she received over the past weekend from the man we pay R 200 per month to transport her from her house to the farm. This is one of our plans to keep her safe and healthy, even more so during this time of also fighting Covid-19, which can have dire consequences for the both of us. She with her HIV status and me, being over 60 and run-ins with swine-flu two years in a row. We are both at risk.
She was sitting in the sun with her children when the man stopped outside and calls her to the gate.
“Morena, there he stands clapping his hands together and saying kgopela, tshwarelo, kgopela tshwarelo,” she tells.
“Kgopela tshwarelo, means please forgive me. But why? What did he need your forgiveness for,” I ask her.
“Morena, I was amazed. I could not think of anything,” she answers.
“What did you do,” I as
“I said if he need my forgiveness, he could have it. He thanked me profusely and left. I was standing by the gate, wondering about this, when my neighbour came to hear what the visit was about. We only see this man when we travel to and from work during the week. I told her he was asking kgopela tshwarelo, and I could not think why. My neighbour threw her hands in the air and praised God. She explained to me that in the time when I was so ill before my diagnosis, I was delirious with fever for days. This man came and insisted that I pay him for transport, regardless. She says I gave him the money, and he took it from me,” she answers.
“Now, nearly two years later, he comes to ask forgiveness. Why, ” I am puzzled.
“Morena, he is very ill….and thinks kgopela tshwarelo will cure him. That is sad,” she says and pours us some tea.
I say: ” No, God wants us to forgive those who trespass against us, and we must do so, especially when someone asks.”
“Surrender,” she says while she sips her morning tea,
“Ja, Morena, surrender,” I answer. We smile at each other and we know, our Father is too.
In recent weeks a friendship, albeit a virtual one has imploded. A variety of reasons can be listed, but that is not what I want to write about, as most people have moved past the incident, regrouped, said goodbye and moved on. Some reaction to the break-up was quite visceral and very angry. Apologies were made and accepted, but some niggling feelings and remarks of wrong and right remains, and now weeks later there are still eruptions of anger and discord.
Some people do not want to meet in the field Rumi describes. There is little one can do about it. Expectations and feelings of loss in this crazy year we all have to live through, asks much of every single person. We each have our own issues, hurts to resolve and lives to live.
I have forgiven a hurtful wrong, and moved on. For the life of me I cannot keep on apologising for a chapter in a story, not a real-life story, a fantasy story about a fantasy town and fantastic adventures. I cannot apologise for not understanding that a story on a virtual platform like WordPress, can impact on a friendship and support group on WhatsApp. I am flummoxed, flabbergasted, that a group of educated women, highly talented, highly intelligent have engaged in a schoolyard brawl, when all they needed to do is breathe to see where a next chapter might lead to.
We, however, live in uncertain times, Covid-19 has left us with greater unknowns and life as we knew is gone. We live in liminal times, a passage to a new epic in world history. We are living on the cusp of the great unknown. This has changed all of us. To some extent this may explain why something playful could erupt with the might of the recent Beirut explosion.
The down pillow of hurtful words has broken open, the feathers blown every which way by the wind, we will never be able to gather them all. Let us move on, some together, some not. Let us meet in Rumi’s field of kgopela tshwarelo
If I caused pain. Kgopela tshwarelo.
If I caused sleepless nights. Kgopela tshwarelo
I will kgopela tshwarelo the kgopela tshwarelo followed by even more very hurtful messages, because I understand pain, unfinished hurt and anger about loss. I have lived through many things life can throw at a person. I have even accepted the kgopela tshwarelo that I will not receive.
I pray for each of you, very day.
Accept my kgopela tshwarelo for whatever you feel I still have to say sorry for.
Also accept that it is better to move on. Our real lives, day to day stuggles, our own souls and relationship or not with our Creator asks this of us.
God bless you. Stay safe.
*Kgopela tsweralo means please forgive me in Sepedi. One of the eleven languages spoken in South Africa.
Images from The Contemplative Monk.