I would continue to live with this pervasive knowing that my dreams and visions were not regular and mundane. They were constantly there to guide and offer support when I needed it. I grew up in a family that only acknowledged the bible and the God of Christianity. Communing with the ancestors was rarely done, particularly on the maternal side. The paternal side would occasionally perform rites of passage for us, but barely ever communed with the ancestors outside of those rites. I had to figure it out for myself.
When I was 23, in 2013, my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had had a stubborn cough for a few weeks, felt weak and sick and then it just took her. She died at a public hospital in Bloemfontein and the children of my generation quickly became abantu abadala. We had to inform our immediate neighbours that she was gone. I often wished there were other family elders who could take on that task, but there weren’t any around. Following her funeral, I had to return to work and continue with life while grappling with the devastation of having lost my primary caregiver. I had started the practice of praying with candles and on this particular night I had lit 3 white candles then fell asleep shortly after praying in lamentation and sorrow.
Gogo Nomvo had taken care of and raised me because my parents were very young when they had me in 1991. I stayed with her until I was 11. We had formed a very close bond over those years, and I related to her as if she were my mother. When she died, a part of me went with her. I lost my will to exist. It felt like the light that had been guiding me was suddenly dimmed and things fell apart for me.
On that night, I had expressed these thoughts and sentiments to her and asked how she could leave me to navigate life alone. It must have been around 2am when I had what I would term a visitation from her. In this visitation, we went back to our childhood home in Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, where she worked as a midwife and primary healthcare giver. I was in the body of my 6 year old self. My favourite snack back then was a red apple and a cup of Oros (an orange squash) and my grandmother knew this. In this visitation she offered me these, which I happily took. I told her how hurt I was that I would no longer see her physical body. She nodded empathetically and said she understood how I felt, but that her time on earth had come to an end and she had to move on. The thought that I had plagued my mind when she died was whether she felt pain or not. In the visitation, she said when her soul left her body for the first time, it was fraught with a pain like no other she had ever experienced. Then the second leaving was moderately painful. The final separation was as easy as blowing breath.
As she was talking, I looked down at her feet and she was fading as though her pixilated body was not holding anymore. When I asked about this she answered that she had been given a bit of time to come address my concerns and console me. When asked whom had allowed her this, she said the other elders. I did not ask further. That is when the sorrow set into my bones. I knew in that instant that this was the last visitation of its kind and it left me in shambles. I started weeping in the dream and she asked me to focus on her voice because she had a prophecy to give me. She gave an elaborate prophecy for my paternal family and then we went outside. She held me in a warm and loving embrace and I kept asking her not to leave me because I did not know how to navigate life without her. She reiterated, in a firm but loving voice, that she had to leave because her physical form was no more. Then we were surrounded by the bird halo I had seen at 19. When I opened my eyes to look at her one last time, she had left my embrace and replaced herself with my childhood friend.
I awoke from that visitation at 3am, wailing inconsolably. In the prophecy she had given, she said there would be a baby girl born into the family and that the second name she should be given, was her first name. Little did I know that the mother of this baby would me.
I was depressed throughout 2013 and well into 2016. Life made very little sense to me. One day, while walking from the school I taught at, to the taxi stop, I saw a group of 5 initiates waiting at the taxi rank. I did not greet them because I was not familiar with the appropriate salutation to use, so I looked at them in silence, then caught a taxi. That night, I dreamt Nkgono Moleboheng had come to meet me at the taxi stop. She boarded the taxi wit me and then started speaking in riddles I could not understand. The taxi passed a mountain where she asked me to disembark with her. In the taxi, my group of friends was drinking and chatting merrily so I was reluctant to disembark as she had instructed. She proceeded to disembark alone, but left me with a solemn choice before she did. “ O tlameha ho ikgethela tsela e tlo o phedisang. Nkekebe ka o qobella ho nka leeto le nna hona tjena, empa nako e tla fihla.” You need to choose the path that is going to bring you healing. I cannot force you take this route with me right now, but a time to choose will come. Then she turned away from the taxi and disappeared into the mountains. I remember having this knowing that my life was about to change drastically and all the things I held dear to me, would be redefined.