A TRIBUTE TO A DEPARTED FATHER

Seldom do we value the good that other people bring to us until we are left to face the elements on our own. As humanity we fail to appreciate the good in other people, continually postponing our plans to pay them a visit, make a special call (not asking for help or lamenting our problems) to just say,

‘ I called to say I value you in my life , while I might not be able to express it materially may these words be an indication of how important you are to my life’

24 November 2005 was the dawning day for me on this matter. 24 hours before that , deep down in Chirundu, I had made a call to my father at his work place in Bulawayo, he was in good spirits, spoke about how independent and rebellious Thabo ( our last born) was and how he wished we could all have breakthroughs in some matters afflicting our family. He fought hard to stifle the asthmatic wheeze as it had been our constant source of misunderstandings. He always insisted I had a lot on my plate without worrying about him.

We bade each other farewell and I promised to call him again the next day but that was not to be. Approximately 22 hours from our last conversation he had an asthmatic seizure, collapsed, was revived, and helped to seat leaning against the wall while a neighbor tried to summon an ambulance. On turning to tell him to hold on an ambulance was on the way they discovered he was gone. My father was dead.

Gone without seeing my first born daughter who was to be born in March 2006.

Gone without him taking my second call that I had promised to make.

Gone without me telling him how I loved and appreciated him.

Gone.

That episode taught me mortality, I never thought my father would die, to me he was this towering phoenix that could defy gravity until I walked into the morgue, saw his body and his semi permanent frowning furrows still etched on his brow. Only when I touched his brow did it dawn to me that he was gone, all that was left here was his iced body. Gone was the man who imparted the love of books to me, (I used to steal and read his James Hadley Chase novels in his absence as he believed I was not old enough to read them but I had gone through all of the by the time I was in form one and he was saying I could only read them after form four!) Gone was that tempestuous temper whose signs we always sought in his eyes and gave him a wide berth when he was in a raging mood.

But he had a soft heart, had a tough upbringing and wanted nothing but the best for us. He taught me that only a fool gave up on his dream, was tough on me (but now I look back and am grateful for the upbringing for it has helped me sail many a stormy sea). He knew the Adventist hymn song by heart and adored Don Williams. He was a good man.

For all the good that I have become, my father helped fashion it (the bad I accept the blame for and maybe if he had been around it would not have gotten to this extent).

For all the love, sacrifices, security attention and care, here is to a man who died before seeing his grandchildren, before seeing his only daughter (whom he adored to bits and called his sister) leave the country to face the Wild West on her own, before he saw his last born go to Secondary school and before knowing that the softie boy (Phakamani) would grow into a man to live to tackle the challenges of the Namib desert.

Here is to a father, a friend, a disciplinarian, a reader who keenly dissected matters before giving opinion.

Here is to our father. Dickson Luke Phindela Ncube.

And to those whose fathers live, no matter what the circumstances, a moment of appreciation would do the world for them.

 

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THE DARK DREADED DAYS

The time when you put your feet up, dim the lights and play that solemn wailing sonata cd that has scratch bumps every 90 seconds, everyone who knows you will be aware that those dark clouds are back.

When those moments hit, no one will return your ‘please call me backs’, no one will answer your calls, no one will return your buzzing, no one will remember they owe you. All people will forget the days of your charity extensions, your sacrifices to them, the nights you spent cold for them to be warm.  No one will remember. You would have entered the dark zone and word will be out there in the vine that it has hit you.

When it hits you, you will find yourself pondering how painful life is , you will see only the acid edges of where you have been , you will hate all the people who have come and hurt you , you will hate all that have used you and left you for dead. You will hate yourself for walking the path of honesty when all that overtook you on the left lane are now leading cappuccino and caviar lives.

When all this happens you must be aware that a dark patch has hit you. A dark patch that always will swing across your lane at the least unexpected moment, a dark patch that is seen by all except you. A dark patch that makes the best of friends to give you a detour. A dark patch that will challenge your faith and leave you wondering if cursing God and dying was not a better option.

When it hits you the home will become a house, a resounding four walled apparition jailing you. Going home will be like going to start serving sentence. The amusements will no longer make you laugh. The condiments will no longer oil your throat and boost your appetite. All the beauty of this earth will be a source of pain to you. The beautiful feminine specimens will be reminders of the betrayal, pain, rejection, condemnation and all the bitterness your gall bladder can produce.

When all this happens, storm clouds will be over you, you might take leave of your senses, you might want to emulate Jack the Ripper and decimate every image associated with the one that caused you pain.

Before you lose all sense of reason I urge you to take a step back, breath for a moment, exhale all the noxious hatred pain would have built up in you and re focus. To re- focus means taking away your eyes from the painful shadows that taunt and jab you at every turn , to re- focus means to walk away from the people that expect you to slap them , to re- focus means laughing at pain in the face ,kicking away  shadows and walking away from the dungeon.

Tomorrow as the sun rises, you must know that the shadows persist because you walk besides the light trying to avoid the direct overhead x-ray. Walking besides the light creates a parallel farce that brings more pain than comfort. But walking under the light expels the shadows, exorcises the dark zone and frees indeed.

Remember, shadows are made by us walking besides light, but when we stand beneath the light all shadows come under our feet and we have dominion over the damning and haunting shadows. Take your pick – under the light of truth or besides the light ?

OPERATING ON TRUST.

This has been a difficult week for me. I faced hard terrain and difficult schedules. I had to make tough calls and travel more than 1600km. In all this I kept going back to the realization that all our actions are shaped by our perception of the people in front of us.  In all our day to day dealings it is the element of trust or mistrust that determines the way forward. I have seen old women take a step back, look at the face of the juvenile kombi driver before opting out of the front of the queue to wait for a ‘trustworthy’ driver to rank.  I have seen people swap queues at service centers because they do not ‘feel’ the teller in front of them.

This set me musing. Out of it I realized that we all have to exercise some element of faith to continue living. The problem comes when we do not want to admit that the thing we call trust is actually faith. Why is that you get into the car, close the door, put the seat belt on and confidently turn the ignition on? What makes you not doubt the patent and DNA of your offspring?

We all hide under the term trust. We trust people not to sleep with our partners, we trust pastors to minister only the gospel to housewives when they tour during day time. We trust service providers to have us at heart when they render service. We trust, we trust we trust!!

But in the view of so many broken marriages, so many dissolving businesses, so many scandals, so many broken vows, so many tainted marital beds and so many infected innocent loving souls can we still afford to operate on the level of trust only? Can trust carry us through? When you say, ‘ Nqobile I trust you to do this for me’, do you totally believe in my acumen or you are just gambling on probabilities?

So much pain has come with trust, I now believe trust is a cosmetic mask that we wear in a bid to hide our insecurities, shortcomings, shortfalls and deficiencies. We need something more than trust. Trust is a result of an academic assessment of what we perceive and many times we are proven wrong. The people we trust break our hearts, betray us, deny us, fleece us and cause so much pain. All because we choose to use the human essence to run our affairs.

I believe the time has come from us to up the ante on our game. We will lose nothing by asking our new partners to take an HIV test with us, by asking our business partners go for a criminal clearance, by asking our employees to produce their credentials, by asking our regulators to give us benchmarks by which we will measure them.

So much time, money, life, confidence, health, love and families have been destroyed because of futile trust. Look over your shoulder and see what I mean. Can we still afford to operate merely on trust without being circumspect?

As the sun rises tomorrow , can I trust you to not to break the pledge , the vow , the oath you made to me without me checking if you have not broken trust in the same line before? Can I trust you?

THE CLOUD IN THE HORIZON

42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ “45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain.

1 Kings 18:42-45 (NKJV)

The good book has a story of the great prophet who stuck his head betwixt his knees and sent his servant to search the horizon for storm clouds. The man servant went six times returning with a negative report and finally on the seventh time came despicably announcing in an aside that all that was there was a little speckling of a cloud the size of a man’s fist !

That small man’s fist grew to a massive storm and only Elijah, the prophet who had perceived in the unseen storm was able to outrun its perils.

This set me thinking: in my 35 years of Grace granted life I have plumbed the lowest depths of life, have attempted suicide, have married (and divorced), have had a brush with the law, have stared death in the face a number of times and when all these storms have blown past I always look back and wonder how I got through all this?

All I have to hold on to on such occasions is an event that occurred to me some 21 years ago in a church in the New Luveve suburb. There, a mere 14 year old,  I knelt down and recited a prayer asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  Unbeknown to me and my cousin Nhlonipho Zondo, in us that day was planted a seed that was to bloom and be a rock, a shade, a refuge, a shield etc in times of peril.

For many years I learnt how to stand boldly and believe in what I stood for, I suffered torment for that to the extent of almost being banished from home. As youths in Christ we endured nights praying in the bush, endured being rained every summer Saturday in the bush in prayer hours when the elders denied us the access to the church for prayers.

I remember being made youth treasurer at 14 and my mother blowing up at the ‘enormous’ responsibility I had been entrusted by grownups. I remember leading the district; I remember leading the national youth assembly (the youngest ever presiding chair). I remember crying tears in secret when things were tough and answers were demanded.

I recall being out of school , having one trouser that I would wash on Saturday and dry by ironing, racing to catch all youth sessions. I remember my first job, a national youth leader, sweeping the pavement of Sale House in Bulawayo and all the school dropouts would ask me whether that is what I went to school and church for. I remember the tribalist branch manager who hated me with a passion that made me stronger.

At all prayer sessions I would ask God why I was not having an easy life. I would rave and rant like Job but no thunderbolt miracles emerged.

Today 21 years later I have been through good times , I have lost my faith  a number of times, have walked the prodigal son route more than twice, have had near death experiences a number of times and presently have to accept an unenviable situation.

In all this I always have the image of a small boy kneeling on the floor giving his life to Christ. That has been my Elijah moment. I never knew that my small size fist of faith would bring me God’s refreshing storms when all the chips were down. I never knew that even if I fell six times as long as I stood up for the seventh time God’s storms would wash over again and again and leave me clean to smell the fresh life giving moist earth and give ground and grace for re birth.

I refuse to remain down when I am floored because I know I can re scale the mountains. I refuse to gasp and drown when I know that the next lunge might land me on the beach. I refuse to be cowed when I know I am telling the truth. I refuse to be silenced when I know speaking out will make a lot of difference.

When we face challenges in life I ask that we take time like Elijah:

Retreat to your inner self (Elijah put his face between his knees)

Retreat to a refuge that you know (he knew God will bring the rain even if there was no sign in the first six reports)

Have the confidence even in the face of ridicule and have the energy to outrun the storm!

Only people who have the perception and insight of what is in the way have the capacity to handle it and it all starts on the day of that small cloud.

Every one of us has that cloud. Most of us miss the cloud that seeds the torrents because we do not want to put our heads between our knees, defy gravity, defy the odds and let the divine take over.

Today as you go through this may you find that small fist of a cloud. It is your buoy in stormy seas, a baobab in desert winds, a parachute in rough landings and an assurance of that the sun will rise again tomorrow.