A legacy of love that inspires us — Neziswa Kanju


[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]

Gateway News columnist Neziswa Kanju, right, enjoying special moments with her Gogo Malaza.

A beaming smile always greeted me every time we went to visit her. Sawubona makwaJedy (Hello Jedy’s mother. Jedy is my firstborn)

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Gogo (grandmother) Malaza, a beautiful soul I was blessed with calling my grandmother. I met her when I married her grandson but I could not have loved her more if she was my very own biological grandmamma.

The feeling was mutual. In the last 15 years we spent most Christmases with gogo. In the beginning we would go to fetch her from Mpumalanga to come to our home in Pretoria but in the previous years we went to Mpumalanga because her health deteriorated, making it inadvisable to travel long distances.

For the past few years she had battled ill health — a fight she lost on the 26th of February this year.

She was blessed
This past Sunday this matriarch of our family was laid to rest and at 84 years old she was blessed to have seen her great great grandchildren. She gave birth to eight children and has 30 grandchildren, 38 great grandchildren and six great great grandchildren.

gogo 1
Gogo Malaza — a legacy of love.

With her sight lost in her eighties she still knew all of us by name and greeted us with a beaming smile and a hug.

You can’t miss love when you see it and gogo certainly radiated constant love. There has never been a time when I interacted with gogo Malaza that I felt that I was wasting her time or that she preferred to be doing something else.

With the news of her passing came years and years of memories to my mind of my time with this beloved lady.

While listening to speaker after speaker at her funeral it was clear to me that the treatment that she had towards me is the way that she was with everybody. Her own children sang her praises. There was not a dry eye in that place as speaker after speaker relived their time with her.

Her legacy of love is something that we have committed ourselves as a family to continue to live out in the world. Her life spoke volumes about love for people and was a testament to what love can do if properly lived.

She was not without daily visitors. Her children, grand children and great grand children all wanted to spend time with her because they knew that they were loved.

Funerals have a way of bringing one to reality. You are faced with the reality that life is not standing still and that you will leave this earth one day and account to your Maker one day.

At funerals it is not about all the material things you had but each speaker at your funeral will speak about how you lived your life. They will give glimpses about how they lived with you. Funerals ultimately are about relationships.

How do you relate with loved ones, with your neighbours, with church members and your colleagues? How do you want to be remembered? What would be your legacy? I was not a speaker at my gogo’s funeral but these are the things that I remember about her and these are lessons that we can all learn from…

Life lessons

1. Always greet your children with a smile when you see them. Psychologists and parenting experts advise parents to not be critical of their children when they see them but to always radiate and communicate “I am soo happy to see you. I have missed you.”

2. Always touch your loved ones. Gogo Malaza, once you extended your hand to say hello, she would take your hand in hers and kiss it. I don’t know how many kisses from gogo’s lips have been planted on my hand through the years. She had an ability of making everyone of her children know that they were loved.

3. It is possible to have a relationship with all members of your family. All her grandbabies and her great great babies knew her and were known by her. That is a legacy of love. She left us and the world a great gift, for is it not what our Master said that we must do — to love God with all our hearts mind and soul and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

4. She was a hard worker. Gogo lost her husband when she was very young. She married quite young and by the time her husband passed on she had eight young mouths to feed. Times were not easy back then. Poverty was constantly knocking at the door but just like the virtuous woman she woke up while it was dark and made sure that her family was taken care off.

5. She was visible in her children’s lives. Gogo never missed any of the important events in our lives. Our colleagues, churches and neighbours knew her constant presence at family events because she was there for her children.

6. She did not take herself too seriously.

7. She loved to laugh. When you went to visit gogo you were guaranteed two things — food and plenty of laughter. Who would not want to visit such a warm place?

8. She raised her children in the ways of the Lord. Her eldest child, my mother in law, is a pastor and has raised her own children in the faith because of gogo Malaza. She gave her family a heritage of faith. Her house was known as a house of prayer.

9. She was a mother to all — not just her biological children. This last Christmas we spent at her home in Badplaas. About 35 of us were there for her last Christmas. Towards the end of the afternoon of December 25 we sat in her sitting room to hear the matriarch talk to us. She kept on repeating it over and over and over again. She said “Bambananai”; “Bambanani” ; “Bambananai which means support one another, be united. There was an urgency in her voice as she kept on repeating, ”Bambanani.” This is a message that as families,  as married couples we can all implement in our lives sibambisane, to be united.

10. She believed in her children and was very proud of them. You would not finish a visit with her without hearing about her children’s great doings. To the listener what gogo was sharing might not be much but you could just see how very proud she was of her children.

She was many things to many people but one thing that we all knew about her was that we all loved her. I came away from Badplaas with one question ringing in my mind…”How am I living my life?” What seeds and actions should I start planting today to show more love to those around me? What do I want my life and legacy to be about? What would my children and those that I interact with say about me? What will they say about you?

Funerals have a tendency of also making people say such beautiful things about the deceased as we are advised not to speak ill of the dead.

What would your loved ones mean about you without sugar coating the truth? Gogo never had much in terms of material possessions but she had a gift that is not afforded to many and that many do not have …she was truly loved and she loved so beautifully.

Are we not called to the same assignment to love others as we love ourselves, to be there for our flesh and blood, to be of service to others?

When all is said and done what will be your legacy? We were certainly blessed and honoured to have had gogo Malaza in our family. She was a woman of great honour. What will my husband and children say about me…about you?

Are you a person of honour? Do your loved ones feel honoured to call you dad, mom; son or daughter? How are you living your life? These are questions that we should all ourselves.


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