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When days are dark, family is the light that shines

When days are dark, family is the light that shines

A mother’s lessons on love and support are never forgotten.

"Despite the challenges, our children learned that families do not break apart when days are dark, but stick together to overcome challenges"

A mother’s lessons on love and support are never forgotten

Like any other parent, it has always been my mother’s prayer to witness her three children grow together, and love and support one another, throughout our lives.

This is mainly because she did not want her divorce with our father to be the reason behind any broken relationships among us as siblings.

No matter how much fighting, competing, teasing, and arguing we have, she constantly reminds us that siblings are best friends.

Many years later, I believe these words are the reasons why my siblings and I are constantly attached to one another.

My sister and I have dragged my husband and her fiancé into this attachment. Lately, my brother and his wife, who reside more than 100 kilometres away from us, have become part of this bond.

For 13 years, my brother and his family resided in the Eastern Cape due to employment. It was only in 2018 that they relocated to the North West.

A sibling relationship is one of the closest and strongest relationships anyone can have, yet it can be dragging and complicated at times.

The one thing that has kept my siblings and I glued to one another is the love we have for each other, and our constant belief in prayer.

Through prayer, we have conquered many challenges that we thought would never fade away.

The most painful test we encountered as siblings was the death of my brother-in- law in 2011. I had just started with my career at a well-known daily newspaper in Johannesburg as an intern.

My brother had landed a job in Port Elizabeth, and we were excited to have him back home following his stay in Germany for five years.

He was forced to take unpaid leave for a week. He had started at the company two days before our brother-in-law’s passing.

It was the grief and pain that changed the conception I’ve always had about my sister.

Just like my mother, my sister has always been the stricter one. She treated me like a baby. I hated it at times, but it was for a good course.

It was during this time that I first witnessed my sister give-up in life. I had to be her next-of -kin when she was booked into a hospital because the grief was unbearable.

As young as I was, I needed to step in as a mother to her two sons. At the time, they were only two and eight years old.

A decade later, the two boys remain my children. This was confirmed yet again last year when my sister lost her job as a teacher at a private school. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the school’s finances were not in a good state.

To worsen the situation, my sister’s fiancé was also retrenched from his job at a beverage company. Ultimately, the two decided to cancel their wedding ceremony that was set for April 2021.

This sudden transition meant I now have an additional family to support. This was not a challenge at all. However, I wished that there was an extra salary to keep my sister going.

Nevertheless, my husband suggested that we take in my nephews to stay with us. We were now a family of five.

Of course, our plans were halted because we had to focus on ensuring that they would continue attending the same school.

For me, it wouldn’t have been ideal to have them deregistered at a private school and transferred to a nearby township school to limit costs.

Throughout my high school and varsity days, my mother and sister played an integral part in ensuring that I got the best education.

That is why, despite all the plans I had for 2021, I opted to relook at those and prioritise the education for my boys. Part of my 2021 goals, was to start with my law degree studies. That wasn’t possible.

Twelve months later, my 12-year-old nephew was announced as a top achiever in Grade six at his school prize-giving ceremony.

On the other side, we were crossing fingers for my 18-year-old nephew, who had just concluded his Grade 12 examinations.

Financially, it was the hardest year I’ve ever experienced. There were times when we needed to make payment arrangements for our debts, and there would be no money for bread, because living with two boys meant two loaves of bread instead of one per day.

It meant more petrol money, as we were driving the opposite direction every day to drop them off at school. The good thing about Covid-19 is that cinemas are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, we watch Netflix or Showmax.

On summer days, we enjoy a good swim, followed by a braai. And of course, Sundays are reading days.

While we went through our newspapers, the children grabbed books to read or revised their schoolwork for the week ahead.

Despite the challenges, our children learned that families do not break apart when days are dark, but stick together to overcome challenges.

While my husband and I take care of my nephews, my brother and his wife ensure that my sister and fiancé have food on the table. Their expenses are taken care of while they continue to apply for employment.

The love we have for one another wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for my mother’s teachings.

It is thanks to the teachings she instilled in us that we can support one another when days are dark, and be grateful for the family we have.

Kutlwano Olifant

Change expert, Kutlwano Olifant, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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