ndebele prayers


i am heartbroken. almost the way i was heartbroken when you left us. heartbroken, in the way that my chest feels a crushing ache that fills up my chest.. heartbroken because he reminded me so much of you – with his quiet yet formidable strength, and his capacity to sacrifice. perhaps it feels as though i have lost you twice..

my heartbreak stirs up memories. memories of you, in particular, Gogo. my reserved grandmother, full of a quiet yet incomprehensible love.

i remember on Saturday mornings, in particular, when you would take me to your church – an occurrence that was a little strange to me as a four year old used to church on Sunday.

i distinctly remember, you would always hold my little brown hand, and lead me up your long granite pebbled driveway and out of your black heavy gates. that driveway always seemed endless – perhaps it was because my little brown legs were much shorter then.

it was always sunny when you took me to church. that hot african sun warned us of it’s heat quite early in the day, but the huge trees that flanked each side of your street kept us cool under their heavy shade.

i don’t know why, but i was the only one you would take to church with you – at least i was when i visited. maybe i was your favourite, or maybe you felt i needed saving..

we’d always bump into people you knew as we strolled down the heavily shaded roads, and you would converse with them in Ndebele and teach me to do the same. my Ndebele was definitely much better then than it is now. when i didn’t understand what was being said, i would look up at you, and you’d explain in your heavily accented Shona so i would understand.

before we retreated to sleep, each night you would have us all turn off the tv, and kneel down together in the living room to pray. it didn’t matter how many or how few of us were there – we all obediently knelt with you to pray. your voice was always measured – quiet and firm enough to be heard, but never loud. you always prayed in Ndebele, and i’d pick up some of the words and phrases i’d heard in church, although i didnt know what most of them meant.

at night, when you sent us all to bed, i always had a place in your room. even up till i was 10, and before you passed away, you still reserved a space for me. everyone else slept in other rooms, but you kept me close. it was as if i was your precious possession, and you wanted to treasure and protect me. after all, you did name me “phatisisa” (to treasure). i think i understand now..

the other night, i had a dream that i ended up in a Ndebele homestead. marked with beautiful patterns and colours on every wall. i was led into a hut where an elderly woman wrapped in a colourful blanket greeted me in Ndebele and asked me to sit down. she told me that she had been sent to pray for me. without waiting for me agree, she began to pray over me. just like when i was little and i could only pick out a few phrases from your prayers, all i could pick out from her prayers was the mentioning of the angels of God looking over me..

i understand now Gogo – even though your body is absent from this earth, your quiet yet undeniable love survives, and i’m reminded through Ndebele prayers uttered for me as i sleep.


in loving memory of Idah Dube. 


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