Lessons from tragedy

By Drum Digital
12 August 2014

After losing two toddlers in the same way, Joy Zulu believes that everything happens for a reason.

DEATH. It’s always been a part of the human experience but it still has the power to devastate and destabilise when it strikes. People often say it’s unnatural for a mother to bury her child, but we see so much of it these days that we can accept it as our new normal.

I welcomed my daughter Nombulelo Nakhokonke into the world on 15 February 2009. It wasn’t a particularly difficult labour even though she was two weeks overdue. 

Her birth was miraculous as she was not breathing by the time I pushed her out, but the nurses were able to revive her a few minutes later. I was relieved! My baby had cheated death, right? Wrong. Seventeen months later, she wandered into the neighbour’s yard and drowned in their water feature. She took her last breath in my arms as we rushed her to the clinic where the worst was confirmed. 

The funeral went by quickly in a haze of prayers and advice. I can’t say I grieved; I didn’t know what was going on. I was jolted back to reality a month later when I discovered I was pregnant again. I was definitely not amused, but as time went on I began to see the baby growing in my stomach as God’s way of sticking it to the enemy (death or devil I’m still not sure who the enemy is). 

IT was such an easy pregnancy, the delivery was even easier and I named him Nkazimulo (God’s glory) Andzile (because the enemy was against our expansion but we had the last laugh). Eighteen months and a divorce later, he wandered out to the swimming pool while visiting a relative. The pool’s gate was always locked, save for that day and he drowned. 

There were at least four adults in the house at the time, as well as at least a dozen children playing, yet no one saw or heard a thing until his cold, lifeless body was fished out of the pool. Does lightning strike the same place twice?

According to a Zulu idiom it doesn’t, but here I was dealing with devastation again. 

I remember kneeling next to his lifeless body administering CPR and hearing the water bubble throughout his small body, but no breath. I remember asking God over and over if this was a joke. 

I tried rebuking death – all those things you hear TV pastors tell you to do – but nothing worked. I remembered how I had heard one preacher say if you have faith God can raise your dead like Jesus did more than once in the Bible. 

I didn’t sleep that night. Instead I prayed that someone from the mortuary would phone and say my baby had only fainted. I dutifully sat on the mattress while people came and went quoting scripture after scripture, doling out advice both useful and otherwise. I kept expecting that phone call.

It never came and I tried reaching for the numbness I had felt after my daughter’s death, but I found it had been replaced by red, hot anger. Who was I angry at? God. How could He? Why me? Why my babies? What had I done to deserve this? Was God finished punishing me? Did my pain and tears amuse him? I didn’t want anyone to speak on his behalf – I wanted God or Jesus to come down and address me directly but there was none of that, not even a vision in a dream! How do people qualify for those anyway?

I was angry at people with grown-up children (how dare they raise their children to adulthood when I couldn’t). 

I was angry at people with young children (how come their children get to live and mine don’t). I hated them all. On the outside I had a sunny disposition, a smile and a joke for everyone – I’m good at pretending – so people thought I had moved on just like they had, especially because I had experienced it before. I can compare it to how people get excited for the birth of your first child, then your second and third only get a “how nice”. 

The smouldering cauldron of anger in me had to burst and boy did it burst! I’ll spare you the details only because some of the people who got caught in the cross fire still believe I self-destructed on purpose, someone even accused me of “ukthwala ngey’ ngane zami”, which basically means sacrificing your children to witchcraft so you become rich or something. 

It’s been nine months since my son died, I have another baby (what can I say we expand regardless) and I haven’t had any divine visitations, but I have accepted that God loves me. I don’t know when it dawned on me, but I live in hope. 

I choose to love every day as well as forgive in the hope that forgiveness will be reciprocated. I don’t know why my babies had to die, people say everything happens for a reason so I continue to wait with baited breath for the day that reason is revealed. Who was I angry at? God. How could He? Why me? Why my babies? What had I done to deserve this? Was God finished punishing me? Did my pain and tears amuse him? I didn’t want anyone to speak on his behalf – I wanted God or Jesus to come down and address me directly but there was none of that, not even a vision in a dream! How do people qualify for those anyway?

I was angry at people with grown-up children (how dare they raise their children to adulthood when I couldn’t). 

I was angry at people with young children (how come their children get to live and mine don’t). I hated them all. On the outside I had a sunny disposition, a smile and a joke for everyone – I’m good at pretending – so people thought I had moved on just like they had, especially because I had experienced it before. I can compare it to how people get excited for the birth of your first child, then your second and third only get a “how nice”. 

The smouldering cauldron of anger in me had to burst and boy did it burst! I’ll spare you the details only because some of the pWho was I angry at? God. How could He? Why me? Why my babies? What had I done to deserve this? Was God finished punishing me? Did my pain and tears amuse him? I didn’t want anyone to speak on his behalf – I wanted God or Jesus to come down and address me directly but there was none of that, not even a vision in a dream! How do people qualify for those anyway?

I was angry at people with grown-up children (how dare they raise their children to adulthood when I couldn’t). 

I was angry at people with young children (how come their children get to live and mine don’t). I hated them all. On the outside I had a sunny disposition, a smile and a joke for everyone – I’m good at pretending – so people thought I had moved on just like they had, especially because I had experienced it before. I can compare it to how people get excited for the birth of your first child, then your second and third only get a “how nice”. 

The smouldering cauldron of anger in me had to burst and boy did it burst! I’ll spare you the details only because some of the pWho was I angry at? God. How could He? Why me? Why my babies? What had I done to deserve this? Was God finished punishing me? Did my pain and tears amuse him? I didn’t want anyone to speak on his behalf – I wanted God or Jesus to come down and address me directly but there was none of that, not even a vision in a dream! How do people qualify for those anyway?

I was angry at people with grown-up children (how dare they raise their children to adulthood when I couldn’t). 

I was angry at people with young children (how come their children get to live and mine don’t). I hated them all. On the outside I had a sunny disposition, a smile and a joke for everyone – I’m good at pretending – so people thought I had moved on just like they had, especially because I had experienced it before. I can compare it to how people get excited for the birth of your first child, then your second and third only get a “how nice”. 

The smouldering cauldron of anger in me had to burst and boy did it burst! I’ll spare you the details onlyanted God or Jesus to come down ies? What had I done to deserve this? Was God finished punishing me? Did my pain and tears amuse him? I didn’t want anyone to speak on his behalf – I wanted God or Jesus to come down and address me directly but there was none of that, not even a vision in a dream! How do people qualify for those anyway?

I was angry at people with grown-up children (how dare they raise their children to adulthood when I couldn’t). 

I was angry at people with young children (how come their children get to live and mine don’t). I hated them all. On the outside I had a sunny disposition, a smile and a joke for everyone – I’m good at pretending – so people thought I had moved on just like they had, especially because I had experienced it before. 

By Joy Zulu

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