“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Lethabo-Thabo who reflects on courage and the lessons she has learnt from her great grandmother.

To lead the life we dream of living involves courage. At least, it does for me. For many of us, we have to work for the things we want in life; we have to work to make our dreams come true. We also need to have the courage to bring that dream into reality: we have to dream it and then we have to real life it. And that takes courage.

In September my great granny passed away. I have had a number of people very close to me pass away in the last few years and it has made things a little harder for me. A lesson in adulting that people can tell you but one you must learn yourself. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows this pain. You also know how hard it can be to stay positive about life and to move forward without feeling like you are forgetting them. This takes another type of courage.

Unfortunately, in the last few years I have had to exercise the courage to move forward after someone’s passing over and over again. Most recently in September when we lost my dear great grandmother Mrs Magdalene Madiabo Mokgata.

I have been afraid of talking about her because of the sadness I still feel about her passing. But, I know I should talk about her more. Talking about a loved one after they have passed takes courage, too. So, here I am writing about her…in tears.

Rakgadi, as we call her, was almost 100 years old when she passed. My dear granny calls her Rakgadi and because I’m so very close to my granny I copied her and started calling my great granny Rakgadi (which actually means aunt).

Three generations of women. From left: My granny, my great granny, and me

Rakgadi achieved so much in her life: the number of people that came to the house and attended her memorials and funeral showed me just how much of an impact she has made. There was more than one memorial because the people whose lives she touched all wanted the chance to celebrate her life; whole organisations asked to host a memorial in which they could talk about how her life positively impacted the organisation and the lives of the individuals in it.

Whenever I would speak to her she would always drop some knowledge on me. Sometimes in what she said and other times in stories she told me. I cannot elaborate on this too much as I’m still grappling with her passing and it’s still a little too hard to talk or write about without ending up in a tearful state (like I am now as I write this). But I want to exercise the courage to talk about our loved ones even after they have passed.

I also want to share that she always, always told me to just go for the things I wanted to do. She would tell me not to be afraid, to be courageous, and just do it.

If ever I worried about what would happen or not happen she would say: “Do it, my baby”. She’d tell me that in life we must go for the things we want.

It is the craziest thing because she is someone who lived for so long…she had so much time and yet she was telling me to do the things I dreamed of now. Maybe that’s why we were blessed to have her with us for so long; she understood the value of time.

As I reflect on Rakgadi’s life and her impact on mine I am always reminded of how fiercely she cared for the ones she loved and how she pushed us to find the courage to chase our dreams. If she could, she would help us in any way possible. If she couldn’t do it directly, she would tell us she was thinking of us and she was praying for us. She was always there shouting for us, praying for us, and supporting us. I’ll never forget her face when I asked her to come to my graduation and I’ll never forget how she and the rest of my family celebrated me in Cape Town at graduation. In that moment, I felt like I had the courage to do anything in the world.

I cannot express how much I miss her gentle voice, her wise words, and her infectious laugh. I think of her every day and the woman I remember is smiling and clapping for me, whispering to me in moments when I am scared to chase my dreams…to be courageous and do it.

Rakgadi and me outside her house