“Cause you never think that the last time is the last time. You think there will be more. You think you have forever, but you don’t.”—Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy
The thing about being human is that we know that we don’t have forever to live and yet the concept of our mortality is not one that we truly grasp. We live, second to second; minute to minute—day in, day out as if that’s the way it will always be. We do not dare to imagine that a day (at least not in the imminent present time) will come when life’s clock stops ticking for us and most of all, for those we love. In our minds, our loved ones will always be there to be hugged, to exchange laughs and tears with. We gaze at their faces, which make life so much more brighter and bearable, never thinking that in the next second the light of their presence will dim, never to be seen or beheld ever again.
Last Thursday, as I was on the bus travelling out of province, I found myself crying uncontrollably as the man I’ve come to love so dearly was relaying to me what could have been a tragic end to his life. He was sitting right next to me and yet the possibility of it not having been so tormented me. It was as though he had been lent to me, to love him again—a little longer and hold him more tightly. And I remember in the midst of my tears I kept recklessly throwing my arms around him, hugging him so tightly and thanking God under my breath for allowing him to live [again]. Because it dawned upon me more vividly that indeed, this man has been lent to me just like everyone else that I’ve come to love and appreciate…I just don’t know how long I’ll have them for.
And there are so many things in this life that I can never make sense of. But one thing I can never deny is that there is a God. Amidst the fragility of life, there is a powerful force that allows us to live and see miracles.
Minutes before my mans was getting mugged that Thursday night, for some unknown reason, I felt the urge to call him even though we had spoken just a few minutes ago. As we were talking, there was an unusual, sudden silence. Although we had already said “bye”, I lingered on the other side of the line and heard some commotion and screaming and I instantly gathered that he is getting mugged. My instinct was to panic but I held myself together and started praying to God and pleading with him for my mans protection.
“I’ll kill you,” I heard an unfamiliar voice in the background say with so much anger and aggressiveness.
God knows my heart began to beat so rapidly as if trying to beat its way out of my chest. However, I still kept my composure as fear tried to grip itself on to me, after hearing that dreadful phrase, and the more it tried to consume me, the harder I prayed.
“He’s going through a fire…be his shield…” a still voice that sounded like my own said and I surrendered to it and the more deeply I prayed. Moments later as I’m listening on, every deep breath I take is a prayer, I hear the muggers making their escape through a bridge and as they murmured on about what just occurred, the phone eventually gets switched off.
I don’t know how I managed to hold myself together and not let a single tear fall. But I did. My eyes just simply reddened with worry as I pleaded with God, “Please don’t let me lose him now, not like this.”
As I took in deep breaths, I called the mans little sister telling her everything that’s transpired. I then contacted a trusted friend few houses away to accompany me to the Joburg Parkstation (where I was supposed to meet with Sakhile) so that if need be, and I don’t find him where we had to meet, I can have a trusted male friend to help with searching around the vicinity.
Fast forward, with great relief, we found each other and our bus was ready to depart.
As we get on the bus, I realise that he keeps rubbing the right side of his neck in disbelief, “Are you sure I’m okay love and I do not have any scratch?”
I would assure him that he is okay and there’s nothing and I eventually asked, “Why, what is wrong, what happened love?”
As we were piecing each of our version of events together, my mans says, “I saw my life flash right before me. There is nothing like seeing a knife that is about to end your life passing across your eyes. I wasn’t supposed to be here sthandwa sam’.“
“They stabbed me. On the leg. On my heart…and on my neck,” he continued.
And it finally made sense, in a strange way, to the both of us when I told him what I was doing when I heard everything over the phone.
“That’s why love, it was your prayers,” he says with a smile that holds so much pain and trauma.
“I would be telling a different story,” I solemnly add.
And I pictured God, as I was praying, miraculously turning Sakhile’s skin and clothing into a thin, invisible, impenetrable steel, that would not allow the knife to do him any harm.
As this comforting scene is playing through my head, I sink back into my seat as I firmly hold his hand, look out from the bus window and look up into the dark starry sky and say, “Thank you God.”
And in everything, I realized that everything in life is truly meaningless. Every single thing in this world is pointless. Except for one thing: LOVE. It is the love that we gave to those that we cared for that remains behind long after we have gone. Love is the one thing that can never be lost or tarnished. Decades into our departure people will speak of our acts of love and how well we loved those we had the privilege of crossing paths with. Love is, therefore, the most valuable legacy that we can ever leave this world with because, in the end, love is what will outlive us all.
As shaken up as I still am with what had taken place, I sigh in deep relief that I have been given an opportunity to continue loving this man, and through this entire incident I have come to see the fragility of life and how it needs to be carried as such.
And I pray that we will learn to love those God brings our way a bit better so that when our time is up, we will let go and depart with no regrets. That the people who leave us behind will leave being filled with all the love we delightfully exhausted out of ourselves. That even in the midst of the complexity and challenges that come with loving a living, breathing and deeply flawed human being—all of that will simply be a faint glimmer in the grander scheme of life and the reality of our mortality.