A tribute to the strongest woman I knew: my mother

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My mother was a force to be reckoned with. She was tough and energetic, and the perfectionist in her meant there was only one right way of doing something: her way. While I always felt safe with her when I was young, I longed for a mother who had the softness of my friend’s mother, the affectionate nature of my gran (her mother) and the involvement of other school moms. I felt hard done by in the mother department.

I am ashamed to admit that, but it’s the truth. I spent much of my youth comparing her to others that I couldn’t see what was right before my eyes – a woman who had sacrificed so much in life for the sake of others.

As a daughter, she left the country of her childhood with her parents to come to South Africa; as a wife, she moved many times across the country setting up new homes for her family; as a grandmother, she embraced her grandchildren and gave of herself to help raise them to be the adults they are today.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of her reading Disney stories out loud to us while we lay on the lounge floor; of her busy at her sewing machine and letting us delve into her magical button box; of her putting on makeup and styling her hair – she never left the house without her “face on” – and of us listening to the stories of her life in Belgium.

“She was the fulcrum of our family and without her, it feels as if we’re clutching fiercely at the unravelling fabric of our clan.”

A talented seamstress, she did more than design and create tangible items. She deftly wove her influence into the lives of all she knew with threads of strength, steadfastness, honesty and devotion. She cared for old and young alike, from our grandparents to her friends’ babies, calmly and deliberately. I always admired her for that and regret that I didn’t tell her enough times just how remarkable she was.

Having endured and overcome more grief in one lifetime than anyone should, she still had enough light left to fill the lives of those around her: her husband, her children and her grandchildren. While it took me many years to understand her kind of love, I never wavered in my respect for her and I will honour her not just this Women’s Day, but every day going forward as the strongest woman I’ve ever known.

As I matured, I realised that not only was she a good mother, but she was perfect for us. She wasn’t always soft and outwardly loving (although she did give the best hugs!); she was so much more than that. She was the fulcrum of our family and without her, it feels as if we’re clutching fiercely at the unravelling fabric of our clan.

I am sad that her life ended lacking the dignity with which she lived. I am sad that she passed away just months shy of her 50th wedding anniversary with my father; I am sad that I will never get to tell her just how much she meant to me.

Snatched from us not once, but twice, she died as she lived – fierce and determined not to let go until she knew everyone was safe and cared for. My mother was beauty; she was light and now that her light has been dimmed, she shines brighter than ever in my heart and memory.

Also read:

What it means to embrace motherhood
7 steps to mental health during motherhood