Sisterly bonds are one of the most powerful bonds. What happens when one loses a sister, especially one that had taken up the role of both mother and breadwinner?
Joyleen Bhebhe was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and was the youngest of five girls. Her father passed away when she was just four years old. Her mother single-handedly raised her and her sisters through selling vegetables at the market and doing domestic work for people in the community.
Joyleen narrated her experience of losing one of her sisters to The Weight She Carries.
It was not easy growing up, but by the grace of God we survived. The community found it difficult to believe that we were struggling at home. The relationship l had with my sister was a very good one because she became a second mother to us, very strict but loving nonetheless. Her passing left a very big gap in our hearts that can never be filled.
Precious had had a series of unfortunate events before her passing. First, she experienced a very traumatising stillbirth. We were all looking forward to having a niece or nephew and so when the loss occurred, we were deeply hurt – my mother more especially because she always talks about how happy she would be if both Precious and her child were alive.
Second, all her property and belongings were stolen. This made the already stressful situation worse.
My sister suffered for two months. Towards the end, she was taken to our rural home for hospice care where both my mother and grandmother cared for her. The 12th of June 2009 is a day l will never forget for it took from me someone l looked up to and will always remember. She had just turned 28 a week before she passed away.
When the phone call came that Pre, as we affectionately called her, had passed on, my sisters and l could not believe it because we were looking forward to seeing her again when she got better. Since l had to attend school, l could not be with my sister in her last days.
My mother still speaks of Pre and wishes that both her and the child be still alive. I myself cannot say l have healed completely because one cannot really heal from the loss of a loved one. I think of her at times and can only say ‘what if.’
What l would say to those that have lost someone close is that do not turn to drugs, alcohol and other negative behaviour as a way of dealing with the grief. Rather, turn to God who knows the pain and is able to comfort and in turn, heal the wounds. It is not easy, but with God on your side, it is possible with time.
Joyleen recently relocated to Johannesburg.