The 19th of August marks a year since my beloved grandmother, the inimitable matriarch of my family, departed. How fitting that she’d do so on such a significant month; one that is dedicated to great women such as herself?

I reminisce about my very last conversation with her – the pain weighing heavily in my heart as I witnessed first-hand, how frail our once fearsome “iron lady” had become. I once believed that she was too resilient to be conquered by something as inferior as an illness; but there she was, at its mercy. I walked into the bedroom she’d shared with my grandfather for decades, tentatively approaching her, careful not to wake her, and gently kissed her forehead. She opened her eyes and greeted me in a soft whisper. I forced a smile, battling to hold back my tears. It was almost impossible to accept the figure that was in front of me but I will spare you from the melancholies of my last moments with her. It’s still too painful to relive anyway.

Emma (that was her name) was a goddess in her own right. She epitomized what it meant to be a woman. She personified absolute strength, and she did so ever so gracefully. Through her subliminal teachings, I learned what the Sesotho adage “Mosadi o tshoara thipa ka bohale” really meant. I watched her display real power behind the throne whenever she’d conceal my grandfather’s faults from the rest of the world; correcting him whenever necessary, but being careful not to emasculate him. I watched as she assumed the role of our family’s anchor with ease, constantly willing to listen, to reprimand and to repair severed ties. She was admired (and feared) for her fierce forthrightness; she called a spade a spade and an idiot, an idiot. It was however, never malicious – she was just a firm believer in unblemished honesty. Her candour would make us blush from embarrassment at times. She’d make you aware of her disapproval if your behaviour was appalling, but she was also the first person to commend you when you did well. She was feisty and always one for banter. Emma was a deeply spiritual woman who did her best to raise us to be a God-fearing family.

It was after laying her soul to rest that I realised how valuable the values she had instilled in me over the past years were – albeit too stupid to grasp this sooner. It was then that I realized I had done myself a grave injustice by procrastinating on the time I should’ve spent with her.

As I watched her coffin being drawn further into the earth, I made an oath to honour her memory by being true to myself. I promised that I would no longer be apologetic for choosing to live, no matter how many people disapproved of my decisions. I would confront and embrace my truth, and be bold enough to be emancipated by that truth as she did.

R.I.P Emma.