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A Debt is not a Loss Once one knows the Debtor

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Janet Fitch once wrote that loneliness was the human condition but I have grown to believe that the human condition is in fact loss. Loss of loved ones, loss of possessions, and at times: loss of self. As human beings, we are constantly battling to hold on to what we hold dear, but no matter how much we fight, we cannot win all those battles. In fact, it was Benjamin Franklin who once wrote: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”.

Death is one of those things that one can never get used to. No matter who it is, no matter what the circumstance, there is no way to ever truly prepare oneself for it. In Xhosa we would say: ukufa akuqheleki. A friend of mine recently lost his mother to cancer, and even though it had become quite apparent that she wasn’t likely to win the battle; that blasted thing called hope made the loss unbearable. Because we can’t help but hope. We need to hope actually. As people, we need to believe that the doctors are wrong and God’s will is our own. Otherwise there isn’t much to hold on to. The thing about death that strikes me the most, however, is how much closer it brings us to our own mortality. It forces us to examine the paths we have chosen; what we will leave behind (and what happens next). There is nothing quite like a funeral to make you think of your own obituary. What will people say about you? How will you be remembered? Who (and what) will leave behind?

There are also a number of other kinds of loss though; like the loss of self. There is this young woman I know (let’s call her Thandi). For as long as I have known Thandi, she has always been an incredibly confident and secure woman: comfortable in her own skin; and most importantly, comfortable in her own self. But over the years, I have watched my friend lose her self. Slowly. Over the years, a bit too many encounters with unfortunate relationships (romantic and otherwise) took their toll on her and she found herself doubting her self more and more. Each rotten apple took with it a piece of her optimism and sense of worth. Work, friends, men… each one of them stole from her; and now she finds herself doubting all those things she used to take for granted. That she is beautiful. And LOVEly (and I’m not just saying all this because she’s my friend). But Thandi isn’t the only one. Many of us throw ourselves into our various relationships. We give all we have (and the idealist in me still maintains: rightfully so!) but sadly, don’t always get enough back. “So we love without caution/ and when that love is not returned/ we hurt without solace”

The Batembo people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have a saying: A debt is not a loss once one knows the debtor. This proverb actually speaks of physical debt, and is informed by the belief that debt is a way of sharing goods so that they are at the disposal of the community. So it is not a loss if it will benefit the community because someone else’s debt will also benefit you at some point. But I came across this saying a few weeks back and it resonated different meaning for me. My family recently suffered a great loss. A single car accident took two of my uncles and an aunt, leaving my one set cousins orphaned and another aunt widowed, pregnant and with a three year old son. But exactly 4 days after the accident, my aunt gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby boy. So when I can across this saying, it made me realise that even though the loss is great, we are also incredibly blessed. Being the God-loving person that I am, I believe that: the Lord does not take without giving. And when we lose to Him, we are not losing at all because when He gives, He gives in abundance.

We cannot foresee death. Nor can we always prevent it. Some things are just not within our control. All we can do is love and honour. We can love the ones we lose so that they rest in peace knowing that they were truly loved, and we can honour them. Honour their wishes and their spirits in the way we carry on. In that way, they are never truly lost. As for our selves… we need to be careful who we lose our selves to. Make sure that we guard ourselves from those who will take and never give back. Watch out for those who steal but don’t share. Be mindful of relationships that leave us in debt with selfish debtors.

In Loving memory of Siyabulela Mrwata, Daluxolo Mrwata and Sebang Mrwata. We will love, honour and cherish you always.

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