My mother taught me without saying a word

Joy Mirembe  (left) has fond memories of her mother (centre). One of the most invaluable lessons she learnt is to live a life of giving.         

What you need to know:

“My mother’s personality, her actions, her conversations, her approvals and disapproval were sound lessons. I still remember how she oiled her legs every morning and to this day, I do it subconsciously. I remember how she had no room for whining.”

“Go bring me two pieces of matooke.” The young girl rushed off, brought the two pieces and handed them over. The mother looked at the matooke (green bananas) and then looked at the child. The child looked back wondering what they had done wrong.

“Do you honestly believe we will eat two of those?” But you sent me for two,’ the child attempted to explain herself, to which the mother remarked, “Do not be silly,” while rolling her big beautiful eyes.

I want to believe that if you were raised by an African mother, you have experienced something close to that; when you asked your mother where you should put the big spoon, she replied, “In my ears.”

Humour embodied in sarcasm

We were raised with humour embodied in sarcasm, which tickled our ability to think and reason. Today marks a week since we laid my ever gracious, strong, formidable and amazing mother to rest.

She passed on peacefully and quietly in the early morning hours of Monday morning. I am not sure I will ever be able to speak comfortably about my mother in past tense because she was ever present and continues to be present even in her departure. To the people who know me personally, I often spoke of my mother in almost everything I wrote, said or did because of who she was and will always be.

I always referred to her as “Maama wange Nantongo,” loosely translated as, “My mother Nantongo”. There was something incredibly special about that name although she had three more.

Badge of honour

In fact, when I was pregnant with my second child, I had purposed to call that child by the names, only that the child turned out to be male.

My mother carried the badge of honour of being a single mother. She wore that badge with incredible dignity alongside her other badge of being a principal senior nursing officer in the Ministry of Health, which in her retirement years, earned her the title ‘musawo’ in her community.

Passionate nurse

As a child, I hated hospitals, but I can attest that maama was a very passionate nurse, who continued to treat and advise many in her community, regarding all matters health.

Her community loved her back, love that was extended, especially in her passing, when they mobilised themselves to organise a warm and gracious tribute in her honour and memory.

I was my mother’s youngest child and only girl. I enjoyed that place and role in her life until her dying day. What do you say about a mother and what in particular do you say about a mother like mine?

She was an enigma of sorts. Unlike myself, she carried a significantly cool demeanour and yet by all means, you would not be able to ignore her because she was very present even in her quietness. She was a very gentle giant.

Non-verbal sound lessons

Physically, you would probably miss seeing her because she was not big in size and she was quite keen to maintain it that way, yet you would be a fool to ignore her quietness.

My mother taught me without saying a word. Her personality, her actions, her conversations, her approvals and disapproval were sound lessons.

I still remember how she oiled her legs every morning and to this day, I do it subconsciously. I remember how she had no room for whining and how she worked two or three jobs in order to fend for us.

I remember my mother baking cake without an oven and how she made do with whatever we had at that time.

Financial independence

I remember how she sewed and repaired our clothes. One classic lesson I will never forget is that despite growing up in impoverishment, my maama said she would never die poor.

In later years, my mother’s prophetic words over her life became what she said. She carried such a high sense of financial independence that she used to give her adult children pocket money.

When we were growing up, maama grew most of our food. In fact, we never went to the market except to sell some of the extra that my mother had grown. And yet, she worked hard at the government facility and also at small private hospitals to make ends meet.

The farmer she was

Back then, I felt my mother was the epitome of strength and hard work.

As she grew older, she retired from active service but she continued tending many gardens and growing food crops and fruits. She run a small local pharmacy in her community for years.

We enjoyed the fruit of her many labours of love and hard work. We basked in her warm and gracious provision because she always had something to give you from her home and gardens.

There are many things I can talk about my mother but one of the most invaluable lessons of all time is to live a life of giving and giving always. Maama gave her heart, her counsel, her resources and her everything.

She left absolutely no debt except the debt for us to love those around us with everything within us. To God be the glory for the life and gift of maama wange Nantongo.”


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