In loving remembrance of Simon Rambayi Dongonda Simende
21 December 1937- 4 March 2021.
Four weeks ago today we laid my father to rest. The past weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions, sadness, pain, guilt, fear, gratitude, and so many others that I can’t articulate. Even writing about Baba in the past tense still seems unreal. How do I write in the past tense about someone who was in my life for forty years, eight months and two weeks? How do I write in the past tense about the man who taught me so much and loved me and my siblings so much?
I had already gotten my COVID-19 test done by 9:30am on that fateful Thursday morning so I could fly to Harare from Johannesburg not only to see my father who wasn’t well. The plan was to fly out Friday the 5th of March, spend the whole week at home, have a special birthday “something ” for Mhayi on Sunday the 14th and then return to Johannesburg on Monday the 15th of March.
So on my way from Fourway Life Hospital where I had gotten my COVID-19 test, i tried to call Chiedza my young sister. I wanted her to give me a list of things they needed me to bring with from Johannesburg. She was not picking the phone. My conclusion was she was busy at work. I sent her a message and still she didn’t respond. So in typical Tendai style, I just kept on calling. Could it be something to do with what Baba told me about not giving up and trying and trying again? Eventually Chiedza answered my call. It was very brief and all she said was she was just busy sorting something and she would call me back in a short while.
It took Chiedza another twenty minutes to call me back. Somehow I missed this call. I called her back as soon as I saw the missed call and the words from her mouth changed my life, our lives forever….. “aaaa Tendai, Humba vatungamira…” Humba is our totem and what Chiedza was telling me directly translated was “our beloved father has led the way…”
Indeed Baba led the way, not only on the 4th of March 2021 but throughout my life.
I saw him lead our family. I saw him lead in the church. I saw him lead in the community. I saw him being a father to non-biological children. I saw him giving counsel. I saw him give opportunities. I saw him pray. I saw him not give up and I saw him walk the talk. He led the way!
I remember calling my father once as I was driving from work one night. I apologised for not having called in days telling him by the time I got home and put the children to bed, it would be too late. He then told me it wasn’t safe to drive and talk on the phone. I told him I was using a hands free kit but he still went on to drop the call and asked me to call him either on Saturday or Sunday. So from that day, Saturday or Sunday became the day I called Baba.
So today is Sunday, I would have called you, about this time (12midday Central African Time) . Your typical answer to the call would be Humba! and I would have said Humba Makombe. Your first question would have been ” Matopedza Church yere? ( Have you already finished church?) I would answer in the affirmative, and sometimes you would ask for a summary of what the preacher had spoken about. Without fail you would have asked about your grandchildren. I would call each of them to speak to you as you wanted to hear their voices as well.
Today is Sunday, I would have called you to say Makorokoto ( Congratulations) because yesterday 27th March was Sekuru Bonnie ( your oldest son, my oldest brother’s birthday). We would have joked a bit here and you would probably have said something that would have made me laugh silly.
Today is Sunday, i would have called you and you would have asked Kuri sei kubasa? (How is work). You would typically have said Ita kuti pau pau. I am not sure this particular word actually exists in the Manyika dialect but it’s our family way of saying give me all the juicy details. And I would give you all the details.
Today is Sunday, I would have called you and we would have talked about whatever was trending politically at home ( Zimbabwe) and wherever else especially the country I was living in.
Today is Sunday, I would have called you and you would have asked about the COVID-19 situation in Johannesburg and Cape Town. You were rather specific on this because those two cities are where other family members are. This particular part of the conversation would end with you telling me to be careful and to check on Nyasha and Takunda (grandchildren in Cape Town)
Today is Sunday, I would have called and we would have talked about soccer. We would have talked about stadiums opening for the CAF matches. All your children still supports Caps United. It’s no surprise green is really my favourite colour and I really don’t like blue. 😉 (wink wink…if you know you know). We would have briefly talked about the English Football League. This is one area we agreed to disagree. You loved Manchester United. I love Liverpool. We still worked like that.
Today is Sunday, I would have called and you would have given me an update of what is happening kumusha, (Village) what this year’s harvest looked like, what you had planted in the “German Garden”, who was doing what and and….
Today is Sunday, I would have called and our call would have ended with you reminding me to work hard, to not worry about anything because you were always praying for us and to not take too long before calling again. I am not going to be able to call your number and hear your voice again. That hasn’t sunk in yet. I am taking it one day at a time.
My father was diagnosed with stage 3 prostrate cancer early in the year. We sought him medical care and we prayed for healing. God in His sovereign power had other plans for him.
Other than on Sunday the 7th March 2021 when I said I my final goodbyes to my father, I had last seen him in person on 1 September 2019. Along with my mother and 7 of my siblings and their families, they drove my husband and 3 children to the airport for our second relocation. We were moving just next door to South Africa but these are always significant occasions in our family. The first time we relocated to Kenya, my father, mother and siblings were all at the airport. Thats just how things work in my family.
In December 2019 i debated going home for Christmas but my father said we needed to settle down first, after all we were much closer home than before and visits will be easier. From experience I also knew my father preferred for us to always go home with the children. I remember the first time we relocated to Kenya in July 2016, I got so homesick my husband and I flew home in September. In my father’s exact words, Mauya kuno masiya wapwere wega kuKenya diko yere? ( Did the two of you really leave the children by themselves in Kenya?) Of course the children weren’t by themselves but my father wasn’t too amused. My plan was therefore to go home with the children sometime in 2020, most probably for Easter because that was kinda our ritual. Without fail from the time we had children, Easter we drove home to Nyanga. But COVID-19 happened and we couldn’t travel as a family.
I miss Baba daily and I am still processing all the emotions that come with loss, one day at a time. Rest in peace Humba Makombe. Thank you for EVERYTHING!