Bravery in Loss

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**This was a post I had to write and come back to a few times as it deeply effected me.  Sharing this part of my heart with you. Bonolo passed just before Christmas. **

I was just finishing up my morning cup of coffee when I could hear my husband talking on his cell phone. I sensed it was bad news just the way he was speaking. I braced myself as I heard bits of the conversation and knew he was speaking with a dear family in Maun, one that our family has “adopted” over the years.

“Oh Lord….please not loss.” I whispered, but yet I knew in my heart that something had happened.

Living in Africa has brought loss across our paths more times than I can count. Sometimes it’s far removed, but other times it hit so close to home it takes my breath away like a kick in the gut.

“Bonolo died Sarah.”

Kick in the gut.

You see we met Sibongile in 2003 on one of our short term missions trips to Botswana. Sibongile is one of those ladies that you can’t help but love because she is a big African momma who when she hugs you, puts all her lovin right into you. (Not to mention she about lifts you off the ground!) Over our 8 years in Maun we got to know the whole family….and there are a lot of them. We adopted them into our lives and hearts. We helped with school fees, food, and medical needs. One of the daughters even named their little boy after Kevin! When we moved from Maun in 2012, they cried and wailed sad tears. When we visited December 2014 unannounced, they cried tears of joy. Sibongile sat perched on her chair with a huge smile, “My children are BACK HOME where they belong.” she said.


Our African Momma Sibongile December 2014

This family has woven their way into our hearts. This family has experienced so much hardship and loss. From babies to siblings, they have gone through it all.

Sweet Bonolo was the youngest of the daughters. She had a smile that would light up a room. She often was the one who would help translate for us when we hit that language barrier with Momma. She was the one that Sibongile believed would finish school and asked us to help pay for her school fees so she could continue. While all her daughters are special to her, you always got the feeling that Sibongile was especially fond of Bonolo. Or maybe it’s because I was also fond of Bonolo. Her son Junior would always bust out into screams when he would see me. Bonolo would shove him my direction, “Go to your Auntie…..Go NOW!” The family would laugh as Junior would scream even more…..not wanting anything to do with this crazy white lady. Sibongile would always say, “This boy, he is so ugly.” Now how a granny would say that about her own grandson boggled my mind, but she always giggled when she said it.


Bonolo cooking us a traditional meal.

Now, my heart is heavy for Sibongile as she experiences loss of yet another daughter. It was sudden as Bonolo had just given birth to another baby and well, she never really recovered. She leaves behind Junior and now this brand new baby.

When Kevin asked what would happen next, he said Sibongile shared that now she would have two little ones to take care of. Here is a women who has her own health issues and is not young. She shared that her own mother was coming along with other family members to come and help for a few weeks. She said, “I will have others take care of me so that I can cry for losing Bonolo.” Heartbreaking.

When I see Sibongile’s face, I see bravery at a level to which I probably will never understand. With every line on her face, it tells a story of loss, of love, and of living a brave life that she probably has no idea she even lives. She is the matriarch of her family for sure.

I know I will miss seeing Bonolo’s face the next time we’re in Maun and able to visit Momma’s house. I am thankful for the memory of her bright smile.


Me with the crew.  Sibongile in the yellow.  Bonolo to her left in the hot pink.  Her son Junior is front and center with the while/blue stripe shirt.



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