I quote from this old Irish song while listening to a recording and looking at the brilliant picture of Mama Dora and her caregiver, Ethel Gqaza, that appeared in last Wednesday’s Argus.
This is the face of a 105-year old who is devastatingly inspirational. No words can describe this mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, this wife, partner and friend, lover and nurse, this teacher who was still working at 75 years old.
We need to look at her and remember the words of the prophet Muhamed (PBUH) who, when asked where Paradise lies, replied: "At the feet of your mother." And we remember that Jesus Himself, even in the throes of death, remembered to say to John from the cross: "Behold thy mother."
Someone should write a poem to this precious lady. Somebody should compose a piece of music that will perpetuate her earthiness, her bubbling joy and zest for life that shines from her face. Her hands are beautiful, the nails manicured, the skin smooth and real.
A mother’s hands, that could provide food, rub away pain, cover books, wash and iron clothes. And they could amazingly turn into weapons of mass destruction if you stepped out of line. God help you if she plaited your hair after a fight with dad.
Every mumble from her about her wayward husband would be pulled into your braid with vengeance and force that gave you an instant facelift and a head-ache to talk about for a week.
Her daughter Joy, now in her seventies (imagine that, having a daughter of that age), remembers Mama Dora’s secret to long life: healthy eating. Their dad always had a vegetable garden. The magic words are: “They lived from ground to pot”.
What a wealth of pragmatism, wisdom, earthiness, wholesomeness, health and well-being is locked in these words. It negates the junk we stuff into our faces in these days of add-water-and-stir.
I relate to the lady in a major way for various reasons. My mother was also named Dora. And my dad, Charles, grew his own vegetables and flowers in his patch of sand in Kewtown.
It was my job to water the garden, using a bucket and a jam tin with holes punctured in the bottom. No fancy hose- pipes or sprinklers in those days. And my sisters knew when to avoid Mama’s ministrations when she was in a foul mood.
But like Mama Dora, my lasting impression is also of laughter and a zest for life, music, church-going, bazaars, socials and flower shows.
These ladies are the earth mothers. They should be revered and loved. They should be coddled and kissed, hugged and - yes - inhaled. They are Life.
* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.