Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Celebration Service

Noma, the receptionist for Madulammoho’s Client Services department, who gave me her famous chakalaka recipe, passed away unexpectedly last Sunday.

We all knew she was sick: she had been in and out of the hospital for months.  When I asked my coworkers if the doctors ever determined what was wrong, all I got was a vague, “I think she needed a kidney transplant.  Or maybe a new liver.”

I didn’t know Noma very well since I rarely go into Client Services, but I learned a bit more from her memorial service yesterday.  She started at MHA as a cleaner and was determined to improve her position.  She worked so hard that she would often finish her cleaning duties by 10am.  Afterwards she would go around the office asking, “What else can I do?  Can I do filing?  Or paperwork?”

She was quickly promoted to receptionist.

What an amazing woman.

Yesterday’s service wasn’t like any other that I’ve attended.  It began familiar enough.  We all sat in a church and one of our House Managers acted as MC.  Before any procedures started, however, he asked for two songs.

There was a short pause before someone in the audience started singing.  After she sang a verse, the rest of the crowd joined in.  Except for me and the two Afrikaner directors who attended.

For the rest of the service, there were no pauses.  After each person spoke, someone from the audience would burst into song and the rest of the audience soon followed.  The MC at the front had a fantastic voice and clapped and danced to the music.  Sometimes the rest of the audience would stand up and clap too.

I wish I knew what the songs were about.  They were beautiful.  I hope they were celebrations of wondrous life and a peaceful death.

Go well, Noma.

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One thought on “Celebration Service

  1. Lynne Alton on said:

    Hi Beth!
    What a lovely, deep tribute to this woman! Again, when you leave Johannesburg next week, go well. Perhaps I will see you sometime when you are back home. Lynne

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